OS X Lion Installation Guides

Guides to Clean and Upgrade Installs, and Creating Bootable Copies of Lion

OS X Lion supports multiple installation methods creating enough options that you may be a bit surprised at the versatility available from Apple's new online system for downloading the installer.

OS X Lion uses a new distribution method for OS X, the Mac App Store, where you purchase and download the OS X Lion installer. This new distribution system has many people worried that traditional install methods, such as erase and install, or a bootable copy of OS X Lion, are history.

Well, none of these speculations are true. While Apple may not be supplying instructions for creating bootable copies of Lion or performing clean installs, here at Lifewire, we have all the guides you need to install Lion the way you want to.

Oh, and just one more thing. You will need to have OS X Snow Leopard installed, or already have a downloaded copy of OS X Lion on a DVD or flash drive. Snow Leopard is needed because it is the first version of OS X that supports the Mac App Store. If you don't have a copy of Snow Leopard, Apple still sells it from the Apple website.

With the preliminaries out of the way, let's get started with learning about OS X Lion and the many ways to install the latest big cat.

Planning Your OS X Lion Installation

Steve Jobs Introduces OS X Lion
Steve Jobs Introduces OS X Lion. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

There are many decisions you'll need to make when you're ready to install OS X Lion on your Mac. These include the type of installation you want to perform, and whether you want to rely on the Lion recovery volume or create your own recovery volume using a DVD or flash drive.

You should also have your current backup of your Mac before you begin.

Before you install Lion, take a look at our guide to planning your installation.

Perform an Upgrade Install of Lion on Your Mac

Lion installer selecting a target for installtion.
A list of available disks that you can install Lion on will appear. Scroll though the list and select the target disk. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

A Lion upgrade install is both the easiest and the default method for upgrading from Snow Leopard to Lion. The advantage is that all of your user data and applications are left intact, ready to use as soon as the Lion installation is complete.

Another advantage of using the upgrade process is the installation time is drastically reduced, meaning you will be back to work or play before you know it.

There are a few minimum requirements you will need to meet for this process to work, but there are pretty basic.

If you're looking for the quickest way to install Lion, this is the guide you need.

Perform a Clean Install of OS X Lion on Your Mac

OS X Lion Installer
You can still create a clean installation of Lion on an internal drive, a partition, an external drive, or a USB flash drive. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Apple has changed the way the Lion installer works. There's no longer a click-a-button method for performing a clean install of Lion on an empty hard drive, but as it turns out, it's still pretty easy to do.

With just a few extra steps you can use the OS X Lion installer to perform a fresh install on any internal or attached drive, Flash drive, even the startup drive, provided you willing to create a bootable DVD or Flash drive. Don't worry, we have included all the instructions you will need.

If you want to install Lion on a freshly erased volume, this guide will have you booting to a fresh install of Lion.

Create a Bootable Flash Drive With OS X Lion Installer

USB flash drive with laptop
You can use a USB flash drive to create a bootable OS X Lion installer with this guide.

bluehill75 / Getty Images

It’s a myth that you can only install OS X Lion if you have Snow Leopard in place. While you need Snow Leopard to download the Lion installer, once you have the installer in your hands, you can create a bootable flash drive that will allow you to perform an upgrade or clean install of Lion on any Mac that meets the minimum hardware specifications for Lion.

Having a bootable flash drive that contains the OS X Lion installer is also a good way to retain a working copy of the installer that you can then use at any time. No need to worry about OS X Lion eventually being purged from the Mac Apple store, which may happen at some point in the far future.

Install Lion Using a Bootable DVD

OS X Lion Desktop
Once you complete the installation process the OS X Lion desktop will be displayed. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The method of distribution for OS X Lion, using the new Mac App store and downloading the installer directly to your Mac removes the need for a DVD, at least in Apple's mind. For many, however, breaking old habits and solely relying on a download is going to be a bit tough.

If you would like to have a traditional bootable DVD of Lion, which you can use to perform Lion installs and run Disk Utility and other troubleshooting tools directly from, then this is the guide for you.

The guide includes instructions for making a bootable DVD from the downloaded Lion installer, as well as instructions for using the bootable DVD to erase or repair a hard drive, and installing OS X Lion on any Mac that meets Lion's hardware specifications.