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The greatest nightmare for a computer user is a hard disk failure with no bootable disk to recover it from. With newer computers coming with preloaded operating systems, and with Apple’s digital-only release of Lion, getting your Mac up after a crash has been a tedious and time-consuming process. Third party apps and workarounds to create a recovery disk for Lion systems have been popping up for some time now, but Apple has now released an official recovery disk assistant to soothe the nerves of Mac users who are using the Lion operating system.
Mac OS X Lion either ships preloaded with newer Mac Minis or Macbook Airs or has to be downloaded from the Mac App Store. This means you do not have a disk which you can use to recover your hard drive from in case of a failure. The newer machines come with a built-in recovery partition on the hard drive itself, but again, if that partition or the drive itself fails, you have no way to get your machine up and running. In addition, the new Macbook Air with pre-installed Lion does not let you split partitions till you complete the power-on Lion Install Questionnaire. So if you did some partitioning before it, you might still not have access to the built-in Recovery partition. The official recovery utility now solves all of these problems.
The Lion Recovery Disk Assistant is available from the Apple support site as a 1 MB download. You will be asked to insert an external USB drive with at least 1 GB free space, and get a warning that all existing data on the external drive will be erased. You can create a 1 GB partition on the external drive if you have data on it that you want to preserve. Once you key in your password, the download starts. You can access this after it has completed downloading by rebooting while holding the options key down and the external drive plugged in, and selecting Recovery HD from the Startup Manager.
Strangely, in spite of coming from Apple, this Recovery Assistant is USB only; external drives on FireWire will not work. The other aspect you will want to keep in mind is that for Macs shipped with Lion preloaded, this disk assistant is device specific and will only work for that particular Mac. This is not so with Mac that has been upgraded from Snow Leopard to Lion, where the disc works for any other similarly upgraded Mac.
What this Recovery Assistant does is effectively recreate your pre-existing built-in Recovery partition on the external USB device. Though it offers all the installer options when you access it like reinstall, repair, and restore from a backup, it is still not a Lion installer disk. You will still need to download the OS if you want to reinstall it. That is, if you have not already used existing solutions to get around that! With this release from Apple addressing a failure that one would not have expected from a perfectionist like Apple, Lion is better positioned to leverage on its iOS like features that effectively brings the Mac up to date with the wireless networking era.