How To Burn Your Own Lion Install DVD Or Flash Drive

Getting Lion from the App Store is convenient, and Apple will be releasing a USB version in August, but there's no need to pay the extra cash. You can easily make your own Lion install DVD or flash drive with the App Store installer and Disk Utility.

If you want to do a clean installation of Lion (or you want to install it on a Hackintosh), you'll need to install it on some sort of physical media, which Apple doesn't yet provide. Luckily, it's very easy to burn Apple's installer to a DVD or flash drive:

  1. Download Lion from the Mac App Store. The installer should show up in your Applications folder.
  2. Right-click on the installer and hit "Show Package Contents". Navigate to Contents > SharedSupport and look for a file called "InstallESD.dmg".
  3. Open up Disk Utility and drag the DMG file into the left-hand sidebar. If you're burning it to a DVD, insert your DVD, select the disk image in the sidebar, and hit the "Burn" button. Skip down to the last step to use it.

  4. If you want to burn Lion to a USB flash drive, plug it in and click on it in the left-hand sidebar in Disk Utility. Go to the Partition tab and select "1 Partition" from the dropdown menu. Choose "Mac OS Extended (Journaled) on the left.
  5. Hit the Options button under the partition table and choose "GUID Partition Table". You'll need this to make the drive bootable on a Mac. Hit the Apply button when you're done to format your drive (note: it will erase everything on the drive).
  6. Click on the "Restore" tab, choose the InstallESD.dmg file as the source and your flash drive as the destination. Hit the Apply button and it will create your bootable USB drive.
  7. Reboot into OS X and hold the option key when you hear the startup chime. You can boot into your DVD or flash drive from there.

You'll not only be able to install Lion from this drive, but you'll also be able to use Disk Utiltiy, recover from a Time Machine backup, and do everything else you could do with the old installation DVDs. Note that when you install Lion, it'll create a recovery partition with all these features anyway, so you don't need the DVD unless you're doing a clean install. Though it's always nice to have around in case something happens, like you erase your entire drive. Not that that's ever happened to me three times in one week or anything.


Comments

    How big is the InstallESD.dmg file. (Just wondering if one of the USB keys I already have is big enough.)

      I read somewhere else it was 3.6GB, as confirmed in another guide about making a USB stick which said you can use a 4GB

    So can a person create a USB install from the recovery partition if said person was too quick too install lion before extracting the necessary file from the Installer? Said person does not want to have to download Lion again to install on wife's Mac. :)

      Go to App Store
      Click Purchases
      Option Click on Lion
      Should allow you to click "install" now
      Click and it re-downloads and you can follow these instructions.

      Mine's burning right now. Good luck.

    So, i don't quite get this, can i only use the cd to install on authorized computers? because we have three macs in my house and i don't see why i should buy it 3 times, yet all three owners have their own itunes accounts?

      @Trav: Any app bought through the AppStore can be downloaded to all your household systems. You'll just need to log onto the AppStore as the purchaser of the app on each system and download the app, or OS, in your case.

        He's asking whether a burned copy of the installer will work on computers with different itunes accounts, not different computers using the same itunes account downloading the installer from the app store each time. Does the installer know which account it was purchased from and would it check if the new computer is using that same account?

    It seems that it is only an update, not a fresh
    install and requires 10.6.6 installed.
    USB stick needs to be 8G ,wont install on 4G

    I cannot find the Lion installer on my Apple Air and I've looked in the Application folder and even did a search for "installer", nothing.

    Where else could it be? I did download it from the Apple Store, so I'm wondering where it actually was stored on my computer.

    Any ideas?

      carpenter, if u've downloaded Lion Installer from App Store, installed it and reboot, the Lion Installer would be deleted automatically...

      That might be the reason why u couldn't find it.

    Having trouble making your bootable Lion dmg? Or want an easier method? Check out my video on my YouTube channel. Using the terminal DD command is much easier than messing around with disk utility. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YO9d0pY4GmE

    can i install this both on my macbook pro and my imac ? i mean from the usb directly. Thanks

    InstallESD.dmg not recognized. Anyone else having the problem? Trying to repair with Disk Utility does not help.

    I have tried all methods to make dvd of mac installer and none of them work. Why wasn't a simple method to make install disk available. Hello Linux

    If I use this USB flash drive install on another computer (so it doesn't download twice), does it do a regular upgrade install? I thought I heard someone say that it does a CLEAN install which is definitely NOT what I want. I don't want to have to reinstall all of my apps, settings, etc.

    Does it automatically use one method or does it give you the choice? I want to install just as it did on the original machine which seemed to be like the old "archive and install".

    Used these directions yesterday to make a DVD. Worked great on my Mac Pro (2008) and MacBook Pro (2011). The hardest part was realizing that Disk Utility will "link" the burner to the DMG with the file selected on the left before you click burn. I added it to my image file list but didn't have it highlighted and the burn button kept asking where to get the file and I didn't want a copy of the DMG file on disk--I wanted it contents.

    And to answer another question, the DMG is 3743009943 bytes.

    Is there no way of downloading Lion again from Apple. I wish I knew beforehand that it would remove the installer.

    @EntropyWorks: read the comments or follow the directions for any previously-downloaded app. Hold down option when clicking Purchases and you'll be able to re-download.

    Just to confirm, from bitter experience, this doesn't fit on a 4Gb USB stick. Any article that says it does is basing that on the 3.7Gb dmg file. Trouble is, the GUID formatted size of a 4Gb stick is only 3.6Gb... Fails to restore via Disk Utility due to lack of space. Grrr.

      OK, so I was able to figure out how to obtain the download again. Once I download, how do I keep it from installing like the first time so I can make a thumb drive? I'm just afraid when I download it will auto install and screw me.

      Thanks for your help.

    Will this method work with a Mac running Leopard (10.5.8)?

    A friend of mine just installed Lion on his home computers via this method and he gave me the USB. I'm a bit nervous.

    I had to drag/copy the InstallESD.dmg to the desktop before Disk Utility would accept it in the left hand pane...

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