Dear Aunt TUAW: Help me retrieve the Lion installer

Dear Aunt TUAW,

I live in New Zealand. Internet costs a lot here. I want to install Lion on my wife’s MacBook without downloading it again. Where can I find the “Install OS X Lion” application on my MacBook Pro? Not seeing it in /Applications/.


Cousin Chris R.

Dear Chris,

Auntie has some bad news for you. The best thing to do in these situations is Save Your Installer Before Installing.

Auntie knows how tremendously unhelpful that is.

She tried really really hard to work out a solution based on retrieving the installer from the Recovery partition but when it came down to the wire, the Recovery installer prompted: “To download and install Lion, your eligibility must be checked with Apple.” After all that work, it was only a partial installer.

Sure, the installer might save you a few bytes — but it’s not a full working install so you’ll still be doing some downloadage. So while Auntie wasn’t able to find a way to make a full Lion install that you can transfer between machines, she did find a means to create a basic Lion recovery disc that you can use in case one of your Macs’ hard drives goes to the bit bucket in the sky.

Here are the steps Auntie took to retrieve her installer and put it on a USB drive.

1. Launch Terminal. This is a command-line-heavy solution.

2. Run diskutil list. Your primary drive should be disk0, and the Recovery partition (Recovery HD) should be the third partition on that drive.

3. Mount the drive: diskutil mount /dev/disk0s3

4. Navigate to the right folder: cd /Volumes/Recovery\ HD/

5. Copy the dmg you find there to the desktop: cp BaseSystem.dmg ~/Desktop. Then Reveal the dmg: chflags nohidden ~/Desktop/BaseSystem.dmg.

6. Change directories out of the recovery volume.

7. Eject the recovery volume in Finder’s sidebar.

8. Open Disk Utility (in /Applications/Utilities).

9. Insert a 2GB or larger USB thumbdrive, wait for Disk Utility to load it, and choose the Restore pane. Drag the BaseSystem.dmg into the Source field. Drag the thumbdrive’s partition to the Destination field.

10. Click Restore, read the warnings, and cautiously agree to move forward. Wait as Disk Utility transfer the data to the USB thumbdrive.

11. When the restore is finished, eject the USB thumbdrive, and transfer it to the new computer. Restart it and press Option as it boots. Select the drive to boot from it.

12. Install Lion.

You will need to authenticate, agree to become a centipad, and sell the soul of your first born child. From there it’s just a matter of waiting for your data to download at NZ$Insane per GB and hoping the installer makes that bottom line slightly less expensive. A proposition that Auntie cannot guarantee or verify.

In the end, the USB drive created by these instructions can come in handy for any pre-Summer 2011 Macs with hard drive failures, but Auntie isn’t convinced that all that work will save you a big trip to Internet Bucket Land on your next month’s bill.

Hugs right back atcha,

Auntie T.

Dear Aunt TUAW: Help me retrieve the Lion installer originally appeared on TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Thu, 28 Jul 2011 14:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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