How To: Create A Physical Backup (Restore Disc) Of The OS X Lion Installer

Posted in Apple News, OS X on 10/06/2011 by J. Glenn Künzler


When Apple announced that OS X Lion would only be available through the Mac App Store, many people worried about the lack of a restore disc, which can be useful if, for instance, your hard drive fails. Worry no more – we’ll explain how to create your own bootable OS X Lion Installer.

Mac OS X Lion

While Lion being on the Mac App Store certainly has its benefits, many people still desire a physical backup, and more importantly, a restore medium for Lion that could be used in the event of a major software or hardware failure. Sure, you could go to the Apple store or an AASP, but you can save a lot of time and money by making a backup medium yourself.

The process is pretty simple, and although these instructions revolve around the developer preview, the process should (according to our source) remain identical for the July public release of OS X Lion. Just follow the simple steps below:

Creating A Physical Backup Of The OS X Lion Installer

Download Mac OS X Lion from the Mac App Store as usual. Once you have it, open a Finder window, locate the OS X installation file that you just downloaded, right click (or option-click) on it, and select “Show Package Contents.”

Within the contents of the package, you’ll see a “SharedSupport” folder. Open it. Inside that folder, you will find an image file called “InstallESD.dmg”. Copy this file to your desktop and mount it – this is the actual working image file that you can burn to a DVD, and clone to an SD card, USB thumb drive, or hard drive partition.

The rest of the magic all happens via OS X Disk Utility. Now, simply launch Disk Utility (located in the Utilities folder within your Applications folder). To burn to a CD, just insert a blank DVD, right click or option-click the DMG, and select “Burn InstallESD.DMG.”

To copy to an SD card, flash drive, or hard drive partition (Make sure your destination has at least 5GB free), just option-click the volume inside of the DMG, select “set as source”, click the “restore” tab in Disk Utility, drag the volume you want to copy it to into the “destination” field in the “restore” tab, make sure you select “erase destination”, and then click the “restore” button.

Voila! It is that simple, and now you can rest your mind, knowing that you have an emergency backup of Lion that you can carry with you and use in emergencies. You can view the tutorial process in action by checking out the below YouTube video.

Did you enjoy this tutorial? Let us know by sounding off in the comments!

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  • Nathan Powell

    Very handy, thanks.

    • Gerry

      How is this handy? First off, where is the installer located? I downloaded this via the App Store.

      • David

        Right click on the installer app downloaded from AppStore.
        Select “Show Package Contents”
        Navigate to Contents/SharedSupport/InstallESD.dmg
        Make a COPY of the dmg 
        Fire up DiskUtility and burn the dmg to DVD
        This will boot your Mac (takes a while tho), select the Restore OS X option from the menu.
        The installer proceeds and does not require an Internet connection, unlike booting from the Recovery Partition.

        • David

          AND does NOT require 10.6 to be installed previously, so you can use it like any normal Mac OS installer.

        • Gerry

          Thanks for replying, I fully understand how to make the installer but I don’t have the installer. I think you have to do all of this before you run the installer the first time. So I’m out of luck. I wish I hadn’t installed Lion right now, it’s got a bunch of glitches.

          • frances

            Wish I’d read all this before installing Lion – can’t find the installer now either *sigh* Wish I hadn’t installed it either as my old software no longer runs.

  • TechGuy01536

    Will new Apple computers shipping with Lion have restore media or will we need to go through a similar process, and if so, what are the differences?

    • No more media from what I have read and been told.

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  • This looks handy but I wish he had made a few comments to describe the process rather than there being just ambient noise.

  • Guest

    Yet more BS from Apple. We are not animals, and should not have to jump through hoops.

    • Philshappard

      TSA. This Sucks Apple!

  • Where do I find the OSX installation file? I’ve looked in Macintosh HD>System>Library, which is where I’d expect to find it, but I can’t find “SharedSupport” or a “InstallESD.dmg” file anywhere. I even did a Finder search for “installESD.dmg” – still can’t find it. … where is the file I burn to disk?

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  • if i am using my hard disc as destination, the click on Erase Destination noted ” Erase hard disc and replace its contents with the contents of “InstallESD.dmg.” does it mean that it will erase all my existing files in my hard disc?

  • i have a 10-4-11 mac mini  os. it was my mothers… i want to copy ALL of her personal files, etc… So that I can try to get this dinosaur running faster, and make some space for my stuff too… How does one copy all that is on the computer for safe keeping???{for memories, or needed info…}

  • marlon


  • Murtaza_goriya

    this way is ok but still if someone dont have internet with good speed so how he or she can make recovery DVD direct from mac OS X Lion?
    is there any way to make lion DVD direct from Mac OS X

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J. Glenn Künzler

Glenn is Managing Editor at MacTrast, and has been using a Mac since he bought his first MacBook Pro in 2006. Now he's up to his neck in Apple, and owns an old iBook, a 2012 iMac with an extra Thunderbolt display for good measure, a 4th-generation iPad, an iPad mini, 2 iPhones, and a Mac Mini that lives at the neighbor's house. He lives in a small town in Utah, enjoys bacon more than you can possibly imagine, and is severely addicted to pie.