Do you need Apple's new OS X Lion thumbdrive installer?

Apple has made its announced $69 USB Lion installation drives available, but only people with restricted or slow Internet connections need them, given the available methods for creating your own.

Topher Kessler MacFixIt Editor
Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.
Topher Kessler
2 min read

In the wake of OS X 10.7 Lion's initial release as a download through the Mac App Store for users running Snow Leopard, Apple has now made the operating system installation available on Apple-branded USB thumbdrives for $69.99 at its online store.

While the Lion OS is available for purchase and download for $29.99 (less than half the price) at the Mac App Store, Apple says it released the thumbdrives today for those who didn't want to (or couldn't) download the roughly 3.5GB file. Those who have already purchased Lion from the Mac App Store will not need the thumbdrive even for future installations; the Mac App Store recognizes you previously bought the OS using your account so you can always download it again.

Apple's thumbdrive is essentially a standard USB drive that includes the contents of the downloadable OS X installer. If you don't want to spend the almost $70, you can easily make a hard copy of the install yourself by restoring the installer disk image to any locally mountable drive medium that you wish, be it a USB or FireWire hard drive, a NAND flash drive, or even a DVD. For instructions on downloading (or redownloading) the Lion installer and creating an installation drive from it, see this article.

Apple USB install drive
Apple's USB drive comes with relatively basic instructions for how to connect it and run the Lion installer provided on it.

Even though the drive is redundant for people who have already downloaded Lion, there are a number of people with Internet restrictions that will appreciate Apple's thumbdrive. Some ISPs have download caps that prevent gigabytes of data from being downloaded, for example. Other users may not have broadband capabilities and a download of Lion may take days to complete. In these cases, using the official Apple drive would be an easy, but more expensive, way to acquire Lion.

It is worth mentioning that while OS X Lion installs a recovery partition on your hard drive that you can use to restore and reinstall the system using downloadable content from Apple's servers, this feature will not work if you use the Lion USB drive (either official or custom made), as the installer on those drives will use the local install files to reinstall Lion.

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