According to a leaked AppleCare document, Apple has begun selling bootable OS X Lion USB drives to users who are in dire need. These thumb drives will allow those users to perform clean installs of Lion without carrying out the painful task of setting up Snow Leopard first.
Lion is Apple’s first operating system that’s not distributed through optical media: instead, Apple is using its Mac App Store as its main means to distribute the operating system. Instead of resorting to a bootable medium, users can now simply download a single 4-gigabyte executable, launch it and have the new system installed in a matter of minutes. While this works for most users, those without access to a fast Internet connection will have a hard time downloading such a large file. In addition, like we mentioned above, reinstalling the operating system can be more time-consuming than it was in the past.
Apple’s bootable thumb drive, which was unexpectedly promised shortly after Lion’s official release, addresses both of these problems. Since it’s bootable, all users will be able to perform clean upgrades without installing Snow Leopard first, which is after all the "right" way to do it. This also makes recovery significantly easier: in Lion’s “Recovery Mode”, users are given the option to download a full copy of Lion and install from scratch, but why download a copy every time if you can just insert your thumb drive and reinstall Lion on your Mac in a matter of minutes.
Better yet, Apple is offering this thumb drive for free to any user who has trouble restoring Lion through recovery mode. All you need to do to claim your free copy is to get a hold of one of Apple’s support representatives and report your problem in a convincing enough way.
If you simply want a bootable USB drive even if you’re not having trouble of any kind, you can do so too for the somewhat steep price of $69, which is more than twice the price of the $29-download. Still, it’s significantly cheaper than the price of $129 at which Mac OS X used to traditionally sell for up until the 2009 when Snow Leopard was introduced.
If you’re adventurous, you can load Lion onto your own USB stick rather easy, as long as you already have the digital download. Read our tutorial on how to do that here and save yourself $69. If you prefer, you can also create an old school bootable DVD.