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I was going to replace my HDD with a SSD - but I need to install Lion for my SSD.

Do I need to install Leopard on the SSD first, then go to the Mac App Store to update?

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Did you mean Snow Leopard (10.6) or actually Leopard (10.5)? The app store only runs on 10.6.8 or higher... – bmike Apr 2 '12 at 13:53
up vote 8 down vote accepted

No, you can install Lion directly if you want. This will save you a lot of time, as you would otherwise have to upgrade from Leopard to Snow Leopard first, only to upgrade to Lion afterwards.

Buy a bootable OS X Lion USB stick

You can buy a bootable OS X Lion USB Thumb Drive from the Apple Store:

Create a bootable OS X Lion USB stick or DVD based on the Mac App Store download

  1. Buy and 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.

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You cannot update from Leopard to Lion. So your options are:

  • Install Snow Leopard on your SSD and then update from the Mac App Store
  • Download the Lion Installer from a Snow Leopard machine and burn it onto a DVD or USB thumb drive. This worked pretty well for me - I had to burn it onto a DVD though since the thumb drive option didn't work on my machine.
  • Buy the USB thumb drive from Apple, but you'll need to shell out double the money for this.
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