I just got a new MBP that came with Lion, and they didn't give me any install disks. If I swap in my new SSD, how can I install Lion on the new drive?

Update: There is the Mac OS X Utilities that I can get to by holding Command+R during a restart, which has options to install Lion and/or erase/fix a disk. Additionally, the instruction manual I received gives instructions on how to replace the computer's hard drive, so it seems that Apple would account for setting up the new drive without a install-disk. I missed the UPS delivery of my new SSD, so will have to wait until Monday, at which time I'll swap the drives, and see if this built-in utility works. If not, I'll follow people's advice on mirroring the old disk over. Will reply back with result

Update 2: Installed SSD, and of course it doesn't let me get access to the OS X Utilities (i.e. via Command+R). This must be another partition on the drive. I'm going to try mirroring the two drives. A curse upon all these screws I have re-remove

  • In the end, I went with mirroring the drives, as described here: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/19674/… . bmike's solution below would certainly work, and if you want the Lion Recovery partition, check out this above post for mine or bmike's solution to getting that as well. Commented Aug 1, 2011 at 20:44

6 Answers 6


The recovery partition on your original disk was the only supported method until the Recovery Disk Assistant was made available.

The bulk of this answer was written before the official steps were published - so I would recommend the Recovery Disk Assistant even though HT4718 steps help understand what is happening under the hood.


The easiest is to get a drive enclosure or adapter and re-run the Lion installer from the Recovery HD and install Lion onto the new SSD.

It likely won't matter if the drive with the recovery HD is on an external bus or an internal bus, but I would keep the original drive inside the mac until you have Lion installed on your SSD connected to an external port.

Boot off the SSD to test it and run migration from the internal drive to the SSD before doing swapping the drives inside your mac.

It still boggles my mind that any mac will ship without some sort of reinstall media. Look in the center of the box, under where the mac sat. Call apple if your media is missing so they can ship it to you or point out how they want you to reinstall the OS on a new drive. Your mac's hard drive is listed as a consumer replaceable part, so they have to provide you with the steps to do that.

  • Depending on when he bought it, the computer may not have. My computer came with SL disks but as soon as they started shipping them with Lion preinstalled there is no option for Macbook Pro users.
    – bringel
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 20:27
  • The early 2011 MacBook Pro all have a Recovery HD so even the SL macs should be able to get the Lion installer from the internet without physical media. Here the OP has a working mac and can set up and test the SSD before installing it. USB to SATA connectors are <$10 on amazon.
    – bmike
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 20:41
  • The 2011 Pros have the Recovery HD but they are not supported for Internet Recovery. Since they also contain no install media whatsoever, he has to find some way to install Lion. It's been well documented that once Apple started selling Macbook Pros (as well as iMacs and Mac Pros) with Lion preinstalled they came with nothing.
    – bringel
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 20:45
  • After looking at the instruction manual (crazy, I know), I see they suggest hitting Command-R during a restart opens up the Mac OS X Utilities (where one can "reinstall OSX", use "Disk Utility" to "repair/erase a disk", or use Time Machine). I'm hoping this will work with the new drive (which I'll try on Monday). More on this soon Commented Jul 30, 2011 at 15:54
  • Do try to keep your recovery partition intact on your factory drive. It may be your only way to get Lion again from the App Store. See apple.stackexchange.com/q/19271/5472
    – bmike
    Commented Jul 30, 2011 at 17:11

If you have one of the newest Macs (The most recently released Mac Mini or MacBook Air, and in the future all new Mac models) you can install Lion over the Internet by net booting from Apple's servers.

See Apple's Lion Recovery page.

If your Mac problem is a little less common — your hard drive has failed or you’ve installed a hard drive without OS X, for example — Internet Recovery takes over automatically. It downloads and starts Lion Recovery directly from Apple servers over a broadband Internet connection. And your Mac has access to the same Lion Recovery features online. Internet Recovery is built into every newly-released Mac starting with the Mac mini and MacBook Air.

This will work for all Macs with firmware 1.7


Your best option is probably to get a hard drive dock or enclosure that you can use to plug the SSD in as an external drive. Then use SuperDuper or something similar to clone the HDD's contents to the SSD. Then swap the drives and boot as normal.

I did this to put an SSD into my early 2009 17" MacBook Pro with Snow Leopard and it worked fine. The only caveat is that it might interact strangely with Lion's recovery partition. Best to test that before you reclaim your slow HDD for mass storage.

The dock I use is a Newertech Voyager Q. It's a bit expensive if this is all you need it for, but it's super handy for swapping out drives if you have high storage requirements or if you have a solid backup regimen. You also might get a small USB enclosure, which will be cheaper, and which will allow you to stick the slow HDD you're removing into it to use for mass storage from then on.

  • It's very clear that SuperDuper will only copy your Lion data - not FileVault files or the Recovery HD partition yet. The discussion board for that app makes it clear that the author is looking into how to support that in future releases, but it's not in the current version. Use caution if you expect any tool to move your Recovery HD to a new drive and have it work.
    – bmike
    Commented Jul 30, 2011 at 17:38

Got the new Crucial M4 512GB, cloned original MACBOOK Pro (late 2011) drive using a SATA to USB connection and Carbon Copy Cloner. Removed the hard disk and installed the SSD in the drive bay. Ever so happy afterwards. Yet to put the original drive in to a caddy, waiting for Thunderbolt caddies to come out! :)


Interestingly enough, there is no real way to do this. At least, there's no way to install Lion without the installer and since your computer came with Lion you don't have the installer and you also don't have Snow Leopard disks. If you're interested in transferring everything over anyways, go out and buy a disk enclosure, then use either Super Duper or Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the harddrive in your MacBook Pro over to the SSD and then proceed with the install. If you wanted to do a fresh Install, you might be able to actually do the install with the Recovery partition if it loads up the full installer giving you choice in which disk you install to, but no one has tried that yet.

  • Recovery partition works well to install Lion onto an external drive. You get to choose the destination and it doesn't have to be the same bus/device.
    – bmike
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 20:56
  • Thanks, wasn't sure if this was true of the recovery hd installer, knew it was the case in the downloaded installer.
    – bringel
    Commented Aug 1, 2011 at 4:09
  • @shadesandcolour - there is a recovery partition, but it is tied to the old drive, so I had to mirror that over (as described above) before I could use the Lion-install-over-the-internet feature. Commented Aug 1, 2011 at 20:46
  1. Online recovery won't work. Why? Because I changed the setup. The online recovery probably checks for your hardware, and if it doesn't match with serial number, it won't let you install Mac OS from the internet (obvious reason, I could be creating disks with free mac os for everyone). With original HDD, it works. With new SSD, it doesn't.

  2. You can't boot from USB. No USB stick, no USB enclosure, no USB dvd drive. It doesn't boot from USB. Ever. It is a feature of MBP. Airs boot from USB just fine, because they don't have integrated DVD drive.

  3. No boot from LAN

  4. In my case, I took away the DVD drive, put in original 500gig HDD, and then I put new SSD to where the HDD was. (I did that with OptiBay). Now what's the procedure... It took me a month to figure that out, because I wanted Windows on the SSD, and Mac OSX on the HDD, which was in the optibay. And you can't boot from USB. Oh, also, you can't put SSD into the OptiBay, because the SATA port for DVD drive only works with HDD, but it won't see an SSD drive (I don't know why, that's just the way it is). So how you get a Windows in there?

Well, I first installed Mac OSX onto HDD with original setup through online recovery. Both HDD and DVD drive on their place. Then I made the switch, HDD instead of DVD and SSD instead of HDD. You'll boot just fine holding the Option key. Then you use VirtualBox and use the whole SSD with direct access to allocate it as virtual drive. And then, through virtual box, you use Windows image to boot to installation and you let it copy the install files. Once it's done, I turned off the VirtualBox, rebooted to SSD and installed the rest of Windows. This procedure also includes NTFS driver for Mac OS which you need to have and rEFIt (these are needed to have OSX installed on a drive, that also serves as a data drive for Windows, so both systems with different partitioning approach use data from one physical hard drive), which will allow you to boot from both drives into different systems. I will write this one at the end, so you might miss reading it: Do not delete Apple partition, once you have Windows installed. Because you still need it to download Windows Drivers, which you CANNOT download ANYWHERE ELSE(maybe you can, the old ones, but I couldn't download the most recent windows drivers anywhere, not even on a torrents), but download them through the Boot Camp wizard, which is otherwise useless and won't work with Windows partitions installed on the drive, and also it tells you to put in the Windows DVD, which is a nonsense, because my DVD drive was no longer connected to the computer. You can't plug it through USB when you are in MacOS (so Boot Camp Assistant sees it), but the computer won't boot from it on reboot.

Due to recent hard disk failure (HDD), I lost the partition with Mac OSX, and also it's recovery partition. With this setup, I will go to Apple Store and ask them to install Mac OSX to HDD, while preserving Windows in the main bay. If they can accomplish it, I have no problem paying the money for the system, if they tell me they can't do it, I'm selling it, and I'll buy a PC.

If you are just REPLACING the disk in your MBPRO, then you would be better off to go to a desktop PC, with Windows on it, get an app that can clone Mac partitions (they cost just few bucks, and believe me, it is worth the time, I have spent ages doing research on this and then actually using it, plug both drives into the computer (yes, uncover the side panel, get two sata cables, and connect them to the motherboard and to the drives, along with power cables), turn on the computer, and then use the software to do the actual copy of recovery partition of your original drive to your new drive. The Recovery partition has about 700MB, everything else you don't need, it will be created when MacOS installs. After you are done copying, put the SSD to your Apple Computer, and turn it on. That's it.

  • Did you try Command+R when booting up? This will do the "internet recovery" when you have a brand new drive. It only works on newer MBP's (i.e. post 2011-v2), which it sounds like you have. Additionally, when you boot and hold down Option, it should prompt you for which drive you want to boot from (USB, internal drive, external drive, etc). Also, I remember reading somewhere that Apple allows you to replace the hard drive and memory as part of their user agreement, so I'd be surprised if they blocked you from internet install with just this changed. Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 14:52
  • BTW, if you're bored and want to test this, you can follow this guide to copy the recovery partition to a USB, which you can boot from and install OS X onto a brand new drive: coolestguyplanettech.com/… Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 14:59
  • NOTE: this USB installer I mentioned downloads the majority of the files from the internet after confirming your hardware is valid. If you want an offline installer which doesn't do internet authentication, you can go to the Apple Store, re-download the Lion or Mountain Lion installer (assuming you purchased), and copy to a DVD/USB via this guide: lifehacker.com/5823096/… Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 15:01

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