I've read online and saw that it appears to be impossible to install Lion on a clean/wiped/reformatted hard drive - is this true? I'd like to wipe my hard drive clean and then install Lion on it (new) and would prefer not to wipe and install Snow Leopard and upgrade to Lion.

Regarding the tutorials or detailed instructions on clean installing Lion - are there any that are (Most that I have searched online, including the one on Egg Freckles have been released [I]before[/I] the actual release date on Lion, and since I'm not that up to date on everything in the Mac world recently) detailed, and I'd like to know if there is a comprehensive (new) tutorial regarding the clean installation of Lion?

  • What makes you think it's impossible?
    – jtbandes
    Commented Aug 28, 2011 at 15:16
  • 2
    I think this is a great question - there was and is lots of confusion between the official method, people DIY their own installers, and the difference between a clean install and an install that doesn't need to download between 2 and 4 GB of data from the App Store.
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 28, 2011 at 16:51
  • Yeah … I never treat as clean any installation that uses only part of the app that is provided by Apple. Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 8:41

2 Answers 2


The best guide is all written up on Apple's support web site.

A high level Introducing Lion Recovery covers the basics and the About Lion Recovery knowledge base article gets into the details.

Some macs can use internet recovery to perform a one step / internet net boot / bare metal restore. All the rest require a [USB bootable recovery HD. Apple provides an official tool to make your own bootable USB device. Detailed instructions from About Lion Recovery Disk Assistant cover using an existing hard drive as well as a USB device to make your Recovery HD.

Once you are booted into recovery - use Disk Utility to erase / zero / repartition your drive and you now have a clean Lion install.

The following Mac models can perform a total internet recovery or use USB media.

  • It's worth noting that Apple's "Lion Recovery Disk Assistant" only makes a recovery partition, which then downloads Lion, it's not a full installer. By using the full-installer option, you have a stick that doesn't require any internet connection.
    – robmathers
    Commented Aug 28, 2011 at 15:51
  • 2
    Totally correct - but a clean install is different than a self supported / non-internet install. They seem orthogonal to me. Today I might want a non-clean but non-internet install, tomorrow a clean and non-internet install. Keeping the answers distinct allows people to pick and choose only what they need. :-)
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 28, 2011 at 16:49

There are a couple relevant MacWorld articles that you may find useful, published shortly after the release of Lion, however you'll find there's nothing much different from the pre-release Egg Freckles article.

MacWorld: Should you do a clean install of Lion?

MacWorld: How to make a bootable Lion install disc or drive

The short answer is that yes, you can do an install of Lion on a wiped drive without installing Snow Leopard first. You'll need to make a boot drive of the Lion Installer on a USB stick or hard drive using your existing install. The other option is buying a Lion USB install drive from Apple, but you end up spending an extra $40 and it precludes you from installing from the App Store or Internet Recovery in the future.

The quick steps for making a bootable drive:

  1. Download the Lion installer from the Mac App Store.
  2. Right/command-click and click Show Package Contents
  3. Find Contents/Shared Support/InstallESD.dmg
  4. Use Disk Utility to "restore" the .dmg to a USB stick (must be partitioned as GUID Parition Table aka GPT, with a single HFS+ Journalled partition).

You can also use Disk Utility to burn the .dmg to a DVD if you prefer. If you need more detailed instructions, check out the second MacWorld article above.

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