Making SDHC Lion Install Card

Mac OS X Lion install card

You may probably know that Apple, Inc. began selling OS X Lion USB Thumb Drive, a USB install drive for Mac OS X Lion, several days ago. Apple Store currently sells it for US$69.00. You may have also heard that you can actually create your own USB install drive saving some 20 to 30 bucks, provided that you have a Lion installation disk from Mac App Store.

Mac OS X Lion install card
Screenshot 1 – Source: MacHouse

A question that I had a few days ago is “Can I use my SDHC card to create a Lion install drive?” These days, I don’t use USB memory sticks. Rather, I have quite a lot of SDHC and Compact Flash cards. As you know, all new iMacs, which Apple, Inc. introduced in early May, come with an SD card slot. Maybe, create a Lion install card and plug it into this slot to start up an iMac? I was a bit skeptical. But I had to try it. So I just bought a new iMac 27″ Quad Core 3.1 GHz plus a SDHC card yesterday. Actually, it arrived this morning.

An SDHC card that I was going to use is Silicon Power 4 GB (Class 10) SDHC card. I’ve bought one just for this attempt. I was going to use it, but I didn’t. That’s because this card doesn’t have sufficient capacity. 4 GB isn’t enough. So, instead, I ended up using an existing Transcend 8 GB (Class 6) SDHC card. Well, I didn’t have to buy a new 4 GB SDHC card after all. But that’s all right. Furthermore, since I’m a member of Mac Developer Program, I get a free copy of OS X Lion installation disk. And I have a copy sitting on my external hard drive.  

Mac OS X Lion install card
Screenshot 2 – Source: MacHouse

So you just need to create one partition after launching Disk Utility and then selecting an SDHC drive. (See Screenshot 2.) Make sure you click on Options and select GUID Partition Table. (See Screenshot 3.) You will be prompted for confirmation with a message that says “Are you sure you want to partition the diskā€¦” So click on the Partition button.

Mac OS X Lion install card
Screenshot 3 – Source: MacHouse

Mac OS X Lion install card
Screenshot 4 – Source: MacHouse

Next, locate your OS X Lion installation disk. Open the package (right-button-click on the installation disk and choose Show Package Contents). Navigate to Resources > Shared Support. After switching the tab to Restore on Disk Utility, drag and drop InstallESD.dmg onto the Source field. (See Screenshot 4.) By this time, the only partition on the SDHC drive you have is named Untitled 1. Grab this name on the sidebar. Then drag and drop it onto the Destination field. (See Screenshot 5.) Make sure the Erase destination checkbox is enabled. When you are ready to write to an SDHC card, click on the Restore Button at the bottom-right corner of the box.

Mac OS X Lion install card
Screenshot 5 – Source: MacHouse

Mac OS X Lion install card
Screenshot 6 – Source: MacHouse

It can take your Mac 10 minutes or so to write to your SDHC card. When Disk Utility finishes writing the card, you are virtually done. You can just insert this SDHC card into an SD slot when you install OS X Lion on your Mac. Then open System Preferences and select Startup Disk. Finally, choose Mac OS X, 10.7 on Mac OS X Install ESD. (See Screenshot 6.) When you click on Restart, your Mac should startup from the SD card slot. Unlike booting a computer with an install DVD, you won’t wait for a long time to reach the first screen for Lion installation.

Mac OS X Lion install card
Screenshot 7 – Source: MacHouse


Build your own Lion install USB thumb drive for cheap

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