Apple kicked off digital software distribution on Macs with the Mac App Store and Lion, a major operating system revision released exclusively as a four gigabyte download. As a consequence, folks no longer get an elegant USB key for restoring the operating system if your machine goes south. Instead, new Macs now have the Lion Internet Recovery feature that boots your Mac from Apple’s servers if something goes wrong. As useful as Lion Internet Recover is, however, having a bootable Lion installer on an USB thumb drive is recommended for everyone, not just for those plagued with a slow Internet connection or users that upgrade multiple Macs to Lion.

The process of creating a bootable Lion USB or DVD is now a one-click affair thanks to a useful program by Guillaume Gete which automates the whole thing – you are only required to put the Lion Installer in your Applications folder (if you don’t have it, re-download the installer off the Mac App Store on a pre-Lion Mac). In addition, the Lion DiskMaker 1.1 script lets you work with a 4GB flash drive rather than the 8GB minimum requirement when manually burning the install disk image onto a DVD or USB drive. It also works with SD cards and FireWire/USB external drives. This is especially useful if you still have a Snow Leopard USB key lying around somewhere.

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