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As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and no truer words were spoken when speaking of preventing the bad thing from happening to your Mac. While I hate to be the voice of gloom and doom, the bad thing will eventually happen. A hard drive will die, a rambunctious pet will knock your laptop off a counter, or you will spill a fizzy libation into the guts of your computer. Now, while you can't prevent the bad thing from happening, you can be prepared so that when it does you have some recourse.
The primary thing to keep in mind is that you must backup your data. Use Time Machine, make an additional backup, store your backups offline, upload the most important files to an online backup server. It doesn't matter how you do it, but you must have a backup. That way when the bad thing happens, you don't lose your precious data. Some of which, your photos for example, you can never ever recover. Now, let's talk about some recovery tools. First of all, we are going to go Safari. Disk Assistant creates a tiny version of the Mac OS along with Disk Utility and some other helpful tools.
You install this on a USB drive and then you can use it to boot your Mac and run Disk First Aid, or if necessary install a new copy of Lion on your Mac, if you're connected to the Internet. So to do that, I click on Download and it downloads. Go back to the Finder, go to the Downloads folder, and here it is. So we double-click to open the disk image and I'll drag the Utility to the Desktop so that we can see it.
Now I run the utility. I'll agree to the license agreement. And then it asks for a USB stick. So I'll insert a 1 gigabyte stick into my computer, and here it is. I select it and click on Continue. I enter my password, click OK, and now it sets about building my recovery disk, and this takes several minutes.
Now I have the recovery tools on my bootable flash drive. Now, in the future if I can't access the Recovery HD Partition that's installed along with Lion on my startup drive and to boot from this drive, just insert the Flash drive into your Mac, restart your Mac, hold down the Option key, and in the startup window select this drive to boot from. So quit this, I can throw this tool away, and we'll throw this installer away. I can inject that USB stick.
Now, this is a fine tool if you have an Internet connection and you can download another copy of Lion. But what if you don't have that connection or the connection you have is really slow or metered? In this case you want to have a complete installer on another drive. So I'll be showing you how to make that. The first thing you need is a copy of the Lion installer that's on your Mac. If you didn't heed my earlier advice to keep a copy of this installer, you're going to need to download another copy from the App Store, but there is a trick to it, and I'll show you that trick now.
So from the Apple menu I choose App Store. Featured. Now I'll click on Purchases and I've purchased a copy of Lion, so it should be available here. But look what happens. Here is Lion and it tells me that it's installed, and indeed it is, because I'm running Lion on this Mac. Well, how do I get another copy of the installer if it tells me it's installed? Here's the trick. Go back to Featured, hold down the Option key, and keep holding Option until the page fully loads.
If you don't wait for to it fully load, this trick won't work. Note what happens. It now shows me that I can install a copy of Lion and that's because I held down the Option key when I clicked on Purchases. At this point all I have to do is click on the Install button and then the nearly 4 gigabyte file will download to my Mac. I'm not going to do that now, because it's going to take an awfully long time. I just wanted to show you how this trick is done. So I'll quit the App Store and we'll move on.
So now we want to create a full installer. So how do I do that? Let's find that copy of Lion that I have on my hard drive. I've actually hidden one away in the Documents folder. I had to compress a copy, because if I didn't the App Store would have seen my installer on there, and even with the Option key held down would not allow me to download another copy. So I'll grab this and I'll move it to the Desktop, and we will proceed with the technique. Now, I am going to take an 8 gigabyte flash drive and I am going to plug that into my Mac. Now, 1 gigabyte flash drive was fine for the Recovery Assistant, but for a full installation I need an 8 gigabyte or larger hard drive.
Now, note that this drive must be formatted in the GUID format, which I showed you how to do when I discussed Disk Utility. We go to the Lion installer and I am going to Control+Click on it and choose Show Package Contents. Now I'm going to follow this path, Contents/SharedSupport, and we're looking for this InstallESD.dmg file. I'll move this down to the bottom here. And now I'll launch Disk Utility.
So I'll select my flash drive and click on Restore. I then select the InstallESD.dmg file and I am going to move that to the Source field. I'll then take my Flash drive and move it to the destination field. To finish the procedure all I have to do is click on Restore. So what's happened? This InstallESD.dmg file is the full installer for Lion. So what I'm doing is asking to take the source from this disk image file and copy it completely to my flash drive.
When I do that and I want to reinstall Lion without downloading it again, all I have to do is insert the Flash drive, restart my Mac while holding down the Option key, and then selecting that flash drive to boot from. When I do that, up comes the usual Recovery Options. One of which is to Reinstall Lion. When I select that, it will install from this flash drive rather than downloading the Lion installer. Now, you can also burn this installer to a DVD. And to do that, first insert a blank DVD disk, select your image, and then click on the Burn button.
You'd be prompted to insert a DVD, and when the DVD is mounted, simply click on the Burn button to burn that DVD. We won't do that now, instead I'll quit out of Disk Utility and we will eject the flash drive. Here's one last tip. Go to alsoft.com and purchase a copy of DiskWarrior. DiskWarrior is $100 disk repair and recovery utility. Now, I know $100 sounds like a lot of money for a utility, but believe me, if it saves your data just once, it's completely worth it.
It can repair low-level directory damage that Apple's First Aid can't touch. If your Mac's hard drive is deeply corrupted, there's a good chance that DiskWarrior can cure its ills. And if it can't, it has the ability to recover your data from the drive. So absolutely worth having. Remove the installer. And that's about it. The preventive measures you can take to prepare for disaster.
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