Lion is, as has been well-publicized, not being offered in stores on any install media – to emphasize all of the shiny new imported-from-iOS features, users have to download and install it from the Mac App Store. That said, Lion will be eventually also be available on a USB drive for $69 if you still want a physical copy or don't want to back the installer image up to one yourself.

We’ll talk about the installer itself more below, but the main wildcard in the Lion install process is the roughly 4 GB download from Apple, which takes quite a bit of time over a fast connection (and will take the better part of a day on a slower DSL connection). I’m writing this before the fact, but I’m willing to bet that the load on Apple’s servers is making the wait even more irksome for Apple’s early adopters.

A 3.49 GB download is a big one, but it’s slimmed down significantly from the Snow Leopard installer (my standard 10.6.3 Snow Leopard DVD is about 7.3 GB in size). This isn’t the product of optimization on Apple’s part, but rather the effect that the download-only decision has had on the rest of the OS: many components that were previously bundled (whether by default or optionally), including print drivers and the Java runtime environment, are now downloaded on-demand. Whenever you install a program or device that needs to make use of one of these elements, Software Update pops up and prompts you to download and install it. This can be annoying (what do you mean I need to wait for a separate download before I can play Minecraft?!), but it seems reliable enough, and it does ensure that you’re using the most recent version of whatever component it is that you’re downloading. Other disk space savers include the removal of many older OS X wallpapers (some of which have been with the OS since its inception) and the decision to make the Windows support files for Bootcamp a separate download (as they already are for Macs without optical drives).
 



Annoyances aside, I do think the move away from physical media is the right one for Apple to make – it reduces cost, it enables them to drop optical disk drives from more of their computers going forward, and it brings greater parity to the OS X and iOS install processes, one of many steps that Lion takes toward the potential merging of the two operating systems.

For those of you who are attached to an install disk for one reason or another, accessing the .DMG file within the Lion installer and burning your own DVD is fairly trivial for even a moderately technical user. The installer, like other App Store downloads, is dropped in your Applications folder. Right-click (or CTRL-clicking, depending on your setup) the installer, click Show Package Contents, go into the Contents folder, then the SharedSupport folder, and burn the .dmg file you find here to a DVD (or copy it to a USB stick) with Disk Utility.
 
It’s not something every user will want to do, but advanced users or people who reinstall their OS often may want to take advantage of it (especially since Apple's official line, in the event that you need to reinstall OS X to a brand-new hard drive, is to first install Snow Leopard, and then install Lion). It should be noted that this is also the easiest, most convenient way to do a clean install of Lion, which is not offered as an option in the standard installer.
 



Once launched, the Lion installer will ask you some questions about setup, spend some time unpacking files to your hard drive, restart your computer, and then do the rest on its own - OS X’s in-place OS upgrades are usually a bit smoother and a bit easier to recommend than Windows’, though that can vary based on the amount and type of files on your hard disk and your specific configuration. I never ran into issues throughout my testing, but your mileage may vary.
Introduction Recovery partition
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  • mrcaffeinex - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    I purchased a MacBook Pro when Leopard was due to come out. Apple mailed me a free upgrade DVD about a month after I purchased the MacBook. When Snow Leopard came out I purchased the upgrade DVD for something in the neighborhood of $30 if I remember correctly. I've done clean installations from all of the media and never run into an activation/registration problem.

    On the flip side, I paid $149 for Windows XP, another $149 for XP 64-bit (if only there had been driver support back in the day...), $199 for Vista and another $149 for 7. Granted these were over a slightly longer time period. Still, I can't help but think that some of the initial investment cost of the Mac has been offset by not having to spend significantly more on software upgrades to get the features or functionality that I enjoy having at my disposal.

    Factor in the inconvenience of having several iterations of Windows that were more or less junk, but still cost the same and it slides the scale further in favor of OS X in my experience. Now I can also get what is essentially a household upgrade in Lion for approximately $30 if I decide it is worthwhile.

    Don't take this as an attack on Microsoft and their Windows operating system, though. It is still an integral part of my computing experience every day and I really enjoy Windows 7 (in fact, it runs better on my MacBook than on most notebooks I've worked on). I just wish they would adopt a strategy that would make upgrading Windows more affordable for the do-it-yourself PC enthusiast.
    Reply
  • GotThumbs - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    The amount of money Apple made on your purchase of their hardware more than covers the cost of the OS. Microsoft does not sell their own brand of computers. You can purchase a PC laptop for hundreds less than you can purhcase an Apple MAC.

    Think McFly, think!
    Reply
  • xype - Thursday, July 21, 2011 - link

    I love it how PC people have such a sweet feeling of entitlement.

    Have you ever had/bought/found a product that you were simply content with paying a premium for because it just worked well for you? Have you ever overtipped a waiter because the service was really good?

    You know, some people don’t have a problem rewarding either individuals or, yes, teh ebil corburayshns, for work/services well done.
    Reply
  • GotThumbs - Thursday, July 21, 2011 - link

    ??? "feeling of entitlement" ???

    Not sure what you mean, but I do work hard for my money and do have a choice of where I spend it and how much I'm willing to pay for a product or service. There is a HUGE difference between tipping a waiter for working hard to provide you the best experience, than a company who sells consumers the same technology I can get elsewhere for less and be just as satisfied with my purchase. I'm not a 'Scrooge', but I'm also not a fool. Meaning: A fool and his money are quickly parted.

    I build my own systems so I not just satisfied with what is put out by the large PC sellers either. Most readers here are not satisfied with being 'spoon fed' what we should be satisfied with.

    If you or anyone else wish to purchase apple products, your free to do so. Just don't expect me to give you a pat on the back for it.
    Reply
  • steven75 - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    You seem to have missed the entire point that Microsoft OS upgrades are *hundreds of dollars* per copy and Mac OSX upgrades are $30 for multiple copies. Reply
  • wicko - Sunday, July 24, 2011 - link

    Umm, currently it is roughly 100$ for Home Premium (I paid 125 when I preordered Win7 Pro Upgrade edition), less at some retailers.

    Not to mention, you glossed over the fact that there does exist a "mac tax", which you would have paid on every mac you own, offsetting the total cost.

    Say I spend 2400 on 3 PCs (including OS) and you spend 3000 on 3 Macs. Performance is identical. It will cost me 300 to upgrade each one to Win7. It will cost you 30$ to upgrade all of your Macs. 2700 vs 3030, Interesting. I will have to go through another version of Win7 in order to catch up with you in cost. And I'm being generous with respect to the difference in price before upgrades.

    But, you know, you can install it on as many Macs as you'd like, so go nuts. Just don't pretend you're somehow spending less than those who buy Windows licenses.
    Reply
  • anactoraaron - Sunday, July 24, 2011 - link

    Sure, but let's compare apples to apples (pun intended). If Microsoft were to charge $150 for what little differences there are from 10.6 and 10.6 + hybrid iOS called 10.7 windows discs would never sell (who the hell buys MS discs retail that reads AT anyway?? Newegg has always sold oem discs MUCH cheaper-wait apple person NM). But to sit there and tell me that there isn't any major changes from XP to 7... that's just ridiculous. Reply
  • xyn081s - Monday, August 01, 2011 - link

    I think you're the one who missed the point. Even with all these Win licenses, it'll still be cheaper than a Mac. Plus, you can get the Family pack, 3 licenses for $150... Reply
  • ex2bot - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I know this comment was a few days ago, but I had a laugh at your comment, so I just had to open my digital mouth and reply:

    "2400 for 3 PCS ($800 ea.) and $3000 for your [POS] Mac".

    If you paid $40,000 for three Chevy Malibus and I paid $80,000 for my one souped-up Corvette" I would have gotten RIPPED OFF! (No, actually I would have received A LOT OF TICKETS!!)

    A better comparison is

    $800 PC vs. $1400 iMac . Not 800 vs. 3000. * Incidentally, you can sell your used Mac for a lot more than the technically equiv. PC. I've used that to upgrade my Macs several times.

    -Ex2bot
    Mac Fanbot

    * Think an $800 PC = Mac Pro? The Mac Pros have Xeon processors. You know better than I that Xeons are $400 or $500 each. The cheapest Mac Pro has *dual* E5620s @ 2.66. You can't build a octo-core Xeon machine for $800. And you've got to have a motherboard and a, what, case? Power supply? And a few other parts, right?
    Reply
  • nafhan - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    So, you bought four copies of Windows for a single computer? You may be the only person to have done this... A more typical experience over that time period is: Windows XP "free" with new PC, and $100 to upgrade to Windows 7.

    With the amount of money you spent on OS licenses, you could have purchased both a Win XP computer (OS included) and a Windows 7 box (OS included) outright.
    Reply

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