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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  • steven75 - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    "The fact is Windows/Office is really only expensive if you are building your own computers and installing your own OS"

    You seem to be implying that Office comes free with a pre-built computer when it in fact doesn't ever.
    Reply
  • anactoraaron - Sunday, July 24, 2011 - link

    wrong. I know I shouldn't feed the trolls but when office 2010 came out my local office depot (and likely every office depot) had at least one pc with the full version of office 2010 on it. It was some kind of promotion they ran for about 2 weeks. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    Apart from the new animations in Safari, is performance improved any? Any word of it getting GPU acceleration? Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, July 21, 2011 - link

    My experience was that it ran the IE Paintball demo 25% faster, and the end result showed no visual artifacts. So, an improvement on 5.0, but still nothing like the HW acceleration performance of IE.

    On the other hand, I've yet to encounter a site (apart from the IE demos) where this actually matters...
    Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, July 21, 2011 - link

    Oh, it also, if you care, has elementary support for MathML. To be honest, however, the support is REALLY limited. The typography looks like crap, and anything even slightly fancy looks even worse --- eg long bars over symbols, large surds, etc. Reply
  • tipoo - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    Thanks. Yeah, its GPU acceleration doesn't seem as expansive still as other browsers, judging by canned benchmarks I've run it through. IE9 and FF5 are still far ahead in GPU acceleration, Chrome and Opera are getting there, Safari 5.1 is still last. Reply
  • EnzoFX - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    I think it's pretty unfair to compare Windows full-screening to Lion's. Full screening in Windows is not a feature at all IMO, it is the equivalent of dragging the window size out to the size of the screen. You do not gain any functionality whatsoever (usually just a lot of empty space, which was never in Apple's radar before). This kind of full-screen functionality has been present in OS X long before Lion, though it was often more manual, having to drag the window size out.

    But as you say, Apple has added functionality and it's become it's own separate feature. I think the comparison is pointless.
    Reply
  • SmCaudata - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    True full-screen in Windows only happens with games, certain video players, and select other apps. I personally so no use for full-screen for most computer applications.

    Also, the comparison is valid because even in those areas where Windows does use full-screen, the other display still works. I can have a full-screen movie on one monitor while I do whatever I want on the other.

    I really fail to see how Apple's implementation has "added functionality" that didn't exist in other OSes before. The article talks about using gestures instead of minimization... isn't that what Alt+Tab and Win+tab already did?

    There are certain things that Apple does do well. Their dock was something that MS obviously took inspiration from for W7. This implementation of full-screen seemed pretty limited IMO.
    Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, July 21, 2011 - link

    I suspect that the multi-screen hiccups with full-screen are purely temporary.
    We have seen problems like this before --- for example when multi-user GUI support (the rotating cube thing, to allow new users to log in to a mac) was first added, it didn't take long to discover that various iLife apps didn't behave properly. (I forget the details, but I think both iTunes and iPhoto wouldn't launch for the new user.)

    It's one of the drawbacks of Apple being so secretive, even internally, that you get these sorts of crossed signals. But the issues usually get fixed, and if they are very visible, they usually get fixed soon.

    I'd say, right now, the appropriate response is to assume this is a screwup, not go into conspiracy theory mode about how this is a plot by Apple to eventually remove multi-screen support.
    Reply
  • Uritziel - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    LOL. As if a company spearheading Thunderbolt would aim to remove multi-screen support. Reply

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