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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  • khimera2000 - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    that's pretty neat. It looks like it adds in a bunch of interesting features. The one trend I do see it that both mac and M$ are driving components from there mobile platforms into there desktops. I don't mind if they do this, but I still want a different feel between devices.

    As for the complaints and shouts of if its a service pack that should be free, or if its an update worth 30 bucks. On this subject I think that there is no comparison, M$ has a setup that benefits its use of massive volume licencing, but the option to pay for service packs makes sense for a company that does not dominate 90% of the market, but want to maintain more talent to add more features. I know that some people might take offense to this, but its my opinion so screw you.

    Still confused on the full screen thing, I can move between applications easily, with all of them in full screen, its called ALT+TAB, or Win+Tab, or CTRL+TAB (when you want to cycle through your web browser only. so the entire portion where he says its a advantage over win (this feature) makes me confused, then again i'm a big fan of keyboard shortcuts, so i could be missing things. I'm hoping that the full screen feature pans out. I am considering getting one, but not till they leave the OSX family. (still hate the way it came to be >.<)

    the movement away from CD is great, here's hoping that there are plans in the works for all software to be distributed like this, because... I cant remember the last time i walked into a store and asked myself what program do i need...

    Over all it was a interesting read.
    Reply
  • chenedwa - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    I just installed Lion on my circa 2009 MBP 2.53GHz C2D. I then tried to download the latest Parallels update via WiFi using Firefox 8 beta and was getting phenominal transfer speeds of more than 900kB/sec for the 203MB download! Wow! Reply
  • Uritziel - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    None of that sounds wow worthy... Reply
  • Uritziel - Friday, July 22, 2011 - link

    Or applicable to the article... Reply
  • ThreeDee912 - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    About future support for the white MacBooks, it appears that Apple has silently discontinued them. They're nowhere to be found on the Apple Store website.

    Engadget also reported that they received word from Apple that they really were discontinued:
    http://www.engadget.com/2011/07/20/the-macbook-dro...
    Reply
  • secretmanofagent - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    "Also missing is the button in the upper right-hand corner that would invoke icon-only view - those of you who use it will have to become acquainted with Alt+Command+T, a keyboard shortcut that toggles this change."

    Should be Command-Option-T.
    Reply
  • SmCaudata - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    So with my early 2008 Mac Book I already took a hit to batter life with Snow Leopard. In fact, I just got a new battery and after a couple of months the health reads at 80%. I have seen other's with this issue but the posts often get deleted on the main apple forums. Now I would take another hit to upgrade to Lion?

    I really liked my MacBook Pro when I got it, but this blatant disregard for current customers in a push to get people to upgrade is ridiculous. My laptop has plenty of power for laptop tasks. I don't need to upgrade hardware for performance reasons.

    Remember how much crap Microsoft took for making Vista a system hog on older systems? Do you think that Apple will ever see anywhere near the rage?
    Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, July 21, 2011 - link

    Then don't upgrade.

    What are you so angry about? Your mac will work just like it used to. Apple will continue to provide security and other updates for at least three years. You'll get iTunes and Safari updates. What's the problem?

    If you find you HAVE to have some Lion feature, sell your MacBook on eBay --- you'll get a surprisingly good price.
    Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    The 64 bit support isn't entirely an Apple issue. It is Intel that treats 64 bit as a feature to be hacked out of CPUs on a whim to make them "cheaper." It just bugs me the way its been handled by everyone but AMD. 64bit sure looks like the future, but here we are dragging our heels on support.

    Anyway, does OSX support SMT? I thought that it didn't, but I see the latest specs of hardware with the 2/4 core/thread configuration.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, July 21, 2011 - link

    Ehh? SMT is a processor feature, OSX will use as many cores (real or virtual) as you can throw at it. Reply

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