How to install Lion on a new MacBook Air SSD (updated)

Summary:I ordered my MacBook Air with the 256GB SSD -- but that's not nearly enough primary storage for me. Here are two ways to install Lion on a new, blank SSD.

I just took delivery of a 13-inch MacBook Air i7 which will become my primary machine (more on that later) -- but before I can migrate to my new iron, some planning is required.

Although I ordered my MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM and the 256 GB SSD (and won the Samsung lotto - woot!) that's not nearly enough primary storage for me. I'm going to upgrade to a 480GB SSD from OWC now that they've been confirmed to work in the Mid-2011 MacBook Air.

While saving up the $1400 (cough!) for the new SSD I got to thinking about how I'd actually install Lion onto a brand-new, blank SSD. Apple includes no recovery media with the new machines, instead relying on a recovery partition and Internet booting to bail you out should trouble arise.

I figured that I'd install the new SSD blade, then boot from the Internet and install Lion that way. As it turns out, there are actually two ways to install Lion on a new, blank SSD in the MacBook Air.

Method 1 Use Lion's Internet Recovery mode (via Apple knowledge base article #HT4718)

Note: If moving an OWC Aura Pro Express SSD used in a 2010 MacBook Air, using this method will completely erase the drive's data. Make sure you have a Time Machine backup or clone of the OWC Aura Pro Express SSD on an external drive.

Method 2 Use Lion's Recovery HD mode:

  1. Make SURE you have a Time Machine backup or clone of your data (from either the Apple factory stock flash drive or OWC Aura Pro Express SSD) on an external drive. We will refer to this drive as Drive #1.
  2. Boot to the recovery partition on the stock drive by holding down Command R during a restart or boot process.
  3. Use Disk Utility to do a restore on a separate external USB drive. DO NOT use the same external drive that was used for your Time Machine or clone backup. We will refer to this drive as Drive #2.
  4. Replace the MacBook Air's stock flash drive with the OWC Aura Pro Express SSD.
  5. Boot to the USB Drive #2's recovery partition.
  6. Use Disk Utility to do a restore to the OWC Aura Pro Express SSD.
  7. Restart or Boot to the OWC Aura Pro Express SSD.
  8. Run Apple Migration Assistant to clone your data from Drive #1.

Update: The third (and perhaps simplest) option is to clone your original SSD to an external USB drive, then clone it back to the new replacement SSD. I use SuperDuper ($28) for this but the free Carbon Copy Cloner also does the trick.
Are you going to upgrade the SSD in your MacBook Air?

Topics: Apple, Banking, Data Management, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

About

Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

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