updated 09:55 am EDT, Tue July 19, 2011
OS works around absence of physical media
OS X Lion has a special recovery mode which includes the option to reinstall the OS over the Internet, a leaked internal AppleCare document reveals. The mode is invoked by holding down Command-R during boot, and presents users with several options. On a basic level it lets people access online help, or run Disk Utility to scan, repair, partition or even erase volumes. Under dire circumstances a person can restore from a Time Machine backup, or "reinstall Lion over the Internet from Apple's servers," according to the AppleCare note.
Reinstalling via the Internet is a necessary option, as Apple is otherwise limiting Lion distribution to the Mac App Store. The scheme may potentially cause some problems, as it assumes not only that a Mac is connected to the Internet but that its connection is fast enough to re-download Lion in a reasonable space of time. Many Internet service providers have also imposed bandwidth caps which the sheer size of Lion might help break.
The recovery mode is thought to operate from a hidden partition, which also continues to run the special Lion feature Find My Mac. The OS in fact has a dedicated process called Find My Mac Messenger, the exact purpose of which is unclear. Regardless, when Find My Mac's remote wipe option is triggered, a Mac likely boots into the recovery partition before deleting user data.
Lion is believed to be on the verge of going live at the Mac App Store, possibly as soon as Wednesday. Apple may launch new computers at the same time, most prominently new MacBook Airs. The Air line was last updated in October, at the time a massive overhaul with a new size option and the elimination of conventional hard drives in favor of SSDs.