updated 08:30 pm EDT, Wed July 27, 2011
No easy way to recover from HD or SSD failure
Currently shipping Lion-based MacBook Pros no longer come with any restore media -- neither a DVD nor a USB key -- but also cannot use Lion's new Internet Restore feature, making restoration from a failed HD or SSD boot drive much more difficult, reports J. Glenn Künzler of MacTrast. Hardware drive failures in these machines may now require Apple authorized servicing to fix.
The problem would not affect MacBook Pros that upgraded to Lion rather than shipped with it, nor owners who used command-line or third-party GUI tools to create bootable clones of their boot drive -- but at present, there appears to be no Apple-sanctioned way for new MacBook Pro owners whose machines shipped with Lion pre-installed to easily recover from a hard disc or SSD hardware failure.
If the owner did not make a bootable clone, they would have to take the machine to an Apple authorized service provider to re-install Lion on a new drive, as the Mac App Store does not allow re-downloading on machines that didn't upgrade to Lion from Snow Leopard, and the machines themselves cannot boot from any earlier version of Mac OS X.
In cases where the failure to boot is not hardware-related, Lion automatically includes a bootable recovery partition that becomes visible when restarting holding the option key. It offers the option of restoring Lion from its own partition, restoring from a Time Machine backup, running Disk Utility or getting online help. The emergency partition, however, is present only on the boot drive and is not itself backed up by Time Machine, being considered a separate volume.
New MacBook Airs and Mac minis -- which ship without optical drives -- are now equipped with the ability to use a special Internet Restore option that does not require any pre-existing install of Lion to be present. The feature, which is hardware-dependent, means that if an owner experienced the loss of a bootable hard drive and substituted a new blank hard drive, the Mac would detect this and begin downloading a Lion Restore partition over a broadband connection automatically.
Künzler's testing seems to indicate that currently-shipping MacBook Pros don't have this automatic detection, which may suggest that a revised model may be coming out soon. In the meantime, it is possible for new MacBook Pro owners to protect themselves by using the command-line tool "rsync" or a Lion-compatible clone utility such as Clone X 4 ($30) or Carbon Copy Cloner (donationware) or SuperDuper! (free for full cloning; $28 for advanced features). Apple may eventually offer affected MBP owners a bootable USB drive, similar to the one it plans to offer for sale in August. He says he has "reached out" to Apple for a comment or solution.
The report also mentions other notable differences between the Lion-equipped MacBook Pro and the recent Snow Leopard model, including a change in packaging on the outside (a Lion screen on the front graphic), and on the inside (the consolidation of introductory leaflets and discs into a single book), as well as noting a slightly different OS build number (11A511a rather than the Mac App Store's 11A511) and new official model number -- the latter owing to the replacement of two keys on the keyboard to reflect the change to Mission Control and Launchpad rather than Expose and Dashboard. [via MacTrast]