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Recover Lion's recovery partition on the Mac

OS X Lion broke with tradition and instead of Apple distributing the operating system in a boxed DVD, it is a download from the Mac App Store. There isn't any physical media. A DVD is useful for reinstalling OS X, starting the Mac and repairing faults with Disk Utility, so to provide these essential functions Lion creates a hidden recovery partition on the disk drive. To access it you just need to start the Mac with the Option key held down and then select it from the list of bootable disks displayed on the screen.

Unfortunately, it is possible to lose the recovery partition. One day it is there and the next day it is gone. Have you lost the recovery partition on the disk drive? Have you recently checked whether it is still there? If it isn't, how can it be restored? Let's see how to recover the recovery partition.

Carbon Copy Cloner
Carbon Copy Cloner is a great utility for backing up the Mac's disk drive. If you have a second disk drive, such as a USB drive, you can clone the Mac's internal drive and make an exact copy. Firstly, this means you have a backup of every file on your Mac. Secondly, holding down Option as you start the Mac enables you to select it and boot from it. If the disk in your Mac ever dies you just boot from the USB drive.

If you have an old Mac that is tired and slow, you can speed it up by cloning the internal disk to an external drive, boot from it, format the internal drive and then clone it back. I wrote about it here. If you do this though, you will discover that the Lion recovery partition disappears.

Formatting the Mac's disk drive erases the recovery partition. Replacing the disk drive, when it fails for example, will also mean the recovery partition is lost. There may be other things that cause the recovery partition to be lost too. How do you get it back?

The recovery partition
To recover the Lion recovery partition you need a copy of the recovery partition. If you don't have it, you are out of luck and the only way to recreate it is to download OS X Lion from the Mac App Store again and reinstall it.

Apple has a Lion Recovery Disk Assistant that enables you to back up Lion's recovery partition by copying it to another disk drive. If you have used this utility, just boot up with that disk (start the Mac with Option held down) and run it again to copy it back to the Mac's internal disk. It won't affect anything on the Mac's disk and no files are lost or changed during this operation. It's quick and easy.

If you have ever used Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the Mac's disk drive and either replaced the internal disk or formatted it, there is actually a backup of the recovery partition on the cloned disk. CCC clones the internal disk and then adds an extra file - a backup of the recovery partition. You can restore this and put it back on the internal disk drive.

Start the Mac from the external disk drive - the one you backed up to with Carbon Copy Cloner. Run Carbon Copy Cloner and select Window, Disk Center, and then the Recovert HD tab. The disk drives are listed on the left and after selecting the Mac's disk drive, there is a button to create a Recovery HD. Click it and in a minute or two you'll have the recovery partition back on the Mac. It doesn't change any files on the Mac's disk, so it's safe to do.

Carbon Copy Cloner

Related articles
* Back up Lion's recovery partition
* Use the Lion Recovery Disk
* Check your Mac's disk drive for errors