Home > Mac administration, Mac OS X > Downloading Lion OS installers for your specific Mac model

Downloading Lion OS installers for your specific Mac model

One of the changes with Lion is that Apple is no longer including install media with new Macs. For folks doing managed deployments, this can cause an issue because you may have new hardware that uses a build of Mac OS X that’s newer than the version that’s available in the Mac App Store. However, there is a way to get an installer for your new hardware from Apple. How? See below the jump.

When reinstalling your OS using Recovery HD, Apple will send you the correct installer for your hardware. It does this by looking at the type of Mac you have and the serial number. Once it has those, your Mac will have the correct installer pushed to it. Once your Mac has the installer fully downloaded, it will then reboot and install OS X.

You can use this behavior to capture the InstallESD disk image that Apple uses for its Lion installer. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Boot your Mac from your Recovery HD partition by holding down Command-R at startup

2. Connect an erased external disk with at least 10 GBs of free space

3. Select the Reinstall Mac OS X option and select your external disk

4. Once the installer finishes downloading and prompts you to restart, shut down instead.

5. Disconnect the external disk

6. Boot from your Mac’s regular boot drive.

7. Reconnect the external disk

When you take a look at the external disk, you will find a directory called Mac OS X Install Data. Inside that folder is the InstallESD.dmg disk image file for your specific Mac model.

This method also works with Apple’s Internet Recovery. In the event that you don’t have a Recovery HD partition, but your Mac supports Internet Recovery, you can boot to Internet Recovery using Command-R. If you have a Recovery HD partition, but want to boot from Internet Recovery anyway, you can boot to Internet Recovery using Command-Option-R.

  1. Anonymous
    June 27, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    Does anything besides the Retina MacBook Pro have a newer build? I just downloaded 10.7.4 on 3 of the newest computers I have, and they all gave me the same SHA1: 42a4bde175aa2d6fcbe17e0692c3c6c2d91176e8

    Any issues using the Retina build on older machines?

    • Patrick Fergus
      June 27, 2012 at 7:13 pm

      I’d guess Apple doesn’t QA computer-specific OS X releases (Apple KBase HT2681) against any other hardware. Using a computer-specific OS X build on a computer it wasn’t intended for is at your own risk. It probably won’t hurt anything, but it’s probably not worth the risk.

  2. donmontalvo
    July 11, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Same here, two different Mid 2012 MacBook Pro laptops (non-Retina), both resulted in same image being pulled down from Apple. Are we sure the Retina image is different? Can someone confirm? No Retinas arrived yet (well, one did but it got sent to a user too fast to try this).

    • July 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm

      Build number on the Retinas is 10.7.4 11E2620.

  3. donmontalvo
    July 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Hi Rich, just curious if the technique here has been confirmed, whether the InstallESD.dmg that is pulled down by a non-Retina is the same as Retina?

  4. James
    July 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Retina MBP pulls down 10.7.4 11E2068, SHA1 5bda8371103137c4247e676c4b0db84d54783554 for me.

    • August 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      Confirmed this is what we got:




      • August 9, 2012 at 5:37 pm

        I forgot to include:


  5. August 9, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    The above 3 examples are out-of-box, without updates applied…Rich, seems like your Retina is pulling down a more recent build through Internet Restore? 🙂

  6. July 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Thanks Rich, very useful.

  7. Vollerempfang
    July 30, 2013 at 4:12 pm


  8. allisterb
    February 21, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Just a slight tweak on this guide, at step 4 I’d make sure the ‘T’ key is held down so that it interrupts the reboot, just so you don’t have to babysit the process to make sure you catch it and shut it down in time. Otherwise you could end up with a ‘.partial’ InstallESD.dmg by stopping the process too early, or it could continue the install and wipe itself away if you’re too late.

  9. Curtis Gundersen
    February 22, 2014 at 2:08 am

    Great blog Rich. So many awesome contributions! Also, many thanks to Allister for all his work, and his timely post. I have a late-2013 MBPr I’ve been messing around with and wanted to grab it’s installer and run it through AutoDMG. I ended up with the .partial dmg and was making another attempt when I decided to do a quick search and hit Rich’s blog (again) and then Allister’s post. T is the ticket!

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