Skip to main content

Creating an Encrypted Bootable OSX Lion USB Recovery Disk

With Apple's latest operating system release 10.7 - Lion they have included a number of new features which make it a bit more convenient to both backup and secure your data in case of a failure.  In this short post I'll explain how to use a generic external drive to make a secure bootable disk for your mac.

First a disclaimer and some assumptions regarding your setup.  I have used these instructions to get a working disk on my setup - but this does not mean that the same steps will work for you, so use caution - and if anything goes wrong please feel free to add to these steps.

I am also assuming that you are using the latest operating system patches for OSX and I'm at version 10.7.2.

Step 1 - Connect and prepare your external USB drive.

Connect your USB disk and open disk utility.
Change the formatting scheme of the disk to include two partitions, a 1GB partition, and a partition using the remaining disk space.  I named one as RECOVERY and one as TIMEMACHINE.  Ensure that under "Options" the format is GUID Partition

Select the format for both of the partitions as Mac OS Extended (HFS) and click apply. Note - this will erase all of the data from the selected drive so make sure you have the right drive selected.

Step 2 - Download and Install the OSX recovery disk assistant from Apple -
The wizard will ask you which disk you'd like to use to install onto.  Select the RECOVERY Volume.  Be aware that this will erase all data on the selected disk (well except for the TIMEMACHINE partition that we created earlier :)).
There is now a hidden recovery partition with a type of "Apple_Boot" on the USB drive that you used.  To see it, in a terminal window type:
diskutil list

Step 3 - Open Time Machine preferences and click select disk.  Select the TIMEMACHINE volume.  Also check off the encryption checkbox to ensure that your files are protected.  You will be prompted for a passphrase to use for this.  Note - this is a different passphrase than is used for the user on the computer and for the wholedisk encryption you have on the hard drive.

Step 4 - Wait until the first backup is complete.  Once the files are transfered for the first time the backups will be encrypted as well.  This also will take some time.  During these operations you can eject the disk and have it resume once the disk is reconnected.  When you reconnect the encrypted disk, you will be prompted for you password.

Step 5 - Once the backup and encryption operations are complete, you should test your backup solution by rebooting the computer and holding down the Option key, then select the USB disk.  The recovery wizard will walk you through the processes of restoring your computer from the recovery Volume on the USB drive.

I will update this post, when I get a chance to test out the recovery process.

Step 6 - Always remember the rule of 3 when making copies of your important data.  1 live copy, 1 backup copy, and 1 copy stored somewhere other than your other two.  In this case you could get by with just periodically (weekly / monthly) backing up to the USB drive and then storing this drive in a different location.


Popular posts from this blog

Anti-virus Statistics - Motivations

In a study completed and published by Avira ( ) The results of the survey showed that for 34 percent (3,207 respondents) a long-established, trustworthy brand was key. Almost as many users, 33 percent (3,077 respondents), based their decision on the virus detection rates achieved in independent tests. Detection rates - lets call this effectiveness of the control - as this is the key metric used to measure effectiveness. This is a skewed metric as for the large majority of evaluations (ICSALabs, VB100, etc) use the "in-the-wild" or ITW list of viruses to perform the evaluations. There is no evaluation of these product's ability to respond or even detect newly released virus and malware. In all honesty really what we are dealing with here is preventative vulnerability management not virus detection and correction, and in my opinion there are four types of preventative protections required f

Local Classified Penny Auction Scam

While there are a lot of new posts regarding the new ways to exploit people using novel techniques and 0day exploits, there continues to be a rash of tried and true methods of coercion.  I want to just walk through a simple example and reflect on how effective these methods continue to be. Many people turn toward online classified sites to buy and sell items online.  This example starts with which even I've used on occasion to find used electronics and other items.  Doing a search on the site for a " Samsung Galaxy Note 2 " returns a posting from today with someone selling one for an unreasonably priced unit. $125 for a $500 phone?, but what if it's for real?  No harm in just asking some simple questions.  Email sent with some obvious questions regarding the condition and location. About an hour passes before I get a response from what appears to be a legit seller. Notice no answer to the questions I asked, but a friendly pointer at where th

OpenSolaris, ZFS, iSCSI and OSX - Creative Storage - Part II

In part I of this post, I looked at the simple steps required to setup a relatively simple storage solution using OpenSolaris, ZFS, iSCSI and OSX. This was about a month ago, and I've made some significant changes on how this is used for me. At the end of the last post I left off on the part dealing with configuration of the iSCSI initiator side of the solution. I stopped here because there were some issues related to the installation and use of the software. The iSCSI initiator that I was using was Studio Network Solutions GlobalSAN initiator (version which is used to allow for connections to their products. This software will also allow for connections to ANY iSCSI target! After the configuration of the iSCSI target on the ZFS pool, and installation of the client it was trivial to get the connection established with the storage pool, and it showed up in OSX as a raw disk which had not been formatted. I proceeded to format the disk as HFS+ and it then mounted as a lo