Skip navigation

"Recovery system can't be created" error when reinstalling Lion from recovery system

2654 Views 5 Replies Latest reply: Dec 27, 2012 3:17 PM by Philip Keller RSS
Philip Keller Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
Currently Being Moderated
Dec 26, 2012 12:33 PM

I get the infamous OS installation error "Install failed... because a recovery system can't be created" – but in fact, the recovery system already exists, since I'm installing from it, and incidentally, I've previously already used it for an Internet reinstallation. I've tried about a half dozen iterations now.


Here's the exact sequence of events:

  1. Reboot on recovery drive.
  2. Select option to reinstall the OS from the network.
  3. License agreement, etc; then select drive -> install -> sign into Apple store.
  4. "Downloading additional components" message. 1st attempt consistently fails at this stage, need to restart at step 2.
  5. Download for roughly 20 minutes, then automatic reboot -> "Installing Mac OS X".
  6. After about 10 minutes: "Install failed. Mac OS X could not be installed on your computer. Mac OS X can't be installed on the disk ..., because a recovery system can't be created. Visit to learn more."


I've pawed through innumerable posts of people who have gotten the same error message, but haven't found one that reproduces my circumstances. I've reviewed the KB articles "OS X: About OS X Recovery" and "OS X Lion: Installer reports This disk cannot be used to start up your computer", with no luck. Based on a suggestion in the second KB article, I've reduced the primary partition size by roughly a GB and retried - no luck.


See this thread if you want to know why I'm reinstalling the OS, even though it's (more or less) functioning and I have Time Machine backups. It would also make me feel a lot better to know that the reinstallation would work in case of real need. Thanks in advance for any help.

-- Phil

iMac, Mac OS X (10.7.5)
  • baltwo Level 9 Level 9 (59,150 points)

    Contact since they're responsible for making this abysmal delivery/recovery system work.

    27" i7 iMac SL, Lion, OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.2), G4 450 MP w/Leopard, 9.2.2
  • John Galt Level 7 Level 7 (33,090 points)

    Hi Philip,


    Clearly something is wrong. I am not sure if you were actually able to reinstall OS X by booting OS X Recovery. Can you? If so it makes me wonder if the "install failed" message is just inaccurate. It ought to at least be more informative.


    I have used the recovery system to install OS X even on hard disks that were completely erased, but only with Macs that either shipped with Lion / ML or earlier ones with firmware upgraded to use OS X Recovery.

    What model Mac is reporting this problem?

    MacBooks  iMacs  iPads  AirPorts, OS X Mountain Lion,  27 years Apple!
  • John Galt Level 7 Level 7 (33,090 points)

    Philip Keller wrote:




    I think I'm "reinstalling OS X by booting OS X Recovery": I reboot with command-R depressed, or I reboot with Alt depressed and choose the recovery parition, and then I start the installation process from the list of things I can do. Are we talking about the same thing?


    Yes, exactly.


    I think that OS X Internet Recovery would be necessary only if you were to attempt a Lion installation with a completely empty HD, implying that even a Recovery partition has not been created. Your USB flash drive is the way to cope in that circumstance. If you can install Lion by booting the recovery partition as you described, it seems to me that it is all that is necessary and there is nothing to fix, despite the error message you see.


    I'm surprised that Internet Recovery works at all, given that your Mac is not one of those allegedly eligible to use it.


    Without a similar 2006 iMac to test, I can only speculate that the "abysmal distribution system" as baltwo describes it just doesn't work well with earlier Macs, and that Apple may not have tested it extensively with them. If I were you I would rely upon that USB installer much more than OS X Recovery or OS X Internet Recovery. I prefer not to rely upon any installation method that can possibly result in "the server is not available at this time" or such nonsense, but that is the direction in which Apple has been going for a long time.


    An OS X installation log exists at /var/log/ that you can examine using Console, probably named "install.log". Deciphering it is another challenge.

    MacBooks  iMacs  iPads  AirPorts, OS X Mountain Lion,  27 years Apple!


More Like This

  • Retrieving data ...

Bookmarked By (0)


  • This solved my question - 10 points
  • This helped me - 5 points
This site contains user submitted content, comments and opinions and is for informational purposes only. Apple disclaims any and all liability for the acts, omissions and conduct of any third parties in connection with or related to your use of the site. All postings and use of the content on this site are subject to the Apple Support Communities Terms of Use.