Since the Mini is new, why not just clone the disk
an external hard drive? Good idea any way because
anything can happen to corrupt the internal drive
at any time. You can use Carbon Copy Cloner
or Super Duper to create a bootable backup. Then,
when you put in the new drive, boot from the external,
format the internal, then clone back.
Or, just get a USB or USB/Firewire enclosure, and when
you install the new drive, put the old one in the enclosure,
boot from it, and then format the internal then clone back.
You can also create a recovery volume by:
or create a Recovery HD and a clone by:
On my new Mini server, I ended up doing a complete re-install after messing up Lion with Migration Assistant and stuff from my old G5.
After a complete re-install of Lion, I was able to download iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband, and even PSE (which I bought from the App store before the fracus) without incurring new charges....
Then, as woodmeister suggests, I cloned a backup of the entire startup drive to and external HD.
After doing some research, it seems that there are only 2 WAYS to do a complete reinstall of Lion on the Mac Mini 2011 without paying for the Lion download in the Mac AppStore (i.e. recreating every partition, also the Recovery HD partition, from scratch e.g. when installing Lion on a clean HDD/SSD).
1) COMPLETELY clone the Mac Mini 2011 HDD including all of its partitions to an external drive and restore it when you want to do a complete reinstall.
2) Use the LION INTERNET RECOVERY feature built-in into new Macs that ship with Lion (this feature is present in new Macs starting from the Mac Mini 2011 and Macbook Air 2011).
OS X Lion: About Lion Recovery
Lion Internet Recovery
If you happen to encounter a situation in which you cannot start from the Recovery HD, such as your hard drive stopped responding or you installed a new hard drive without Mac OS X installed, new Mac models introduced after public availability of OS X Lion automatically use the Lion Internet Recovery feature if the Recovery HD (Command-R method above) doesn't work. Lion Internet Recovery lets you start your Mac directly from Apple's Servers. The system runs a quick test of your memory and hard drive to ensure there are no hardware issues.
Lion Internet Recovery presents a limited interface at first, with only the ability to select your preferred Wi-Fi network and, if needed, enter the WPA passphrase. Next, Lion Internet Recovery will download and start from a Recovery HD image. From there, you are offered all the same utilities and functions described above.
As with the Recovery HD, reinstallation of OS X Lion from Lion Internet Recovery requires an Internet connection. See "Supported network configurations and protocols" below.
Restoring iLife applications after Internet Restore of OS X Lion
If you reinstall Lion on a new Mac that shipped with OS X Lion installed, on an erased or replaced hard drive, you can download iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand from the Mac App Store.
- After installation, start from Lion.
- Double-click the App Store icon in the dock.
- Enter your Apple ID and password.
- Click Purchases.
- If you haven't previously accepted your bundled iLife applications within the Mac App Store, you should see your iLife applications appear in the Accept portion of the screen. Click Accept.
- You may be asked for your Apple ID and password once again. Your iLife applications now move to the Purchased section. These applications are part of the software that came with your Lion based computer. Your account will not be charged for them. Click Install to compete installation of your applications.
Source: Lion Recovery
It's a bit sad that these seem to be the only 2 options. Lion Internet Recovery is the preferred one here since my monthly internet traffic limit isn't a problem (but my download speed is). This problem could have been easily solved by Apple by just checking the system specs or serial number when trying to download Lion from the Mac AppStore. By using one of the 2 options in my previous sentence the Mac AppStore could see that I have a new Mac Mini 2011 that ships with Lion which would give me the option to download Lion from the Mac AppStore for free and eventually create a bootable USB thumb drive of it.
I don't know if you've given up on this, but you can use the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant to create a bootable drive with the Lion Recovery tool on it. Note: This drive can only be used with the machine that it was created on, if it originally had Lion pre-installed on it.
An interesting little tid bit I found out recently about cloning.
If you have a new Mini or a new Lion install, do your first clone
to external drive using Disk Utility.
Format the external drive to one partition GUID. Boot a Recovery
USB stick created by any of the various methods and go to
Disk Utility on it. Then, select your internal volume (not the drive).
Click the Restore button. If you selected the internal volume it
should appear in the Source, if not drag it there. Then drag the
desired volume you want for the clone to the destination. Then
Two things interesting will result. One, automagically the Recovery HD
will also get cloned to the external drive. You can verify this by going
to terminal after rebooting and typing
You will find that an identical copy of the Recovery HD will be present
as will your OSX volume.
The second thing, at least with Carbon Copy Cloner, you can then
use it to update your OSX volume on that drive, and it won't go
through a full clone if it is set up for incremental update.