The Recovery HD is a small invisible partition created by the Lion/Mountain Lion installer. It enables you to boot from it rather than from a physical CD/DVD in order to access a small set of utilities that can be used for disk repairs, resetting a lost admin password, and reinstalling Lion/Mountain Lion via Internet Recovery. In effect it does eliminate the need for a physical, bootable disc.
However, because hard drives can become damaged or require replacement, the Recovery HD may no longer exist or be accessible. So, it would be a wise precaution to make a bootable USB flash drive you can use if you need to reinstall Lion/Mountain Lion and/or boot from a Recovery HD.
Make Your Own Mountain/Lion Installer
1. After downloading Mountain/Lion you must first save the Install Mac OS X Mountain/Lion application. After Mountain/Lion downloads DO NOT click on the Install button. Go to your Applications folder and make a copy of the Mountain/Lion installer. Move the copy into your Downloads folder. Now you can click on the Install button. You must do this because the installer deletes itself automatically when it finishes installing.
2. Get a USB flash drive that is at least 8 GBs. Prep this flash drive as follows:
- Open Disk Utility in your Utilities folder.
- After DU loads select your flash drive (this is the entry with the mfgr.'s ID and size) from the left side list. Click on the Partition tab in the DU main window.
- Under the Volume Scheme heading set the number of partitions from the drop down menu to one. Set the format type to Mac OS Extended (Journaled.) Click on the Options button, set the partition scheme to GUID then click on the OK button. Click on the Partition button and wait until the process has completed.
- Select the volume you just created (this is the sub-entry under the drive entry) from the left side list. Click on the Erase tab in the DU main window.
- Set the format type to Mac OS Extended (Journaled.) Click on the Options button, check the button for Zero Data and click on OK to return to the Erase window.
- Click on the Erase button. The format process can take up to an hour depending upon the flash drive size.
3. Locate the saved Mountain/Lion installer in your Downloads folder. CTRL- or RIGHT-click on the installer and select Show Package Contents from the contextual menu. Double-click on the Contents folder to open it. Double-click on the SharedSupport folder. In this folder you will see a disc image named InstallESD.dmg.
4. Plug in your freshly prepared USB flash drive. You are going to clone the content of the InstallESD.dmg disc image to the flash drive as follows:
- Double-click on the InstallESD.dmg file to mount it on your Desktop.
- Open Disk Utility.
- Select the USB flash drive from the left side list.
- Click on the Restore tab in the DU main window.
- Select the USB flash drive volume from the left side list and drag it to the Destination entry field.
- Drag the mounted disc icon from the Desktop into the Source entry field.
- Double-check you got it right, then click on the Restore button.
When the clone is completed you have a fully bootable installer that you can use without having to re-download Mountain/Lion.
Note: The term Mountain/Lion used above means Lion or Mountain Lion.
As an alternative to the above you can try using Lion DiskMaker 2.0 that automates the process.
If you still have a copy of Mountain Lion in your Applications folder, you can also create a Mountain Lion bootable installer - different from a mountain lion usb recovery....
Advantage of having a USB installer - incase you need to reinstall, you don't need to download it again when doing a recovery...