Apple Wises Up, Releases Tool to Create External Lion Recovery Drives

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With Lion’s digital-only release, someone apparently forgot to send Steve Jobs the security memo about single-points-of-failure being a definitively bad thing. Well no longer: Apple just released something called a “Lion Recovery Disk Assistant” utility that’ll let you do…okay, frankly what you already could, but if you’d rather not futz with prizing open folders, copying obscure files and invoking Disk Utility to burn images, Apple has you covered with a simple one-stop tool, available for download here.

The new tool basically allows Lion users to create recovery partitions on external drives. That’s especially helpful if your hard drive suddenly croaks, or—as someone I know recently discovered—you try to split-partition a new Lion-loaded MacBook Air prior to completing the preliminary power-on Lion install questionnaire (it seems the partitions aren’t settled until after you do this, which means you’ll lose access to the recovery partition if you attempt any partitioning mojo beforehand).

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“The Lion Recovery Disk Assistant lets you create Lion Recovery on an external drive that has all of the same capabilities as the built-in Lion Recovery: reinstall Lion, repair the disk using Disk Utility, restore from a Time Machine backup, or browse the web with Safari,” reads Apple’s description of the utility, cautioning that you must already have an existing “Recovery HD” to do so.

Assuming you do, just download and run the utility, point it to the recovery drive, and Lion Recovery Disk Assistant handles the rest. Note that the new recovery partition will be invisible, and the only way to access it will be to reboot, hold down the Option key, and select it from Apple’s Startup Manager.

Alas, Apple still won’t let you burn a recovery disc (that’s disc with a ‘c’, as in DVD)—you’re limited to an external hard disk or USB drive. You’ll also need at least 1GB of free space.

And no, before you ask, you can’t make recovery drives for other computers (or at least not for new Lion-preinstalled systems). According to Apple, if your computer shipped with Lion, the recovery partition only works with the computer that created it, though Apple admits that “if the system was upgraded from Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard to Lion, the external recovery drive can be used with other systems that were upgraded from Snow Leopard to Lion.”

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Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.