Lion Server: Mass deployment strategies

With Lion Server you can create NetInstall or NetRestore images for mass deployment of OS X Lion and Lion Server. Find out which method is best for your environment.

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NetInstall images can be used to install OS X, Lion Server, and additional packages over the network. Use a NetInstall image if you plan to upgrade a volume from a previous version of Mac OS X without erasing it first. 

To create a Recovery partition, use one of these options:

  • Install OS X Lion on a Mac at least once via the App Store or a NetInstall image.
  • Use a NetRestore image of OS X Lion v10.7.2 or later created with System Image Utility on a computer running OS X v10.7.2 or later. Be sure to enable the option to allow creation of the recovery partition. System Image Utility is included with the Server Admin Tools, which is available from


NetRestore images can be used to erase the destination volume and perform a block copy of a pre-installed system over the network. NetRestores are typically much faster than NetInstalls.

In addition to creating a NetRestore image from a pre-configured volume, you can use System Image Utility on Mac OS X Server (after downloading the Server Admin Tools from Apple Support Downloads) to create a NetRestore image with the "Install Mac OS X Lion" application. Additional packages can be added if desired. Creating the NetRestore image this way results in a "pristine" (un-configured) installation of Mac OS X Lion.

If you plan to mass deploy Lion Server, you must use a NetRestore image created from a pre-installed volume.

Use these steps to create a NetRestore image of an un-configured Lion Server:

  1. Install OS X Lion and then Lion Server. This server will be used to create the NetRestore image.
  2. On the server, install the app named "Install Mac OS X Lion" from the Mac App Store. (A network connection is required for this process.)
  3. Install the Server Admin Tools from on the server.
  4. Open the "Install Mac OS X Lion" application, and install to an empty volume. This volume can be a spare partition or external hard drive. Be sure to click the Customize button and to select the Lion Server software. This begins the process of copying files needed for installation to the target volume, after which the system will reboot for the first time in the installation process.
  5. After the first restart, the Lion installer will run to completion and begin a countdown for a second restart. Press and hold the Option key during the second restart to start up to the Startup Manager instead of starting up to the Setup Assistant.
  6. When the Startup Manager appears, select the volume on which you've already configured Lion Server.
  7. Open System Image Utility and create a NetRestore image from the newly-installed (and still un-configured) volume. If you'd prefer to image the volume after it has been configured, proceed with the Setup Assistant before starting up to the original installation you created in step 1.

Note: If you are building your Lion Server image on hardware that is different from the hardware on which you intend to deploy that software, do not allow the computer to start up to the Setup Assistant after initial installation. Taking this precaution should prevent any hardware-specific configuration files from being created on the target volume.