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I bought a used Macbook Air with OS X 10.7 Lion installed but with no installation media. I purchased and upgraded to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Now I want to go back to Lion, and I am happy to do a fresh install.

First, how do I get OS X 10.7 install media? I see "free downloads" on legit sites like Softpedia, but will it make me register and pay at install time? Or is there another/better way to get the media?

Would the Lion disk image be stored anywhere on the drive?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

The simple solution is to boot into Internet recovery mode by holding down Command+Option+R at boot, which will let you install whatever OS the Mac shipped with (Lion in your case) directly from Apple's servers. See this Macworld article for the details.

Don't confuse this with booting off the Recovery partition, which is actually on your harddrive. Both Lion and Mountain Lion when installing will create a small (650 MB) partition for a basic recovery OS that you can use to repair the main OS partition and so on, or reinstall the version of the OS responsible for creating the partition.

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Great article thank you. The article said even when you initiate Internet Recovery Mode, it will still use the OS on the recovery partition if that image is valid - and it said that the recovery partition will be updated to the OS that was most recently installed, which in my case is Mountain Lion. If somehow you can get Internet Recovery to happen (maybe purposely break the recovery partition?) then it will install the version which corresponds to the previous OS' version of Internet Recovery firmware, which for me is Lion. How can I force Internet Recovery? –  Howiecamp Aug 14 '12 at 21:56
    
I'd also like to understand if and how Apple verifies that I am authorized for a copy of Lion. Lion was indeed the OS on the machine when I got it, but it was a used laptop and lion was installed under the seller's Apple ID. Am I still entitled to a copy of it? –  Howiecamp Aug 14 '12 at 21:58
    
To answer my own first comment: I did a test and initiated standard recovery mode (Command-R upon boot) and found Mountain Lion on the recovery partition as expected. Then I initiated an Internet recovery mode (Command-Opt-R upon boot) and saw that it was set to give me Lion. That's exactly what I wanted, although I'm surprised it was Lion vs. Mountain Lion since per the docs, if the recovery partition image is valid then Internet recovery will just use that local image. –  Howiecamp Aug 16 '12 at 16:44
    
To answer my second comment: During Internet recovery there was a step where the process "verified the machine's eligibility for Lion" or similar. It didn't ask for my Apple credentials. I suspect it checked the date of the machine release and determined that if Lion was the OS that would have shipped with the machine, that it would consider me eligible. –  Howiecamp Aug 16 '12 at 16:46
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