Comment on Lion’s Internet Recovery

I’ve recently added a new non-spinning disk to my system and decided to give Lion’s disk recovery system a try: how did it actually perform, where were there problems, and how were they resolved?

I was incredibly impressed with the general functionality of the Internet-based recovery mechanism. After adding the new disk I was asked to connect to a local wireless network and then basic recovery data was streamed into RAM. From there I successfully downloaded and installed the OS, and restored files and settings from encrypted network storage. Total time to restore the OS and about 200GB of data: 3.5 hours.

Were there any problems? Yes, though only one is truly significant to my mind. While the password for logging into the OS remained the drive encryption that I’d set up through the OS (i.e. Filevault 2) had to be re-intitialized. When I attempted to do so I received warnings that the disk could not be encrypted.

This constituted a major problem for me.

The solution was relatively simple, though annoying. Apparently the Internet-based recovery process fails to install a recovery partition on the disk. Without this partition Filevault 2 cannot be enabled. The solution was to reinstall Lion from within the OS. This doesn’t change any settings and, effectively, is just used to create the disk-based recovery partition. After the partition is set up Filevault 2 can be enabled without a problem.

I don’t have a particular issue with having to jump through some hoops to re-enable the disk encryption. I do, however, have issues with the fact that there are no warnings that this security setting isn’t enabled/carried through when re-installing Lion and importing data and settings from a Time Capsule. In effect, if I wasn’t poking around settings to ascertain whether they had been carried over I likely would have never known that the disk hadn’t been encrypted. This is a particularly serious information flow error as far as I’m concerned. Hopefully Apple will integrate some kind of a notice system in the future to alert users about which settings were and were not carried over, as well as more verbosity concerning why Filevault 2 cannot be enabled after an Internet-based OS restoration.