Hack the USB comes with MacBook Air

MacBook Air 2011 comes with a nice little USB Restore key. It contains OS X Snow Leopard and iLife 2011. But with OS X Lion coming out soon, I found it is bit wasted for keeping it as an OS X Snow Leopard restore key. Wouldn't be cool if I can unlock and format the USB drive to use it as a normal USB drive or to restore it to Lion?!

Since Apple states this USB drive read only, not even Disk Utility can do the job to unlock it. I tried to google the solution, only found lots people trying to do the same thing with their USB, but none of them has achieved. Eventually I went into a Chinese website and find this formatting tool 慧荣格式化工具 (Windows only). So I borrowed a "PC" from my flatmate to continue the work.

  1. Plug in MacBook Air USB
  2. Install and open the magic formatting tool

Well, I'm not going to complain about its UI as long as it's working.

Format Tool
慧荣格式化工具 | Format tool UI

If you don't read Chinese just do what I did, select F drive and choose Initialize: Public Only (1-Lun), then hit the button the one says 格式化. When the processing bar goes to the end it will ask you to re-plug the USB drive. Do what it says.

To use the USB drive between Mac and PC I reformat the USB drive to exFat format. Not done yet, I noticed the original USB icon was gone. It's easy to fix:

  1. Download the icon file
  2. Open it in Preview
  3. Press command+a to select all icon
  4. Right click the USB drive to Get info
  5. Click the icon at upper left corner press command+v to paste icon file

There you go, a nice little read and writable Apple USB drive hands on.


The test results wasn't so bad. 12.5 MB/sec and 19.8 MB/sec, respectively.

AJA System Test results | Write: 11.2 MB/s Read: 20.3 MB/s


This 8GB good looking Apple USB is now fully capable to be my day-to-day USB drive.

QuestionDo I really need an extra USB drive for day-to-day tasks?

AnswerThe answer is NO! I don't use any USB drive often.

Question So what am I going to do with this "good looking" USB drive?

Answer I think I will keep using it as Restore Key for my Macs, every time Apple release a new version of OS X I will Restore the DMG file into this USB drive to keep it fresh.

Thoughts? Is this something you would do to your MacBook Air Restore Key?