Format the MacBook Air USB Restore Key

Jul 4, 2011 - 24 Comments

MacBook Air USB Restore Key

If you have a MacBook Air, you also have that nice little USB restore key. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to use that as a normal USB drive if you wanted to? You can do it, but first you have to ‘unlock’ the USB restore key.

Here’s where I think this is most useful: with OS X Lion coming out soon, a restore key running Snow Leopard isn’t so useful, so wouldn’t it be nice to format that USB key and update it to Lion yourself by cloning the bootable Lion DMG file? You can do that with this trick.

Of course, there’s a caveat; the little app called SM32Xtest runs only in Windows, so you’ll need to use VMWare, VirtualBox, or Parallels, or just a Windows PC, to run the app and unlock the drive. After it’s unlocked, the restore key turns into a normal USB drive with 8GB of space available, which is then ready for a Lion restore image or just to use for anything else as a standard USB drive with a snazzy Apple logo on it.

Do this at your own risk, Apple locked it because this is the only restore drive and they don’t want you messing it up. If this is your only method of restoring your MacBook Air, I would not recommend doing this, so you may want to consider that before wiping the key. If you’re comfortable with the potential ramifications, download the tool and check out the video below which walks you through the entire process.

You can grab the unlock utility here from SendSpace

This video was found via @iDannyOcean on Twitter. You can follow us on Twitter too.


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Posted by: Matt Chan in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Airbrushed says:

    Don’t try the link across the bottom of the video – look for the updated link that’s overlayed at the top of the video. It worked perfectly for me. Hope this helps.

  2. Luciano says:

    the link is broken, i can not download the file! :(
    who gives it to me? i need the soft! thanx

  3. James says:

    hmmm I can’t get it to work from either… seems xp won’t recognise it :-( any advice?

  4. Paulino Michelazzo says:

    Thank you man! Santa Claus give me a new 8GB USB drive with it :)


  5. Max says:

    Same problem, the software doesn’t work.
    I’ve solved with the same software but downloaded from here:

    Good luck!

  6. John says:

    I got it working I had all those same errors too. First of all extract all the files on to your desktop and that’s solves some of the first problems. Next do it as the video dose and scan for the USB then select the port and hit start. After that’s done do not close out of the app at the top hit tools then multiple erase all and let that do its thing. Once that’s done hit tools and then create Udisk image and let that run. Once that’s done at the very end it ask you to browse for something, don’t worry about that just close it out then u should have a working USB drive.

  7. Dennis says:

    I’m getting the exact same error too… please help :-(

  8. Peter says:

    Also get this ‘Open fail’ error. Cannot do anything with the usb drive in SM32xtest.

  9. rashid says:

    same error

  10. FredW says:

    AG — I am getting exactly the same error.

  11. AG says:

    So, the drive shows up in SM32Xtest as having a 0MB capacity and when I click start I get the error

    “Open Fail – D:\(path to application)\”

    Anyone else seen this and found what’s going wrong? I’ve tried it on two different systems with the same result.

  12. JR says:

    The SM32Xtest.exe file has been removed from the download center in the links. Anyone know of another place to get it?

  13. ght says:

    excuse me im lost the icon n i try lookin for but im cant find it can you pass it me for my email thanks so very much!!

  14. Bob says:


    Just wanted to let anyone and every one know i have just used this tool to blank about 5 USB keys on a Windows Vista PC and all of them have worked perfectly.

    Thanks for the post.

    The best solution I’ve been able to find.

  15. David says:

    Tried this tool on my Windows PC with a MacBook Air USB-Drive which I bought at a online-shop from asia which is selling this drives.
    I want to have this drive to make a Lion install drive for my MacBook Pro.
    But every time I tried to break my drive with this tool, I got an error. The next thing is that the tool doesn’t show the capacity or a serial just seen in the movie above.
    Does anyone have the same problem and possibly have a solution?
    It would be wonderful if I could get this USB-Drive broken to make the Lion install drive.
    Thanks a lot for help in advance!

  16. Eric Bright says:

    This is the link for the icon:

  17. Eric Bright says:

    Thanks but you should share the icon file for people who don’t have from their computers. Or simply for us who don’t know how to extract it.

  18. Antony Watts says:

    Wouldn’t it be simply nicer if Apple sold these pretty USB keys?

  19. xf says:

    There’s a few Windows tools that will perform this task, not so sure I’d give up my Restore drive though.

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