Apple has released Lion Recovery Disk Assistant for beleaguered OS X Lion users, allowing them to create recovery partitions on external drives. Previously anyone who had purchased the Lion upgrade through the Mac App Store would be forced to reinstall and update Snow Leopard before they could reinstall Lion if disaster struck, forcing them to replace the hard disk. 

The 1 MB recovery assistant is now available on Apple's Web site. It will let you do the following: reinstall Lion, repair the disk using Disk Utility, restore from a Time Machine backup, or browse the web with Safari. 

Creating an external Lion Recovery using the assistant requires that the Mac already have an existing Recovery HD. The external drive must also have at least 1GB of free space, while Lion Recovery Disk Assistant is a 1.07MB download.

The new partition will not be visible in the Finder or Disk Utility on Mac OS X, but can be accessed by rebooting the Mac while holding the Option key.

Apple warned users that the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant will erase all data on the external hard drive. The company recommends either backing up data or creating a new partition on the drive before running the assistant.

Lion arrived on July 20 and was downloaded more than 1 million times in the first 24 hours. The upgrade contains more than 250 new features, including AirDrop, Mission Control and full-screen apps.

If you're really insistent about having a Lion on an official USB stick, you can get that from Apple next month - for $70.