No matter how stable, awesome or bulletproof your operating system may seem, there may come a time when you need to start over. This may not happen with Mac OS X very often, but it can be real annoying when it needs to be done. I was asked recently what’s the best method for getting OS X clean on your computer, and the answer really depends on how fresh you want to start. You need to choose if you want to retain your current information or have a completely empty computer.
With that in mind, here is a small guide for installing OS X properly.
The procedure for all of these operations is the same. Once you have booted from the Install disk, fill out the necessary options for customizing your installation and choose Options from the install location panel (where you pick which disk to install on). This window gives you an option to do any of the 3 procedures outlined here.
The fastest and simplest method for starting with a new operating system, Upgrade simply overwrites the system folder with a fresh one. If the Install DVD is older than your current system, it will revert to that number (ie. OS X 10.5.4 goes back to 10.5.0). This will not impact your personal data at all, and can be done in as little as 20 minutes (if you customize the install). When you receive a new OS from retail, this is typically the default method.
Though you should back up regularly regardless, it is especially important to back up before upgrading in this manner because there is slightly more risk involved than other methods.
Archive and Install
A popular method for Apple Geniuses to heal sick computers, archive and install means installing a new system folder overtop the old, but also moving that old folder into a safe place on your hard drive for backup. With this method, all your original documents, settings and applications are safe, as long as you select Preserve network settings and users, like the above picture. It offers more safety than the standard Upgrade procedure because it makes a single overwriting operation into two safer ones.
Erase and Install
Erase and install will wipe your drive clean and start fresh with a brand new system. Your documents, settings and applications will all be deleted for good, and you will not be able to access them unless you’ve backed them up before to a separate drive. This method shouldn’t be used unless you believe your computer needs to be cleared of everything in order to work properly. If you’re selling your computer, this is how you should prepare it.
If you choose to erase your drive completely but still wish to retain your data, all hope is not lost. In a case like that, you could clone your hard drive to an external drive, and use the Migration Assistant to transfer your files. The MA appears as the option Would you like to transfer files from another Mac? when you prepare your computer initially. Make the selection for Transfer from another partition on this Mac and choose the external drive. Wait for the files to transfer and you’ll be productive again in no time.
Apple makes installing their operating system very easy. With a little preparation you can reinstall OS X quickly and efficiently so you can get back to your work.
[tags]OS X, Apple, Mac, MacBook, installation, tutorial[/tags]