General Question

nashish's avatar

Should I format my hard disk tomorrow, and install Mac OS X 10.6 tomorrow, or just upgrade from 10.5?

Asked by nashish (196 points ) August 27th, 2009

Tomorrow I’m receiving my copy of Mac OS X “Snow Leopard”, and I am not sure if i should upgrade Leopard or format my hard disk and start from scratch. From what I have read online, OS upgrades seem to work better when you just reformat. What is your opinion on this?

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22 Answers

StellarAirman's avatar

Just upgrade. Also if you buy the $29 version you have to upgrade anyway. To install it on a blank hard drive you have to buy the other more expensive version.

se_ven's avatar

@StellarAirman actually it looks like you can do a full install with the $29 version. Link

@nashish I’m in a similar situation with the other OS. I currently run Vista and have already purchased the Windows 7 upgrade (but have to wait until October when it is released). Engadget did an interesting installation guide and they experienced better results by doing a reformat and fresh install. I’m leaning towards doing a fresh install (as long as I can be sure I can retain all my software), but will look into it more as the time gets closer.

please let us know what you end up doing and how it turns out for you ;)

nashish's avatar

@se_ven Wow, thanks a lot, man! The link you posted on Life Hacker was very useful to me. I think I know what to do now! :)

If you have all your media and applications safely stored away, there should be no reason why you wouldn’t want to do a fresh install. I trust that if your applications run on Vista, they’d run on Seven too. Look into compatibility issues.

I was happy to find out that Snow Leopard will still run 32-bit applications that could run in Leopard, you just won’t get the speed boosts that 64-bit applications will take advantage of.

Anyway, let us know how things go for you too in October.

nashish's avatar

I have already back up my documents and media files onto an external drive, and I have all the installation files and licenses for my applications as well. So what I will do is format my drive and install Snow Leopard fresh instead of upgrading from Leopard. It shouldn’t take long; I’ll let you guys know how it goes!

StellarAirman's avatar

@se_ven the way I read that is that you can do an upgrade on a machine that has Tiger installed, versus Leopard, not that you can do a fresh install on a blank hard drive. I guess we’ll start finding out for sure tomorrow. Even if there isn’t an easy option to do it I’m sure someone will hack a way to do it anyway.

se_ven's avatar

@StellarAirman yeah, it does sound that way, but it does seem to also say the full installation is on the disc:

This means the $29 Snow Leopard DVD isn’t an “upgrade” at all; it’s the full-on Mac OS X operating system for 30 bucks. (Something we missed yesterday when we told you how to prep your mac for Snow Leopard and have since corrected.)

So yeah, we’ll have to see tomorrow :)

StellarAirman's avatar

Ah, here we go:

“However, in contrast to Microsoft—which offers a confusing array of full and upgrade versions of Windows, all of them requiring that users enter a unique serial number in order to prove they’re not pirates—Apple continues to rely on the honor system for Mac OS X. Not only does Snow Leopard not require the entry of any serial numbers, but the standard version of Snow Leopard is a bootable “full install” disc that doesn’t actually check for the presence of Leopard in order to install. This also means that if, at a later time, you want to wipe your hard drive and reinstall Snow Leopard, you won’t have to first install Leopard and then run a separate Snow Leopard upgrade on top of it. (That sound you hear is a thousand IT managers sighing with relief.)”

http://www.macworld.com/article/142423/2009/08/snow_leopard_review.html

se_ven's avatar

@StellarAirman Nice find! It only makes sense I guess for the disc to have the full Installation files…since it is supposed to be a completely reworked OS and all.

simpleD's avatar

Clone your drive to an external using SuperDuper! or CarbonCopyCloner. Make sure you follow the options that will give you a bootable clone.

Verify that your clone works properly and that your data has been backed up.

Boot from the Snow Leopard DVD (or just pop in the disk and launch the installer.

Choose the Erase and Install option. That formats the drive and installs a fresh OS.

When the system reboots, migration assistant will ask if you want to transfer data from another Mac. Say yes. Connect your external. migration assistant will think it’s another Mac. Choose to copy over your User data and settings. You can also choose to copy over applications, but those usually work best if you install them fresh from disk.

nashish's avatar

@simpleD That’s a good idea, but it sounds like it’d be better to just install my apps fresh instead of restoring them from a back-up. I have all my documents, media files, and disk images safely stored on my G-Drive. It won’t be a big deal installing the applications again.

simpleD's avatar

Two advantages of making a clone then using it to restore your user data and settings:
1. You’ve got an easy to restore backup if the install fails.
2. All your network settings, email and calendar data, and other data migrate seamlessly.

nashish's avatar

@simpleD Ah, I understand now… I would hate to re-do my network settings and all of that again. I’ll try making a clone tonight.

derekpaperscissors's avatar

@simpleD I’m confused, won’t Time Machine take care of my apps, user data, and settings after i do an erase and install snow leopard? Or do I have to use SuperDuper or CarbonCopyCloner for that? I’m thinking of getting snow leopard but I don’t want the hassle of retweaking settings, and reinstalling apps.

StellarAirman's avatar

Then just do the upgrade. There’s really no technical reason not to. It’ll work fine.

derekpaperscissors's avatar

@StellarAirman Ayt, thanks. Growing up with a PC, I still find myself double checking that stuff like this can’t be as simple as they have you believe =p

StellarAirman's avatar

Yeah I had the same problem of overcomplicating everything after I switched. It’s of course a good idea to have a backup of your HD just in case something goes wrong before upgrading, but you should have a current backup all the time anyway.

simpleD's avatar

@derekpaperscissors: Time Machine does provide a great backup solution, but it is difficult to restore more than a few files from at a time. The SuperDuper! or CarbonCopyCloner solution I’m suggesting is the best method for doing a clean install onto a newly formatted disk, and easily bringing back your user data and settings. It does take more time and effort, but it will ensure that you’ll be off to a good start with the new OS.

I would not do an upgrade, as @StellarAirman suggests. In reality, it should work fine, and if you’re more comfortable with that method, you should do it. But 10.6 is a major rewrite over 10.5, removing GB worth of code. I wouldn’t want to take the chance of writing awesome new code on top of potentially conflicting and corrupted code.

nashish's avatar

OK, folks, I got my copy of Snow Leopard in the mail and installed, and I am ready to report on how it went:

So, I followed the suggestion to make a bootable clone of Mac OS X 10.5.8 before installing the new OS, 10.6. I did that last night and verified that it was working.

When I got my of 10.6 in today, I booted up the disk, and tried to install it. I saw no “reformat and install” option available, so I loaded up the “Disk Utility” application off the Snow Leopard DVD, and reformatted my hard disk. With that complete, I was able to install 10.6 fresh!

After 10.6 finished its installation, it asked me if I had another Mac that I would like to migrate data from. I told it to copy from the clone I had made, thus restoring all of my settings, applications, etc. That saved me a bunch of time! All of my applications seem to be working still.

The only issue I seem to be having is printing to PDF using Adobe Acrobat. Otherwise things seem to be working great.

I have confirmed for myself that the Snow Leopard disk is indeed a full-fledged OS, and not just an upgrade for Leopard. I was not prompted to verify my copy of Leopard. It just installed 10.6 from the DVD itself.

StellarAirman's avatar

I think John Gruber put it best, as usual, about why doing an erase and install is voodoo and has no real benefit. http://daringfireball.net/2007/10/murphys_law

Sure if you already have tons of stuff on your computer that you don’t really want and just want to start over, do it, but there is no reason to not upgrade if you like things how they are now.

I did an erase and install of Leopard a few months ago because I hadn’t done an erase and install for about 4 years and had migrated across a few Macs, etc. Just cleaned out a bunch of old apps I didn’t need, etc. But there wasn’t a huge magical speed increase like there is when you do that with Windows. I’ve done the upgrade on dozens if not hundreds of Macs when I worked at an Apple store and have never seen a problem.

simpleD's avatar

Thanks for the link to the Gruber article, @StellarAirman. I value his expertise and knowledge. The default upgrade will work. But, a major OS install is a great opportunity to clean house. Reformatting ensures that any corruption to the directory caused by hard crashes or misbehaving apps will be removed. And any system files and caches planted by 3rd party apps and unknown to the Apple installer will also be removed.

It’s probably more peace-of-mind for me than it is technically necessary, but it’s the way I’m most comfortable with. Other’s may feel differently.

StellarAirman's avatar

Just upgraded my Mac Pro, running great and freed up 12GB of space. Nice!

ctferrarajr's avatar

just upgraded an all works well

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