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Mac OS X Lion - Initial Thoughts and Clean Install

It has been a couple weeks since the initial release of Mac OS X Lion. I had been debating for a while whether I should do a clean install or simply upgrade my existing Snow Leopard installation. Under Linux, I typically preferred to do clean installs (although under Ubuntu, I’ve been upgrading a work machine with every release and kudos to it, it’s worked great) to get a taste for the latest progress of the OS.

Clean Installation


Suffice it to say, I did a clean installation. Beforehand, I did have to strategize on how I would restore the things I needed from my previous installation. I started by making all of my backups up-to-date. I have a separate 2TB USB drive for backup, as well as a network AFP share off of my Linux box for Time Machine. After getting those in-sync, I felt I was ready for installation (after testing some retrieval of key files from both backups).

Step one is to get some removable media loaded with Lion. Some quick searching on the internet revealed a .DMG image within the Mac OS X Lion installer package (that you download through the Mac App Store, just right-click and do Show Package Contents). The name of the file was InstallESD.dmg, and was easily burned to a DVD (fits on a single-layer 4.7GB DVD at 3.74GB) with Disc Utility.

Step two was to perform the install! I’ll warn you here that you need to make sure that you have access to any reinstallation serial keys for software that didn’t come from the Mac App Store. I was comfortable with my archived information here (I use 1Password to store these keys). When you boot the system off of the DVD (hold down the Option key down when you first power up to get a selection of which disc (DVD included) to boot off of), I had to use the included Disc Utility under the installer to format my hard drive. If you miss this step, the installer will upgrade your original installation.

Post-Installation Restore


30 minutes later, my system was up and running again! After some initial wanderings around, exploring the new features, I quickly returned back to business and went to start bringing back my critical items to the system. I didn’t launch iTunes or iMovie, since I didn’t want it to initialize before I restored my previous library. First and easiest was re-registering my Apple ID with the App Store so I could download the apps I’ve gotten through there. Unfortunately, most of my programs didn’t come from the App Store.

I searched through my Download Archives (which I keep on an external drive, so they were all still there), and installed all of the programs I use regularly (Sibelius 6, Parallels 6, iShowU HD, and some more). I downloaded the latest version of Dropbox, and set that up first (you’ll see why soon, if you use 1Password). I went to the web to download the latest 1Password program (http://agilebits.com/products/1Password).

I know I started a new paragraph here, but I did this to emphasize one of the nicest little niceties of 1Password. Not only is this an incredible password manager, but it has AWESOME support for Dropbox syncing! You can set up Dropbox syncing with the guide here (from AgileBits, maker of 1Password): http://help.agilebits.com/1Password3/configure_dropbox_on_mac.html. I was so happy to install 1Password, and have it auto-detect the configuration I have on Dropbox. It hooked right in--I put my master password in, and I was able to access all of my data again with ease!

Now that I had my 1Password setup back, I registered all of my purchased programs and got those back up and running. During this time, I let the App Store re-download Aperture and some other apps for me.

Restoring iTunes, iMovie, and Aperture Libraries with Ease


One of the things I was most worried about was whether or not I would be able to easily restore my iTunes Library and Aperture photo library. As it turns out, this is trivially easy. All I had to do was go back to my Time Machine Backup (which was un-initialized, so clicking on the icon in the menu bar showed an option for Browse Other Backup Disks--if you don’t have this option in the menu, try holding down the Option key when clicking on it). Search out and locate your Home Directory from your original installation:

  • For iTunes, restore the files under ~/Music and ~/Movies to your new system in the same locations (respectively)
  • For Aperture, restore the “Aperture Library” file from ~/Pictures to your new system in the same location

Once the restore of these particular files is completed, launching the programs automatically pulls in your original libraries. I did a re-authorize computer from within iTunes, but it kept my original authorization (I think), as it said the computer is already authorized. I did keep my system name the same with the new installation--perhaps it uses some hardware identifiers to tell, which didn’t change.

Final Thoughts


One thing that I did miss in my backups were my Virtual Machines under my Snow Leopard system. I had removed the Time Machine backup of these VMs since any little change required another full-backup of the disk image. So if you have VMs that you need, make sure you add some provisions for backing these up before the install. Thankfully my VMs had no important data within them, so I was okay.

I really like the new Lion system--it has a lot of new improvements and seems to be pretty snappy as well. Everything went smoothly for me, and I like the fact that the system boots into full 64-bit mode by default now (I had configured Snow Leopard to run in this mode previously). There don’t seem to be

Hopefully this story will help anyone worried about a clean installation and retrieving data and programs.

Here are some screenshots to enjoy!

LaunchpadMission ControlNormal Use
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