Recommended OS X upgrade procedure; don’t get sloppy when moving up to Snow Leopard

4th September, 2009

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In the wake of Snow Leopard’s arrival the internet was awash with designers reporting their experiences with the new Mac operating system when combined with Adobe CS3 applications. Many reported show-stopping problems, whilst others told of blue skies and clear sailing.

Amid a storm of recrimination, Adobe subsequently issued an updated TechNote listing, for the record, those issues that has been identified with CS3 running on Mac OS X 10.6 (I’m sure that it had nothing to do with my last blog post requesting exactly that). All of the issues listed are, arguably, minor. This, combined with the fact that many people have experienced no significant problems at all, makes me think that reports of CS3 not working at all might be at least partly to do with less than rigourous upgrade procedures on the part of the user.

Whilst in use, Mac OS X is constantly swapping files about behind the scenes and generally doing stuff. All this activity can cause errors to appear in the main file directory, permissions to become wrongly set, and a host of other under-the-hood, never-know-it-was-happening glitches. You don’t want this kind of dishevelment when it comes time to upgrade the OS; it can cause problems.

For the record, my preferred upgrade technique has always been:

  1. Make complete clone of main drive (I use SuperDuper)
  2. Repair permissions on main drive using Disk Utility (SuperDuper repairs permissions for me before it makes the clone, but another run through can’t hurt)
  3. Reboot from cloned drive (log in with Shift key held down to disable log-in items)
  4. Apply Verify/Repair Drive to the main drive using Disk Utility to eliminate any hidden errors
  5. Reboot from main drive (again logging in with the Shift key held down) and repair permissions again, just in case
  6. Install upgrade; allow installer to reboot machine as required
  7. Hold down Shift key during log-in
  8. Repair permissions one more time
  9. Reboot and log in normally

Yes, it’s long winded, but in all my years of upgrading my Mac I’ve never once suffered from the problematic upgrades that others reported, which implies that how you go about it can make a big difference. If you want to be really belt-and-braces about it then you could add in a run-through with DiskWarrior or Drive Genius between steps 4 and 5.

And when you make the incremental .1 etc updates later on, don’t do it via Software Update; download the Combo Updater from the Apple website and use that. Your Mac OS X installation will thank you for it.

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