31 August 2009 Tutorials 24 Comments

How to do a clean installation of Snow Leopard

How to do a clean installation of Snow Leopard

Hardcore geeks (you know who you are) who want the top of the line Snow Leopard experience can format their hard drive, install a clean copy of Mac OS 10.6, restore their data and reinstall their applications from backup.

The advantage of going this route as opposed to simply upgrading from 10.5 is that you know your installation will be 100% clutter free. It’s also a good occasion to clean out the ol’ home folder from any files that have been lingering since your last re-install (the Download folder can quickly get to be enormous).

The disadvantage of course is that this approach takes time. Depending on your personal settings and the number of apps you use, it can take a few days to get your system back to the way you like it.

So if you’ve made it this far, its probably because you’ve decided to take the long way home and do a clean install. The actual installation takes about 45 minutes so make sure there’s something good on TV before you start.

So let’s get started:

  1. Insert your cool new Snow Leopard disk in your Mac and reboot.
  2. Once the system restarts into the installer, select your language and click Continue at the Install Mac OS X screen. The following screen will show the available partitions on your system.
  3. Before we select which drive to install Snow Leopard on, we’ll select Disk Utility from the Utilities menu. This is the part where we format the drive. From the list on the left, select your hard drive and click on the Partition tab. Partition the drive to your liking and make sure your primary has the Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format.
    Notice: If you plan on later installing Windows with Bootcamp, now is a good time to make a second partition for that purpose. Leave at least 10Gb depending on your use.

    Mac OS Disk UtilityOnce you’re all done, click Apply to partition your drive.

  4. Once the partitioning magic is over, close Disk Utility. Back at the drive selection screen, you can click Customize to pick and chose some of the different components you wish to install. I personally like to disable the additional language support since I only use English, but you may have other language needs. Also, you can enable Quicktime 7 for legacy format support or Rosetta, a utility that translates Power-PC apps to Intel.
  5. Once you’ve selected your drive and tweaked your installation, click Install.
  6. Watch TV for about 45 minutes.
  7. When the installer is done doing it’s thing and you hear the chime, click Done to restart into Snow Leopard!

If you have anything to add this or would like to talk about your 10.6 installation experience, don’t be shy, leave a comment.

  • http://sebastiencouture.com Sebastien Couture

    Great, thanks for the tutorial. Good write up.

  • Rafi

    Works like a charm! Thank you!

  • Marnix A. van Ammers

    Great, but after an erase/install, how does one restore apps and data? Do you just drag over your home folder from a backup drive? And/or do you drag all your apps from a backup drive’s app folder to the app folder on the newly installed SL drive? Would such an action copy over your app’s preferences as well or do you have to manually reset all preferences?

    I’ve googled for this information without luck. Thanks.

  • snowleopardtips

    Good question. I plan on doing a post on this topic shortly. :)

  • Roland

    Any news on when you will post a tutorial on the Marnix A. van Ammers question?

  • David

    It's Apple simple:
    Go to /applications/utilities/Migration Assistant

    Run this app and it will copy over all your apps, user accounts, network settings, etc. Do NOT manually copy over files/dirs.

  • http://www.dinke.net/ Dinke

    I would like to perform this cleaninstall but have one question before doing that. What about iLife installation? On my Mac I had it preinstalled and have 2 leopard dvd's, so I guess that it is completely ok to install it from there (after performing clean install)?

  • http://snowleopardtips.net Snow Leopard Tips

    I've never tried it but I suppose that would not be a problem. Let us know how it works out.

  • Dylan

    I am unclear about the partitioning part. I just want to wipe everything and then install Snow Leopard, so should I leave any “partitioned” space? Or should I let it take the whole drive?

    Thanks

  • Mac McDougal

    many thanks. there was one glitch: when the system asked if I wanted to restore from a backup, it did not show the external drive where my backups are stored. bummer. I restored from the existing Users/Apps etc. I'm looking forward to seeing (in about 27 minutes) what in the world shows up. Thanks again for a pretty thorough treatment.

  • markrhodes

    I have just performed the notorious clean install over the weekend (be prepared to squash bugs for a couple days, and for godsake take screenshots of your email settings or you will be sorry), and all can say is that I have ten bucks says that any of these winebags dissing on 10.6.2 did NOT perform the clean install. We were all warned early on that this is a complete re-write for 64-bit and has dumped out ALL the old cludgy code, so why would anyone in their right mind upgrade shit? It's like painting a turd bright red and pretending it's not still a turd. Wake up People! True sea changes require more than the usual particiapation, but as with anything worth doing it's worth doing right. jesus I sound like my dad.

    As for putting all your old stuff back on, just select all the contents of Documents or Music or Whatever and drop it all into the New Documents Folder, etc. Don't just knee jerk drag all your old apps back. Once again, we have a New Animal here, and screwy apps (those not written for 10.6.2) will be screwy. Case in point: my big disappointment is that Spell Catcher is not ready for 64-bit, so in every app in which you want it to act has to be switched to 32-bit in the Get Info box. A real drag, AND you have to enable it from the menu bar in every app you click on. So it's no longer global. On the bright side rainmaker is working on bringing it up to speed. On the other hand, PowerCADD, my main work tool is screaming fast, and it was already no slouch, but it is ready for this.

    This is the same thing as when we went from OS9 to X: a major exodus strewn with soft bodies pulling their hair out. And hold on kiddies. The best is yet to come. 64-bit hasn't even had half a chance yet. Upgrades to your apps will start to take on a speed unimaginable, but that's what we said with every iteration of MacOS from 5 to 6 to 7 to 8 to 9 which is as far back as I go.

    So what's my experience with Snow Leopard? I waited until 10.6.2, and I usually never move until the 5th or 6th major step. And up until now I have to say that the best OS ever has been Tiger 10.4.11. I still miss some aspects but I don't have time for that here. I wish Tiger could come back as 64-bit, but that's not someone else's idea of progress. This is by far the fasted OS I've ever used. Except for a slow-to-wake issue, everything is peppy, apps open with lightening speed some maybe 1000% faster. No shit. Not everything is like that, but this is Leopard that really works. And since time marches on we have to seize the good things while they may be. Don't screw around. Do a clean install, learn something about your computer, chew off a couple fingers, but it is sooooo worth it.

  • markrhodes

    I have just performed the notorious clean install over the weekend (be prepared to squash bugs for a couple days, and for godsake take screenshots of your email settings or you will be sorry), and all can say is that I have ten bucks says that any of these winebags dissing on 10.6.2 did NOT perform the clean install. We were all warned early on that this is a complete re-write for 64-bit and has dumped out ALL the old cludgy code, so why would anyone in their right mind upgrade shit? It's like painting a turd bright red and pretending it's not still a turd. Wake up People! True sea changes require more than the usual particiapation, but as with anything worth doing it's worth doing right. jesus I sound like my dad.

    As for putting all your old stuff back on, just select all the contents of Documents or Music or Whatever and drop it all into the New Documents Folder, etc. Don't just knee jerk drag all your old apps back. Once again, we have a New Animal here, and screwy apps (those not written for 10.6.2) will be screwy. Case in point: my big disappointment is that Spell Catcher is not ready for 64-bit, so in every app in which you want it to act has to be switched to 32-bit in the Get Info box. A real drag, AND you have to enable it from the menu bar in every app you click on. So it's no longer global. On the bright side rainmaker is working on bringing it up to speed. On the other hand, PowerCADD, my main work tool is screaming fast, and it was already no slouch, but it is ready for this.

    This is the same thing as when we went from OS9 to X: a major exodus strewn with soft bodies pulling their hair out. And hold on kiddies. The best is yet to come. 64-bit hasn't even had half a chance yet. Upgrades to your apps will start to take on a speed unimaginable, but that's what we said with every iteration of MacOS from 5 to 6 to 7 to 8 to 9 which is as far back as I go.

    So what's my experience with Snow Leopard? I waited until 10.6.2, and I usually never move until the 5th or 6th major step. And up until now I have to say that the best OS ever has been Tiger 10.4.11. I still miss some aspects but I don't have time for that here. I wish Tiger could come back as 64-bit, but that's not someone else's idea of progress. This is by far the fasted OS I've ever used. Except for a slow-to-wake issue, everything is peppy, apps open with lightening speed some maybe 1000% faster. No shit. Not everything is like that, but this is Leopard that really works. And since time marches on we have to seize the good things while they may be. Don't screw around. Do a clean install, learn something about your computer, chew off a couple fingers, but it is sooooo worth it.

  • Heather

    This is less comment and more question: The very first step has presented a bit of a problem for me. Well, not the first step, I inserted the disk just fine. Instead of getting the “Welcome” screen, I get “Mac OS X can’t be installed on this computer. This disc requires that Mac OX X 10.5 or later already be installed.” I now have the option to either Restart (which does just that) or “Restore From Backup”. If I choose to restore, it begins searching for a Time Machine backup (which I don’t have), it does give me the option of plugging in my external disc, but doesn’t respond in any way when I do.
    I went ahead and deleted the old hard drive (yes, after backing everything up on the previously mentioned external drive) just to see if that would make it work, but nothing. I had thought that with a clean install it wouldn't matter (because it wouldn't be able to tell) if I had OS X 10.5, why does it say that I need it?
    Any ideas on how to get this to work?
    Thanks!

  • edwardrealpe

    you probably have leopard 10.5 but because you didi the upgrade from tiger
    am i right ? if so ,you computer it might not be compatible because it doesnt have intel processor ,that is the only thing i can think of from what i have check online
    check this video out this guy will sure answer you question if i havent yet
    esrcombia

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  • Argentina2010

    I partitioned as described. Does this mean the partition sequence, erases, formats and partitions the drive? Cause now I got to thinking, if it only made a partition and this thing is upgrading on the main partition again. Didnt quite get that part. But in any case, I followed your directions to the T. Hopefully this macbook doesn't keep surprising me with endless curveballs…. Thanks for a great how-to for noobies… Preciate it g-money

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  • JW

    Perfect… clean install on an old MacBook which now belongs to my daughter.
    Many Tanx for all tips!

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    Totally awesome….i am still amazed at the great info i come accross on the web….thanks

  • Bio

    My time machine backup will have a “damaged files” folder and all other files that I may not want to reinstall. Should I then selectively drag and drop what I want to reinstall? Thanks.

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