The upside of upgrading

I hate upgrading my operating system. As soon as I pick up that OS X Install Disk, I might as well kiss an entire workday (or more) goodbye. I almost always lose some critical file, setting, registration number, or password. New features beckon, but it’s hard to see past the pain.

After my frustrating experience upgrading to Tiger, though, I decided this time things were going to be different. My Mac has suffered from a lot of performance problems—Microsoft Office 2004, in particular, has been almost unusable. If I did everything right, perhaps upgrading could provide a cure.

I blocked off a day. I reviewed the bug reports. I pondered my installation options. And I took it slow. The upshot? The whole process took a long time—a full day and a half. But now I have a computer that works better than it has since it was new.

Here are the steps I took:

  1. I got a big external hard drive. I got one twice the size of my Mac’s hard drive to leave ample space for Time Machine.
  2. I pre-formatted the external drive for Time Machine. I used Disk Utility ( /Applications/Utilities ) to change my external drive’s format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and partition map to the GUID Partition Table (GPT). (If you have a PowerPC Mac, or will use the hard drive with both a PowerPC and an Intel Mac, instead format the drive using the Apple Partition Map scheme.)
  3. I used Carbon Copy Cloner to make a complete clone of my Tiger set-up on the external drive. This gave me a safety net—if anything at all went awry with the upgrade process, I could boot from the drive and use the files and programs there.
  4. I used Disk Utility to repair my Mac’s hard drive in preparation for upgrading.
  5. I thought long and hard about which upgrade method to use. In the past, I’ve always used the Archive and Install option. But because I’ve been having performance problems, this time I chose Erase and Install. (This discussion about problems with Leopard and Microsoft Office 2004 helped me make that decision.)
  6. While I was upgrading, I used OS X’s Setup Assistant to transfer my user accounts and documents from the clone on my external drive to my Mac. I chose not to transfer my troubled applications.
  7. I reinstalled all the programs I actually use and did a million software updates.
  8. Next time, I’ll save some of these steps for overnight. Cloning my drive, for instance, took hours and I couldn’t work on my Mac because the updates wouldn’t be included in the clone. (Needless to say, my office is a whole lot cleaner than it was before.) But with ample preparation, I discovered that the upgrade process can be more than just an inconvenience—it can be a chance at a fresh start.

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