Set up your iCloud account: In Lion and Mountain Lion, iCloud, Apple’s cloud-syncing service, is integrated into many apps and system services. To avoid being hassled about iCloud syncing when you first log in to Mountain Lion, simply make sure that you’re logged in to your iCloud account under Lion, and that you’ve enabled syncing for the various types of supported data, before upgrading. (If you’re upgrading from Snow Leopard, you’ll have to log in—or create an iCloud account, if necessary—once you boot into Mountain Lion for the first time.) For more on this issue, check out Macworld senior contributor Joe Kissell’s excellent Take Control of Upgrading to Mountain Lion.
Maybe have an extra drive handy: While most people will simply install Mountain Lion over Lion or Snow Leopard, there are situations in which you might want to install onto an empty drive. For example, if you want to install Mountain Lion on a second drive to test the OS before upgrading your main drive, or if you want to erase your Mac’s startup drive and start anew. (The latter might be a good idea if your Mac has been having issues, or if your drive is nearly full or in need of repair.) As I’ll cover in an upcoming article on installing Mountain Lion, installing onto a secondary drive is simple. However, erasing your Mac’s startup drive and starting fresh means having a good, tested backup (see above) as well as a bootable Mountain Lion install drive, so now’s the time to start preparing.
Ready and waiting
Thanks to the Mac App Store, the process of purchasing, obtaining, and installing Mac OS X is faster and easier than ever—Mountain Lion inherits Lion’s advantages over optical disks and mail-order delivery. But the better shape your Mac is in before Mountain Lion arrives, the better experience you’ll have during and after the upgrade. Now that your Mac is properly prepped, stay tuned to Macworld—once the new OS is officially released, we’ll have a slew of articles on installing and tweaking it.
[Dan Frakes is a Macworld senior editor and a compulsive installer.]
Updated 7/11/2012, 5/15pm, to include simpler Mactracker instructions for determining your Mac’s model. Thanks to commenter fds for the tip. Updated 7/24/2012 to note that Lion Recovery is called OS X Recovery with the debut of Mountain Lion. Updated 7/25/2012 to reflect the release of Mountain Lion.