Keeping user data but having a clean system?

Discussion in 'macOS' started by 0dev, May 3, 2011.

  1. 0dev macrumors 68040


    Dec 22, 2009
    I want to reinstall the OS but retain my data. The obvious answer to that is, of course, do a Time Machine backup and restore from it, but that restores all sorts of system files too. The idea is I want a clean system, but to retain my home folder.

    From what I've read, the best way to do this is set up Time Machine to exclude /usr, /sbin, /private and /bin then restore from that backup, thus restoring personal data but excluding the system.

    All I want to ask is, will that work? Or will it cause complications when restoring from the backup, since OS X expects to be able to get those files from it rather than having to get them from the install disk?

    If you have any other suggestions on how to do this, they are more than welcome. Bare in mind, though, I have notes in Mail (which are backed up from my iPhone and are important) and iTunes backups which can't be put back by a simple drag and drop as far as I'm aware. I'd also like to retain my Keychain and other such not so obvious but important user data.

  2. larkost macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2007
    Without rigorously defining what "user data" means, we can only guess. If you mean: just the data that is specific to that user, and specifically exclude things that a second user on the system would share, then things get pretty easy and you have two options:

    1) Just copy your /Users/USERNAME folder, and you are done. Note: this does not copy over the user id, or password (and a few other associated items).

    2) Make a copy of your volume, then use the Migration, but tell it only to copy over the user. This will get everything that is associated only with that user.

    Important notes: this does not get applications (other than those in ~/Applications), and in some cases badly written applications will put their user data outside of the user folder, and this will then not bring that across.
  3. 0dev thread starter macrumors 68040


    Dec 22, 2009
    Sorry for not being clear. I do indeed mean data for my own user only.

    If I go the Migration Assistant route, will it restore my Notes stored in Mail, Keychain items, and such?

    I also take it the Migration Assistant method would mean I'd have to reinstall and set up my apps, such as Firefox, all over again? All my bookmarks and such would be erased?
  4. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    Migration assistant without messing with it will transfer

    Apps (except for a few that require activation)
    App settings
    User folder
    User system settings
  5. 0dev thread starter macrumors 68040


    Dec 22, 2009
    And that's if I create a bootable copy of my drive on an external one? I'm guessing Migration Assistant isn't compatible with Time Machine backups?
  6. 0dev thread starter macrumors 68040


    Dec 22, 2009
    Right, I've done a research on the Migration Assistant method and it looks like the way to go.

    From what I understand, I can:

    • Wipe my hard drive
    • Install a clean install of SL without restoring anything
    • Run Migration Assistant to restore all my user data
    • Keep on using the computer as normal

    Seems like just what I need! :)

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