Re-installing OS X (need tips, advice)

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by iEugene, Apr 15, 2007.

  1. iEugene macrumors regular

    iEugene

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2006
    Location:
    AZ
    #1
    I've given some thought recently into basically wiping my hardrive clean, erasing my data and starting fresh with OS X again. I've made many threads about many different bugs or annoyances (nothing major) and don't really find answers even when I know the answers given to me by posters here should work. Along with that, I also get that feeling of wanting to just have a clean slate and rebuild from stratch once every year or so.

    I haven't ever re-installed OS X (except for the one time when I screwed up on trying to use Boot Camp) and just wanted some advice as to how to (and what to know) go down the road of returning my Mac to the default..everything, basically. I remember when I would get fed up with my PC and format the C drive and just start over all together. Is this the same case with OS X? Will re-installing it from the ground up just erase everything and set it back?..........Obviously I intend to back everything up (planning on using Data DVD's, I used Data CD's switching from my PC) which would basically just include my music, movies, photos, address books and favorites.

    My friend recomended me to take it to the Apple store, for a check up so to say, however I don't see the need to do that because mostly it's just me wanting to have a fresh plate again and not a major repair problem...Either way I still don't know exactly how to get my computer down there to be looked at, nor no idea who to talk to about that.

    The errors that I encounter, like I said, aren't big, they're just annoying and I find no answers that seem to work. Such as third party software errors, random changes in booting time, sometimes my time and date randomly disappear from my menu bar, voiceover randomly stopped working all together...Like I said nothing huge at all, but nonetheless I cannot find anything to fix these.

    Anyway, any advice, tips or anything I should know before doing this? Or should I just not do this and find another means to clean up my computer? I've been told to download programs such as "MainMenu" but without much help on how to use that to clean out my computer...I'm kinda alone in the Mac world basic knowledge, so if there's any chance of anything going wrong I'd like to know.

    Thanks for any replies.
     
  2. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2002
    Location:
    Palookaville
    #2
    First piece of advice: don't reinstall OSX, and especially do not make plans to do it regularly. This is a complete waste of time in virtually all circumstances. I haven't followed your complaints, so I don't what problems you've been experiencing, but the odds are very substantially against you solving them by reinstalling. You could even make matters worse.
     
  3. justG macrumors member

    justG

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2007
    Location:
    Orlando, FL, US
    #3
    I couldn't disagree more, on every single point. Re-installing OS X is just like re-installing XP, except that the process is more stable, easy and fast. Wiping the drive and starting over is wonderful. Just back up your data, boot from your installation disc, and follow the instructions, just like you would with XP.

    I do this every 6 months or so, and I can't recommend restoring that "new car smell" highly enough. Of course, re-installing software updates and applications isn't a lot of fun, so I've taken some measures to make things a bit easier for myself and get from "blank slate" to "I can work now" as quickly as possible. I'll list them here, and you can use/discard the ideas or portions thereof as you deem appropriate.

    - I have a Mac Pro. I got it with a single drive to keep the cost down. So one of the first things I did was to get a second internal drive. Whether your situation calls for laptop + external drive or desktop + int/ext drive, I'd highly recommend this route over data DVDs.

    - Since I devised my backup strategy, there are two applications that have become indispensable to me: iPartition and SuperDuper!.

    - My primary drive has a bootable partition that I use as my startup disk. This partition is cloned nightly to a bootable partition on my secondary drive. I used SuperDuper!'s "clone" function to fully clone the partition the very first time, and then scheduled it to "SmartUpdate" every night. The SmartUpdate is a function of the registered version, and it basically deletes/copies data on the clone until it exactly matches the source. Extremely handy.

    - I have another partition, a volume I keep unmounted. It's also bootable, and is my "clean slate." What I did was to install OS X onto my startup volume, install all my software updates and whatever drivers and system utilities I wouldn't want to do without, and cloned that to my "clean slate." The next time I want to start over, as you do, instead of booting from disk and all that jazz, I'll just boot to the clean slate, wipe my startup volume, and clone the clean slate. This process has saved and will save me a couple hours of installation, configuration, tweaking 'til I'm happy, downloading, etc. I can then focus on just re-installing my apps on an as-needed basis, and copying over my personal data from my clone.

    All in all, this strategy enables me to decide that I want to start over and do so in a couple hours instead of devoting a weekend to it. For your reference, my startup volume and its clone are 100GB each. Cloning from scratch (obviously only whatever portion of that space is actually used is cloned) takes about 20-30 minutes, and the nightly SmartUpdate takes about 5-7 minutes. Partitioning and formatting blank space with iPartition is nearly instantaneous; if you use it to move data around (not really recommended, but certainly doable), it takes longer. Finally, cloning the "clean slate" partition back to my startup volume in order to start over takes about 2-3 minutes.

    Hope that helps!
     
  4. iEugene thread starter macrumors regular

    iEugene

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    #4
    What are the risks?
     
  5. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #5
    Except in OSX, it's totally unnecessary.

    These boards are full of tales of woe posted by people who try the shotgun approach to fixing every issue (and many complete non-issues!) with OSX reinstalls. The biggest risk is losing something -- which can easily happen, unless you follow an intricate backup procedure, like the one described above, to the letter.

    The second big risk is trying a reinstall to fix a problem with a Mac that's got nothing to do with the OS, which means the vast majority of them. If the problem is hardware-related, you risk having the reinstall fail. Now, for your troubles you've also got an unbootable Mac. This is an improvement?

    The upsides to reinstalling? Essentially, zero. The best justification you'll hear from the reinstall advocates is that it makes them "feel better." The "new car smell" rationale above should tell you all you need to know about the value of reinstalling.
     
  6. Father Jack macrumors 68020

    Father Jack

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    Jan 1, 2007
    Location:
    Ireland
    #6
    I have always given my computer a "good enema" a couple of times a year and have never had any problems. It clears out junk and I always found the system runs faster.

    FJ
     
  7. brop52 macrumors 68000

    brop52

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2007
    Location:
    Michigan
    #7
    If you have a smaller HD that is heavily fragmented along with having a lot of extraneous files that take up space then erasing can definitely help. Although it shouldn't be done often as defragmenting can be done with various utilities.
     
  8. iEugene thread starter macrumors regular

    iEugene

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2006
    Location:
    AZ
    #8
    Thanks for the replies so far. I still haven't wiped my system yet (though I'm still leaning towards to as of now). I cannot foresee anything getting worse with doing this, all of my files that I would need are backed up on DVD's. It just seems better to reinstall everything and start from stratch again, I guess that's just the type of person I am.

    One thing that did make me worry though. I'm a college student and rely on Microsoft Office for typing documents, the thing is, me and a friend of mine paid for the $150 price tag on Office for Mac. Offically we decided it was his and he kept the package, however since you get three installations, he obviously let me get Office. I was fearing that if I were to wipe everything clean with a reinstall that Office would obviously be gone and that there would be no way of getting it back without paying again....Due to the fact that you have to register Office with Microsoft. Would there be anyway to bypass this? As we did pay for the program it should be fair that if I were to reinstall that registering it for use would as simple as the first time.
     
  9. Father Jack macrumors 68020

    Father Jack

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    #9
    Sorry, I should have mentioned how important backing up all data files before giving your computer an enema.

    This was mentioned by IJ Reilly :)

    FJ
     
  10. iEugene thread starter macrumors regular

    iEugene

    Joined:
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    AZ
    #10
    I'm not trying to disagree with your knowledge on this post but it seems that after thinking about what you said, it still seems that nothing would seem wrong with a reinstall for my needs.

    You said that the biggest risk is losing something, yet nothing is specified as to what I could lose (so I'm asking what could be lost) because what I would "lose" is my personal files that are already backed up, as well as addresses to websites that are written down to gain back the programs that ran ceratin media files.

    Another thing was stating that reinstalling to fix something that isn't related to the OS...My problems seem to be all OS (in some way) related. From my experience, I feel that I have done things that are too far back in my memory to recall and can't find solid answers to fix them. The ONLY hardware problem I've encounted was when my iTunes would physically make a violent humming nosie when trying to burn a CD, yet a guy at the Apple store said it could very well be the brand of CD's, and since then have tried others to success...........How does this end up in an "unbootable Mac"?

    From what I see, there are people who like the idea of reinstalling and people who don't. With a PC if you want to format and reinstall, you just do it, I wasn't sure if it's the same for a Mac........Since getting my Mac I've been forced to reinstall only once because I had no clue as to what I was doing with boot camp and thought I had permadently screwed my machine, later to realize that reinstalling OS X fixed everything.
     
  11. Father Jack macrumors 68020

    Father Jack

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    #11
    I don't think installing will be a problem. As far as I know you can install it on three different computers (3 serial numbers supplied) not just three times.

    Using one of the three serial numbers on my Office 2004 (Student and teacher edition), I must have installed Office at least 4 or 5 times on my G5 (now sold) and the same serial number has been installed twice on my Mac Pro.

    I don't know if anyone else has found this too be true, or I am just lucky. :)

    FJ
     
  12. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2004
    Location:
    Adelaide, Australia
    #12
    Reinstalling OSX is like drinking Tequila. By no means is it necessary, but if it makes you feel better then go right ahead. Just remember the associated risks (memory loss) and you'll be fine. Most savvy computer geeks can handle a Tequila every now and then. :)
     
  13. justG macrumors member

    justG

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    Apr 9, 2007
    Location:
    Orlando, FL, US
    #13
    That would be contradictory. On one hand, you're saying that there is no advantage to re-installing. On the other hand, you're saying that the "new car smell" rationale should tell the OP all he needs to know about the value of reinstalling. Heh. Okay, so... "new car smell" = having my computer run like the day it arrived. That's not an advantage? It is in my book.

    For years I've read that oooh, Macs don't need their hard drives defragmented, that once OS X is installed you don't need to touch it. Frankly, that's rubbish. I love OS X, it's why I switched, but it suffers from the same "application residue" (preferences, application support files) that XP does, and if you download/evaluate/uninstall many applications, or frequently write bits of data to disk, the computer absolutely will get sluggish over time. In my experience, glitchy things do happen, things that don't go away no matter how diligently one repairs permissions and/or runs Yasu and/or other system maintenance utilities, things that do go away when the OS is re-installed. My Mac is my primary computer, and it makes far more sense to me to find and adhere to a backup strategy and be able to quickly start over than to waste my time trying to resolve apparently random, apparently OS-related glitchiness. The performance increase I notice after a wipe/re-install is not some delusional projection or a figment of my imagination, and it's why I--and, I trust, others like me--advocate the occasional re-installation.
     
  14. iEugene thread starter macrumors regular

    iEugene

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    Apr 18, 2006
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    AZ
    #14
    Alright well it looks like I'm going to do a full out reinstall later today (have to leave to school in 10 mins right now). Everything is backed up on DVD's and that's what I'm using to pull my media back to my computer.

    Thanks for the replies, and keep any tips or comments coming.
     
  15. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    Location:
    Palookaville
    #15
    You already noted a possible problem with MS Office. Do you have installers for all of your other applications? Do you even have a complete inventory of all of your applications? Are you planning a complete backup immediately before wiping the drive? As I said, these boards a full of posts from frustrated and panicked Mac users who are asking how they get back X, Y, or Z after a hard drive wipe, because there was some thing they overlooked in their backup. The bottom line is, in 99% of these instances, the wipe was totally unnecessary.

    It doesn't. But the scenario I described is quite common. A lot of people could save themselves a lot of grief if they could restrain themselves from whipping out the blunderbuss and firing away, every time they had a small problem.

    I don't know about your issues, but a worst you should be trying an archive and install, which only replaces the system files.

    Sure, they like the idea. They actually seem to be married to the idea. But just try to get a logical explanation for what it fixes that could not be fixed more easily, more quickly and (especially) more safely in another less disruptive way. You put your finger on one of the reasons we hear this advice so often -- it's a carry-over from the Windows world, where reinstalls are a matter of routine. Why anyone would give up one of the Mac's main advantages is beyond me.
     
  16. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #16
    It isn't contradictory. Not even remotely. A car that smells new is not the same as a new car. It's just a smell. As MJ said above, it's like a shot of Tequila -- it may give you a certain warm and fuzzy feeling, but beyond that, it's not doing you any actual good.

    Possibly what you misunderstand in this debate is that not everyone is seeking to have their Mac run "like the day it arrived." This presumes that they haven't done anything of any importance with the Mac since that day. Most people have -- which is why they bought the bloody thing.
     
  17. iEugene thread starter macrumors regular

    iEugene

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2006
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    AZ
    #17
    Hey guys, just in case anyone was wondering, I did end up re-installing OS X and couldn't be happier. I totally wiped the drive like the start-up disc said it would and just did a fresh installation. Had no troubles getting original files back, and every one of my errors is fixed. :)
     

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