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Forums Apple OS X Clean Install? – Do you have to reinstall all of your other software?

  • Clean Install? – Do you have to reinstall all of your other software?

     David Eaks updated 7 years, 2 months ago 3 Members · 5 Posts
  • Scott Clements

    November 8, 2013 at 7:13 pm


    I am puzzled by the concept of doing a clean install of OSX. I often hear on forums that one should do a clean install of a new mac operating system update (Mavericks, for example). I haven’t done this in years, but am having problems with my Avid editing software, so am considering it. However, the major problem I can see with this is one of how to reinstall all my old software and other files. Or, is there a way to do a clean install that does not require reinstalling all your other software? I have dozens of programs that could take days to reinstall. And some f my install discs are in storage in another country. I currently back up my system drive using the latest paid for version of Carbon Copy Cloner. But, if I did a clean install, I’m imagining I couldn’t use Carbon Copy Cloner to retrieve all of my software and other files. If someone could clarify what the clean install process is exactly and give any tips for how to make it as painless as possible, it would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

    Film Editor, London UK

  • Andrew Richards

    December 2, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    A clean install means installing a fresh instance of OS X on an empty volume. That indeed means you would need to install all the apps that are not bundled with OS X, and you would also probably want to migrate your user from the old volume or Time Machine backup. Bear in mind you will need to create a bootable installer volume of anything newer than Snow Leopard to be able to do a clean install.


  • Scott Clements

    December 10, 2013 at 1:52 am

    Thanks for verifying this, Andy. I can’t believe video editors do a clean install every time a new OS comes out. There’s so much software to reinstall. You could spend 2-3 days doing just this.

    Film Editor, London UK

  • Andrew Richards

    December 10, 2013 at 4:25 am

    [Scott Clements] “I can’t believe video editors do a clean install every time a new OS comes out. There’s so much software to reinstall. You could spend 2-3 days doing just this.”

    Years ago, I used to support a shop full of FCP workstations and I would do this for new OS releases, but I would also have a DeployStudio server that would take care of a full reimage with apps in about an hour. Building that image on a test machine would indeed take about a day!

    I’ve been upgrading my own Macs in place since Lion and I think that’s perfectly safe now, but I’m sure old habits will persist in post shops.


  • David Eaks

    December 10, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    I’m a big clean-installer, and you’re right, a clean install can be a huge, painful process if done without tons of prior preparation. I’ve been doing that preparation for a few years now.

    Every time I get a new application, plugin, driver, stock audio or video and even my own custom templates, keyboard layouts and effects presets etc. I save it to an “All Install Files” folder with sub folders for organizing. Downloads are saved before even installing, Disc Images are made of physical installation discs. Custom presets are found and saved in a folder structure with subfolder names representing the file path that the setting needs to go in. This “All Install Files” folder lives on my current media drive (eating up 148GB of storage right now) and is transferred to new media drives when they’re replaced, always ready to install something I need. I imagine most would keep it on an external though.

    License keys are saved to a text document, which can be saved on a secure USB stick.

    This makes the clean install process quick and pretty painless. More mindless clicking than stressful hunting down of purchase confirmation emails and discs etc. Some things that I know have been updated several times since I last saved the installer, I’ll go download the newest version, save it, move the old installer into a new folder called “Old” , then install the newest version.

    While I usually make a USB installer for new OS X versions, it is not necessary. The new drive can be connected externally and OS X downloaded from the Mac App Store as normal. Then open the installer and choose the new drive as the install location. Once the installation is complete, shutdown and replace the old OS drive with the new one and save the old disk on the shelf. Or instead of installing OS X to the new drive, this is the time to make your install USB, because the OS X installer deletes itself after installation and you’ll have to download it again.

    With the new OS drive in place, connect the drive with the “All Install Files” folder, and the USB stick with license keys and begin the double click, copy/paste frenzy. Surprisingly, the “super convenient”, all in one place, no need for entering license keys, Mac App Store apps are the slowest and most hindering part of the process. Like FCPX, Motion and Compressor. My main tools. They must download every time. Boooo! And their extra content too. Hissss!

    I don’t ever do any migration of my previous user. Since there are so many cases where an odd thing is happening on someone’s system and it does not exist if they log in as a new user, I figure the migration is defeating a main purpose of the clean install. It’s also a good idea to avoid saving any unique files to the OS drive, like documents, videos, project files etc. If there isn’t any of that stuff on the drive there’s no worry of losing your stuff. Though it’s inevitable that there will be some little thing, that’s where having your old drive on the shelf comes in handy.

    Installing from a disc image stored on a hard drive (in my case they reside on a three drive RAID 0 and install to an SSD) is much faster than from a CD/DVD disc. For example Final Cut Studio 3 will install in its entirety from disc images in about 40 minutes IIRC, and without having to bother with “Please insert the Disc: Motion Content” or whatever, followed by waiting half an hour and repeating for four or so hours. Just mount all the discs at once and hit go. Choosing to install FCP 7 all on its own (or just opting out of all the extra content in the other apps) will install in a just a few minutes.

    I can get a fully functional clean system installed in a few hours. Though I tend to only install the things I need on a daily basis and leave the little extras for when I actually need them. Most of those things install in seconds and it helps keep my system pared down, or streamlined.

    For your install discs that are in storage in another country, you could have someone create disc images and send the files to you with Dropbox or similar.

    All of this will take some time to get put together and sorted but I really feel that it keeps the oddities at bay, leaving you to only have to deal with the actual bugs.

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