Sunday, September 6, 2009

The 'How To Install Snow Leopard' Debate

Apple have taken a new approach for installing Snow Leopard. Sometimes it is backfiring, which is disconcerting. I don't have my claws on Snow Leopard yet. It's in the mail. But here is my POV so far, as I posted at MacDailyNews:

From every reviewer's point of view, the new approach Apple is taking is to lead users to install ON TOP OF their current OS installation. For ordinary users, there isn't a clear method for making a clean installation via the DVD.

There are a couple problems with this approach:

A) What if the current OS installation is corrupt, or that volume is damaged? It most likely means problems after the new OS installation.

B) What if Apple's list of NOT-compatible applications and extensions is incorrect? Well, it IS incorrect! The result has been that some good applications are sequestered by the installer and some bad applications are left in place. The worst examples are bad .KEXT files left in the system that are causing the Sit-And-Spin problem for some users after the installation has rebooted.

How is Apple supposed to solve both these problems?

A) Test and repair both installation volume. The repairs provided by fsck/Disk Utility are NOT adequate for this task.

B) Apple has to have tested EVERY application and .KEXT file that runs in Leopard. (Apple are not supporting installation over Tiger, although it has been found to usually work). Good luck with that one. There is no registry at Apple for applications. Apple literally has no way of knowing all the software available for Mac. It's not going to happen.

Therefore, this new approach is going to have problems now and in the future.

Meanwhile, I can verify that a CLEAN INSTALL is the very very best way to go in all cases. It has solved major problems for me many times. Sorry Apple. Nice idea! But not practical or supportable.

If you have the time and stamina, I suggest a CLEAN INSTALL of Snow Leopard. Performing an install over Leopard (or Tiger) and running into a problem is rare. No need to blow the problem out of proportion. But the problems are happening.

Therefore, of course I am going to suggest the #1 Rule Of Computing: MAKE A BACKUP of your ENTIRE boot drive before performing ANY installation of Snow Leopard. Carbon Copy Cloner is free to use these days. Get to it! You will not regret it.


Jason J. said...


Just wanted to throw it out there that, though I've waited till now to install Snow Leopard, this and your article on MacintoshSecurity about the silly security defaults in SL have been very, very helpful to me. I would have installed SL over the top of Leopard if I had't read this article, and now I'm so glad I did. I've been a bit less careful than I could have been with my choice of downloads in the past, and starting fresh with a completely wiped hard drive and reinstalled OS is a good feeling. Thanks so much for your continued dedication to the Mac user population!

Also, silly to ask this now, but I'm just curious. Before installing SL on my Mac Pro (early 2008), I used TechTools Deluxe to scan my system (including the hard drive) for issues (none found), and then erased it with Disk Utility, going as far as using the security option to write zeroes over the data. My question is, would it have been better to erase the top level listing of my drive (something like "320 GB ST3320820AS_P Media"), or the partition "Macintosh HD" like I did? My thought was that the partition was setup by default (when i got the computer), and it would be better to stay within the parameter set (since I'm relatively inexperienced). Any thoughts?

Thanks! Your efforts are much appreciated.

Jason J.

:-Derek said...

Hi Jason. I'm glad I can be helpful!

Regarding erasing your drive before a clean install:

There is nothing special about the partition setup created by Apple on a new Mac. Disk Utility can perfectly create a new partition scheme.

The only remote possibility of a problem might be that some bit has been knocked the wrong way in the boot sector or a bad sector has developed in that area. It is NOT (typically) much of a worry and not worth going back and erasing then reinstalling the OS.

Your method sounds very good! That's what I would do. I do have some techie friends who insist upon multiple low level formats of any drive whenever they get the chance. The purpose is to test and swap out bad sectors that have developed on a hard drive. One of my friends uses Disk Utility to make a 7-Pass Erase, as found using the Erase/Security Options... button. Another friend suggested to me using a dedicated application designed to spot and swap bad sectors. I've used both SpeedTools and Drive Genius for that purpose with excellent results. TechTool Pro, on the other hand, is not designed to swap out bad sectors. All it does is report problem sectors.

I'm a utilities fanatic. Buying every utility available is definitely the act of a fanatic. But for the purpose of erasing a drive, Apple's Disk Utility is adequate.

:-Derek said...


"...some bit has been knocked the wrong way in the boot sector..."

Please read:

" the boot partition..."

Jason J. said...

Great. Since I got my Mac Pro in 2008, I have learned a lot and continue to learn. Next time I do a clean install, I might try one of those utilities you mentioned. Good stuff to know.

So it sounds like from what you said, TechTools Pro WOULD have FOUND a problem if there was one, it just couldn't have done anything about it, right?

Great stuff, and thanks again,