I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Clean installs on Macs

Garrett Murray is doing a clean install for the first time in a while:

I’ve been using the same core install of OS X since April 30, 2005, the day I received my copy of 10.4 Tiger and did a fresh install on my Power Mac G5. Over the past six years I’ve installed the two subsequent releases of OS X as upgrades (Leopard and Snow Leopard), and planned to do the same with 10.7 Lion when it arrived this month.

I’ve been meaning to write a similar post because I’ve followed almost the same path. I’m still using the same OS X installation, migrated between Macs and upgraded to new OS versions, since from my first Mac: a PowerBook G4 running 10.3 in 2004.

The title bar still says this when I open a new Terminal window. I left Vivisimo in 2006.

I have applications that haven’t been updated since 2006. I probably haven’t launched them since 2007. I have 60 hidden folders (whose names begin with dots) in my home folder from various apps storing preferences there. The Unix subsystem has been horribly cluttered by various package managers and custom installations of PHP and MySQL over the years. Application Support has 116 folders, 58 of which haven’t been touched since 2009 or earlier.

And I just cleaned out a lot of old applications last month, apparently poorly.

Such a long-running installation is uncharacteristic of my pre-2004, PC-using self: I was one of those guys who reinstalled Windows every 6 months just to screw around, set things up differently, or get a perceived speedup that may not have actually been there.

But then I (barely) graduated from college, got a full-time job, and lost the drive to keep screwing around with my OS. I just wanted to get things done in my precious few free hours, and fiddling with my setup began to feel like wasted time. This shift in my priorities is what has kept me so happily addicted to Apple products.

Generally, Mac OS doesn’t need clean installs. Disk cloning, Migration Assistant, and each new OS’ setup procedure all work very well to upgrade your system in place. This is implausible to former Windows users, but trust me, it really does work. That’s how I’ve carried the same installation across five Macs, three major OS releases, and two processor architectures.

I could keep it going to Lion, my installation’s fourth major OS release. But, like Garrett, I’m going to start fresh this time, for a number of reasons:

I just need to find a good time, and enough motivation, to spend a few hours doing all of this some evening instead of anything else that I’d rather be doing.