My Snow Leopard Install Checklist

Snow Leopard installed!

My Snow Leopard install DVD arrived from Amazon on Friday, so I embarked on a mini install-fest yesterday and am happy to say my MacBook and iMac are now running the new OS.  This time around, I went in with as good of a plan as I’ve ever had to ensure the upgrade went smoothly and, more importantly, I could roll back to Leopard if something went wrong.

I came up with my own install checklist for the upgrade after reading a number of blog posts and listening to a couple podcasts about prepping for and installing Snow Leopard.  I chose to “upgrade” as opposed to the nuke-and-pave route of “erase and install”.  (If you don’t know what I am talking about or want to read some of these articles, I’ve included a full list of the Snow Leopard install resources I found most helpful at the end of this article).

Here’s the process I used for the upgrade as well as some quick comments and takeaways:

Snow Leopard Install Checklist


  1. Run a manual Time Machine backup. Before I touched anything I wanted a snapshot of my system.
  2. Review and resolve an outstanding issues with the OS. This was a good tip I heard on Victor Cajiao’s Typical Mac User’s Podcast from his guest, Steve Stanger, of The Mac Attack.  To paraphrase what Steve said — if you have an existing problem with your Mac, the Snow Leopard upgrade is not going to fix it, so figure it out before you upgrade.  Personally, I had a nagging issue on the iMac with Safari intermittently crashing.  With Steve’s advice in mind, it forced me to sit down and resolve the issue first (it was related to an errant plug-in and true to what Steve said the OS upgrade would definitely have not fixed it).
  3. Review the Applications folder and uninstall any unneeded ones. Why?  It’s as good of a time as any to do a little house cleaning, I picked up some disk space, and it also reduced the possibility of having any Snow Leopard incompatibilities with existing apps.
  4. Upgrade all apps to most current versions. Many, but not all popular apps, have new “Snow Leopard” compatible versions.  I wanted to make sure I had the latest and greatest versions installed.
  5. Install Apple / OS X Software Updates. I suppose it sounds a little ridiculous to update OS X 10.5 with recent patches when I was doing a full OS upgrade, but this didn’t take much time and I figured there was no downside to it.  It was beneficial for me on the MacBook because I picked up two EFI updates that I somehow missed previously that were not OS-related.
  6. Perform system maintenance. I downloaded OnyX and performed all of the actions under the “cleaning” interface.  This was the first time I used the product, and was happy with it (Please note it is not yet Snow Leopard compatible).  I also repaired disk permissions via Disk Utility.
  7. Run a manual Time Machine backup (again). At this point all of my maintenance tasks were done, so I wanted another pre-install snapshot.
  8. Run a manual Jungle Disk backup (my online backup). I back up key personal files online with Jungle Disk, but this is done daily so I wanted to ensure I had the latest and greatest files backed up.
  9. Create a bootable copy of the hard drive. This was a totally new step for me.  After hearing over and over the benefits of having a bootable external hard drive with a clone of your pre-install system available in case of disaster, I finally integrated this into my workflow.  I used Super Duper although Carbon Copy Cloner is supposed to be excellent as well.
  10. Boot Mac using the external hard drive. This is really a sub-step of #9.  I did this to make sure the clone worked.
  11. Unplug all USB and Firewire devices other than the keyboard and mouse. There have been cases in the past where certain peripherals have caused OS X upgrades to get a little funky, so this is just another step in erring on the side of caution.


  1. Install upgrade. Nothing complex here, I just popped in the DVD and let it do the work.  For me, it took about an hour on both machines.


  1. Run a manual Time Machine backup (yet again…). Even though Time Machine updates hourly, I wanted a snapshot immediately post-install.
  2. Plug USB and Firewire devices back in.
  3. Play around with Snow Leopard!


All things considered my upgrades went well but a couple comments beyond what I’ve already mentioned:

  • This was the first time I’ve ever created a bootable clone, and I did not realize how long it takes to create one (for my iMac it took almost 7 hours!).  I got so impatient with the time it was taking to create the clone that that I “cowboy’d it” when I upgraded my MacBook and skipped this step.  Luckily I didn’t have any issues there.  I am definitely going to incorporate a regularly scheduled bootable clone of my hard drive into my backup strategy moving forward.  If I had been doing this, it would have removed what was the most frustrating part of the upgrade for me.
  • I spent more time applying application updates than I would have liked or had planned.  In the end it was good to clean up my system, but it is something I need to automate or schedule moving forward.
  • I got to use two software apps: OnyX and Super Duper, that I expect to use again.  While I had heard of both previously, now that I have used them I expect they will become part of my normal bag of tricks.

Snow Leopard Install Resources

Here are the blog posts and podcasts that I found the most helpful when I was getting ready for the upgrade:



Good luck with your install!


  1. Robert Mestdagh

    Thank you for this list of recommendations. I read somewhere before that it is best to have a dedicated drive for Time Machine backups. The question I am left with is: I have such a dedicated hard disk for my (automatic) TM backups. When I want to install Snow Leopard, is it best to erase this drive with all of my current backups so that the upgraded system can again use the dedicated drive and only contain the new system’s backups, or can I just leave the current Leopard backups on the drive. I wonder whether this last option would not have a negative effect should I ever have to us the backups for a full restore later. Thank you.

    • Ken Clark

      I wouldn’t recommend erasing your old backups as you lose the history of all your data. If you have a major hard drive meltdown, the way you will restore from Time Machine is: 1) do a clean install of Snow Leopard on the affected (or new) hard drive; and then 2) import your data off the Time Machine HD via the OS X installer or Migration Assistant. On a full restore there isn’t an option analogous to the file restore where you can request a restore from a specific period of time.

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