How To Prepare Your Mac For Lion — The Right Way


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Apple has released the Gold Master build of the next version of of its Mac OS X operating system to developers, meaning that 10.7 Lion could see release to the public as early as next week, exclusively through the Mac App Store.

For users looking to upgrade, this is uncharted territory: the first OS X upgrade to be delivered digitally. To help you prepare for Lion and guarantee your machine is one hundred percent ready to upgrade the second Lion drops, we’ve put together this handy guide.

Here’s how to prepare your Mac for Lion, and do it right.


• A Mac upgraded to Snow Leopard 10.6.8.

• 8GB of available hard drive space.

Singlemizer – a shareware program and automator action for finding duplicate files.

App Fresh, a free application to make sure all of your software is running the latest version.

Omni Disk Sweeper – now freeware from our friends at OmniGroup, this will help us clean slim down our drives

Carbon Copy Cloner — a freeware/shareware app that makes a bit-for-bit copy of your hard dive. Usually used for making backups.

• Extra hard drive or external hard drive, either USB or Firewire. This hard drive needs to be at least as large as your main drive.


Step 1 — Make Sure You’re Running Snow Leopard 10.6.8

This is a simple enough step. If you’re running Snow Leopard, just go to Menu > About This Mac and make sure you’re running Snow Leopard 10.6.8, which adds support to upgrade to Lion through the Mac App Store. If you’re not, just go to Menu > Software Update, download and install the update.

Not on Mac OS X 10.6 at all? You can’t upgrade to Lion unless you’re running at least Snow Leopard. Follow our guide here to get yourself upgraded.

Step 2 — Delete or Upgrade Your Rosetta Apps

With Lion, Apple is finally abandoning support for PowerPCs once and for all. Although Snow Leopard only ran on Intel machines, Lion drops Rosetta support, meaning any software written for the PowerPC architecture will no longer work at all.

If you still use any of these apps, now would be a good time to either update these Rosetta apps to the latest (hopefully Intel compatible) version, or delete them entirely.

How do you tell if an app you depend upon requires Rosetta? Luckily, it’s pretty easy. Launch any apps you just can’t live without, then go to your Applications folder, open Utilities and select Activity Monitor. You’ll see something like this:

What you’re looking for is any running application that says “PowerPC” under the Kind heading. Those apps simply won’t run under Lion without an update.

You can go about updating these apps in any number of ways. They might have their own update mechanisms, they might have updates available on their websites. However, the easiest way to see and download updates for all of your Rosetta apps at a time is to run App Fresh, then upgrade it shows an update for.

Now launch these apps again and run Activity Monitor one more time. If there are any remaining apps marked with an ‘PowerPC’, you might as well save space and delete them completely from your hard drive: they won’t work under Lion. Otherwise, you’re going to need to run a separate Snow Leopard partition just for this software… look for our upcoming guide on how to set that up.

Update: Reader Dustin Wielt has an even better way of accomplishing this step: “There is an easier way to check for Rosetta apps than opening each app and looking in Activity Monitor. Just open System Profiler in the Utilities folder, click on Applications, and in the resulting list of all applications on your Mac, click on the Kind column to sort them by Kind. Scroll down to see all of your PowerPC apps in one place!”

Step 3 — Put Your Hard Drive On A Diet

To upgrade to Lion, you need to have at least 8GB of hard drive space free. Even if you already have 8GB free, though, it’s a good idea to clean up your drives.

More than saving space, you will ultimately save time during the upgrade process if you’ve removed most of the useless garbage from your drive first.

Start with Singlemizer, drag your most likely suspect folders (Documents, Photos, Movies, Music) to its main window and start killing your duplicates.

After you’ve cleaned up all your redundant files, now it’s time to ‘sweep’ your disk. Our hard drives always seem to be shrinking, and it’s often hard to tell where most of that space goes. Fortunately, our friends at Omni Group have a utility just for that.


Give it a whirl, and you may be just as surprised as we were to learn that your ‘Downloads’ directory is taking up half your hard drive. Just be careful to know what you’re deleting.

Step 4 — Create a Reliable Backup

Upgrading to Lion through the App Store is uncharted territory, and while it’s unlikely anything will go wrong, why take chances? Let’s make a bootable backup of your main drive just in case.

To create a bootable backup of your main drive there is only one totally free, easy-to-use choice, Carbon Copy Cloner, and it’s push one button simple. Just remember to make your backup drive bootable, you will have to completely wipe your destination drive.


Now, depending on the size of your hard drive, you’ve got a chance to watch either the standard, or extended version of Lord of the Rings.

Once CCC is done, reboot your Mac with your external drive still connected, holding down the option key to boot from the backup drive. Make sure everything boots up, poke around a bit, make sure everything seems to be working.

Pop the installer in, power down your Macintosh and unplug your backup drive, it would be a cryin’ shame if you accidentally installed over your backup.

Step 5 — Wait for Apple To Release Lion

At this point, you’ve done everything you can do. You’ve upgraded Snow Leopard to the latest version which supports operating system updates through the Mac App Store. You’ve upgraded or deleted your Rosetta files. You’ve deleted any unwanted files. You’ve made a clone of your hard drive. Now comes the hard part… the wait for Apple to actually push Lion through the Mac App Store. Rest assured, as soon as it’s available, we’ll let you know.

Deals of the Day

  • Ronald Epstein

    If you are running GM right now — is that the final retail version?

    In other words, does GM support updates through the software updates that will give me the exact same updates the retail version will provide?

    If not, can the retail version be downloaded from the APP store while you are using Lion GM and install directly over it without losing any settings, apps, etc.?

  • ethicsblogger

    The link for Singular seems to be dead. It says “DB unavailable.”

  • twitter-16071221

    Just installed Lion GM and the few bugs that were there in DP4 w/ Update 1 seem to be gone. Also, the instructional videos for the gestures are now present and the login has been modified slightly to where you have to perform a gesture to get to the “Start Using Lion” button. One change in the dock is that Mission Control’s icon was put to the left of Launchpad. A purely cosmetic change that I’m not sure I like as my dock is filled with enough apps that I launch from the dock. For Mission Control, I have to set to use four fingers up, which by the way, now works! This was one bug that survived DP3’s Updates 1 and 2, DP4 and the one update to DP4 that was released. Finally, that is also fixed as part of the GM version.

    After installing the GM, there is a ThunderBolt fix that shows up in Software Update, which requires a restart. iTunes 10.5 is NOT part of Lion GM and neither is iCloud, which will remain betas beyond Lion’s final release, as that has more to do with iOS 5 than OS X Lion.

    P.S.: The Evernote client for OS X (2.2.2 beta 1) kept crashing in DP4 w/update but now it works great in the GM release.

  • joiede

    Is there another duplicate file finder you recommend? The reviews for Singular seem singularly negative.

  • boson5

    I would add some advice to this excellent list: for example, be careful to make archive backups of your Address Book and iCal data. De-activate your Mail app and let it sit on iDisk for now. While you have two OS’s around, there is always the chance that you synch the wrong way and replace your hard won data with an empty file…  Note too that iTunes only migrates files with a tick next to them.

  • alvarotvv

    Great article! Just one thing though.. SuperDuper is just as good (if not better) that Carbon Copy Cloner, and it’s got a Smart Update feature which does delta updates to your backups, so they take minutes instead of hours..

  • sebzar

    I found this replacement app for Singular called Singlemizer (… ) Found it to be very quick and accurate. It even has support for finding duplicates in your iPhoto library. I recommend downloading the free trial from their website before buying it in the App Store. It is not easy to get your money back from Apple if it turns out the App isn’t what you were looking for.

  • Dustin Wielt

    There is an easier way to check for Rosetta apps than opening each app and looking in Activity Monitor.  Just open System Profiler in the Utilities folder, click on Applications, and in the resulting list of all applications on your Mac, click on the Kind column to sort them by Kind.  Scroll down to see all of your PowerPC apps in one place.  (Bye bye AppleWorks 6!).  I also noticed that I have a few Classic apps lying around (gasp!).

  • JDWages

    Mr. Brownlee, although I too have experience using Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC), is CCC really the only “one choice” for making a bit-perfect and bootable copy of one’s hard drive?  What is the technical difference between a bootable drive copy made by CCC versus one made by Apple’s own Disk Utility (using the Restore command)?

  • keith chia

    anyone knows if time machine will do the job instead of using carbon copy cloner? if i did a time machine backup on snow leopard, can i restore it on lion later on if the upgrade fails?

  • turbofan

    Great advice.

    I’d add .. if you have thousands of pics in iPhoto, delete everything you can, close it out, then press Command-Option and re-open iPhoto and get your stuff organized first.

    Delete huge emails.

    For that matter, delete anything huge if you can  …. 

    I may be nutz, but my old Microsoft experience always learnt me to do a full power-down-wait-a-few-minutes-then-startup (not just a restart) before updating.  

  • Tim Allen

    I’ve had some persistent permission problems that refuse to go away despite my best efforts to repair them by every known means possible.  They often show up during a system update at the end stating those particular files could not be modified.

    So, I’m wondering does the Lion installer lay down new system files or is it just updating Snow Leopard, since it requires it to be already in place?  

    I’m just worried I’m going to carry these permission problems forward.

  • psimac

    Great article, but Singular’s Web site is broken (DB error) and Appfresh’s required iUseThis site won’t do anything past the registration screen.  Cult of Mac effect?

  • charlie edwards

    App Fresh is horrible.  Insert derogatory remark here!

  • Adam Jones

    This is largely a useless post!

  • Iscin

    Good article for any newbies who might otherwise experience problems when upgrading.

    +1 Cult of Mac

  • Shipeep

    When I download Lion from the Mac App Store, will I be able to do a ‘fresh’ install? That is, format the drive completely as opposed to just upgrading? Ideally I’d like to do that…

  • Rjfilter

    The easiest way to migrate to Lion is to have two partitions – one for the system and one for your user directories. Boot of an external drive and delete the system partition and do a clean install. Been doing this for years.

  • Robin Kress

    can you please explain this more in depth, where do i start? i am fairly new to this and would like to do a clean install too!

  • Les Kern

    I use MacKeeper, and I’d recommend it for it’s other uses as well. Solid app.

  • Nutz320

    I want to know this too…

  • buyrihn_the_amazing

    I was going to post the same thing—the article unfortunately says that there is “only one choice”. Super Duper is an awesome program.

  • melgross

    Not right away. You must install over 10.6.8 first. Then, if what we know is correct, Lion will create a recovery partition. It’s possible that you can then erase the first installation, and install Lion into that now empty partition.

    But this isn’t known for certain.

  • melgross

    Time Machine requires that you wipe your drive and install the OS first. Then it will replace the files it has saved. It doesn’t duplicate a drive.

    While CCC is pretty good, a better program, though one you actually have to pay for, though it’s cheap, is SuperDuper. It’s more reliable than CCC, which has had some problems over the years.

  • melgross

    SuperDuper is more reliable than CCC, which has had problems with permissions over time. It’s cheap, because as shareware, you don’t HAVE to pay the author, whereas with SuperDuper, you must. But SuperDuper is cheap enough, though I don’t remember the price offhand.

  • JDWages

    I will rephrase my original question for you now.  Why pick CCC or SuperDuper over Apple’s free Disk Utility to make a bit-perfect clone of one’s drive?  One need only use Disk Utility’s RESTORE feature to accomplish the same task, in the same amount of time or faster.  So why would the average person need CCC or SuperDuper in light of this?

  • Michael Solis

    I was just about to say something about that. Yeah, Mackeeper is a great app that will do most of the setup you’ll need to prepare for Lion. They have a great sale for the Holiday weekend and there’s a coupon code online so you can save about 20 bucks off the original price. Definitely worth $30

  • Figurative

    SuperDuper is better!!!  

  • Figurative

    And what about SuperDuper, which IMO is better than CCC.

  • melgross

    Restore isn’t the same thing as cloning a drive onto a different drive, complete with everything. It’s about restoring the OS, and any Apple provided software.

    From Apple’s site:

  • KillianBell

    Looks like it was helpful to a lot of other people.

  • JDWages

    Since Mr. Brownlee has yet to offer us a reply, one must assume he simply does not know.  Or perhaps he is merely apathetic toward reader comments.  

    But sadly, based on the utter dearth of reader replies to my query, it would appear that no one here knows what the differences are between Apple Disk Utility RESTORE vs. CCC vs. SuperDuper either.

  • JDWages

    Thank you for taking time to reply.  However, the Apple article you linked for me has nothing to do with Disk Utility’s RESTORE feature.  The article you linked for me is talking about a REINSTALL of OS X, which is very different.

    I know full well that Disk Utility’s RESTORE feature makes a perfect clone of the drive for two very good reasons:

    1) Personal experience in using it numerous times, having first been alerted to it by MacWorld magazine (I think).

    2) A couple years ago, when I called AppleCare support for problems with my Intel iMac, they told me to make a clone of my iMac’s internal drive to my firewire external.  They originally suggested I use Time Machine, but I asked about Disk Utility’s RESTORE feature, and the tech (who happened to be a senior tech at Apple BTW), said a Disk Utility Restore would accomplish the same cloning task, and in less time.

    Therefore, in full knowledge that I am by no means wrong or mistaken on this point, I seek to know why someone would select CCC or SuperDuper over a Disk Utility RESTORE?  (And yes, I have used CCC in the distant past too.)

  • Thomas ‘Brian Fantana’ Foster

    With the lack of Power PC support, what if an application show’s classic rather than intel or universal? 

  • GrimWit

    Yes, you are correct, you can make a bootable copy of your HD using Disk Utility.  Some people prefer the simplicity of an app and not having to go into Disk Utility; at least that is my guess.  The advantage of Super Duper is that you can do incremental backups to your already cloned drive which saves a lot of time.

  • GrimWit

    If you can create a bootable clone using Super Duper, CCC, or Disk Utility then you can boot from the clone and erase your HD.  Then download Lion to your clone and install it on your HD… unless something changes before the 14th.

    Also, I have used both Singlemizer and Singular and Singlemizer is the better choice.

  • GrimWit

    If you can create a bootable clone using Super Duper, CCC, or Disk Utility then you can boot from the clone and erase your HD.  Then download Lion to your clone and install it on your HD… unless something changes before the 14th.

    Also, I have used both Singlemizer and Singular and Singlemizer is the better choice.

  • Ed_Kel

    What if you don’t have an external hard drive? I really don’t have the cash to buy one and would like to upgrade anyway.. Any ideas to help minimize the risk of losing data or should I even be worried about losing data? I would think that Apple has all of their grounds covered so they can avoid another Leopard to Snow Leopard disaster…

  • brownlee

    Great tip.

  • brownlee

    You don’t have to backup your data, but you should. Otherwise, drop all of your most important files into a dropbox and hope for the best.

  • brownlee

    Thanks for all the tips guys. I’ve updated this post accordingly.

  • Timothy Lo

    Go check out the web called RoaringApps . Keeps track of all applications on whether they are compatible with Lion.

  • Bill Morlitz

    I will also miss AppleWorks 6 but all my word documents can be opened by Apple’s Pages without any formatting issues.  Now what I’m going to do about my train layout drawings which I did in AppleWorks is a whole other can of worms.

  • Grayson White

    Don’t do this OmniDiskSweeper made it so i couldn’t open any Applications! I had to reinstall the Mac OS X disk.
    PS: Check out it’s a great blog and it’s really unappreciated. 

  • joewaylo

    From what they were saying in the above post, you should first ensure you do not use any “PowerPC” based applications. The best way to find out is looking on your software box for “Universal” symboled applications or using the instructions above to find out.

    “The Universal language
    When you see the Universal symbol on Mac applications, that means they’re made to run on both Intel- and PowerPC-based Mac computers. Simply install them as usual. They’ll automatically run at peak performance for your Mac’s architecture. And, it bears repeating, if your Mac is powered by an Intel processor, that performance will be nothing less than astounding — up to 4x what is possible on PowerPC-based machines.”

    If you have Universal based applications, you should not rid your system of OS X Snow Leopard just yet. After you install Lion, you won’t be able to operate Universal applications. The editor suggested having dual boot OS systems until your system is Intel only.

  • Aaron

    My Konica/Minolta 2430DL printer driver is PowerPC-only. I hope my printer still works after the Lion update!

  • TylerHoj

    Sweet, I indeed have a PowePC app…its gone now and I never used it anyway. Never would have known that though had it not been for this post. Although I didn’t use ALL your methods because I have a lot of duplicate files I want and I’m picky about deleting things. So, all is well I reduced over 30GB’s of useless crap! And ready for the install :) 

  • Mark Peterson

    Thanks Brownlee for this post- I’ve been using quicken 2004 and microsoft office for mac 2004 and would have been very shocked and distressed to lose access to my financial books upon upgrading to Lion. Now i’ve converted to ibank and have installed openoffice. You’ve saved me huge headaches!

  • twitter-16071221

    It just looks that way. Adam’s right. Fairly useless.

  • twitter-16071221

    Correct. I’ve used CCC for this and done it dozens of times in my various OS installations.

  • Sl

    Will you still be doing a user guide on how to run a separate Snow Leopard partition? Would be great if you could!

  • bbock

    App Fresh sucks. Doesn’t work well at all. Their own App is reported as needing to be upgraded. Then it claims it is already the latest version. Stupid.

  • Keith Lucas

    MacKeeper is a nightmare.  Once installed it is almost impossible to remove. You also get locked-in to a subscription that mounts-up to way more than it is worth. BEWARE!

  • Assas

    This is going to chew up a 5th of my monthly quota.

  • mrthuse

    Save as PDFs?

  • Chris Harnish

    SuperDuper costs $27.95 and is well worth it. 

    If you ever have a problem and email its author, I have always received a reply within an astounding 30 minutes!!! Now that’s reliable service.

  • JDWages

    Actually, SuperDuper isn’t the only kid on the block who can work such magic.  Being an AppleCare owner, I received a copy TechTool Deluxe.  I recently inquired with Micromat about their $39.99 upgrade to the latest and greatest TechTool 6, which has a Cloning feature.  I asked them how it differs from the RESTORE function of Apple’s Disk Utility.  They replied to me today as follows:

    “Depending on how you use TechTool Pro’s cloning tool, it can be very similar to Disk Utility.  If you choose Duplicate Clone, TechTool calls on Disk Utility to make the block level clone, so in that case, the cloning processes are identical.  If you choose File Sync clone, the process will be similar to Super Duper’s method, in which files are synced to the chosen drive.  In the case of Disk Image cloning, the resulting file (if it was bootable to begin with) will be bootable if you use the Restore tab in Disk utility to restore the .dmg file to a disk.”

    So it would appear that TechTool Pro 6 does basically what SuperDuper does, but by paying $12 more to Micromat for TechTool Pro you also get all the disk maintenance and recovery tools too.

  • Chris Brunner

    Step 5 sucks!


  • Carlos Rincon Eckardt

    Guys where not upgrading Windows here!.. I just backup my files and fired away!

  • Mohamed Elshanshoury

    Please answer me, Is a backup necessary ?… i don’t have an external hard drive and getting one could be very hard !!  so do i 100% need a backup or is it just if something goes wrong ??

  • heeloliver

    NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO!

  • Mohamed Elshanshoury

    Is a backup necessary ?… i don’t have an external hard drive and getting one could be very hard !!  so do i 100% need a backup or is it just if something goes wrong ??

  • huyett

    Download it at an Apple store

  • loupus

    I’m in the same boat, but didn’t realize it was PPC only until I’d already upgraded.  Hmmm…it hasn’t been printing well recently anyway…

  • loupus

    I found 10.6 drivers here that appear to work: http://onyxftp.mykonicaminolta

  • Moit Miller

    Thanks so much — this was really helpful.