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.