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Introduction. A common concern of Mac video users is how to quickly reinstall Mac OS X and associated applications while preserving settings, documents, and other important data. If a boot drive is failing, or the OS or applications don’t work reliably, many users understandably resist a clean install.

The approach is perceived as taking too much time, and there are fears that data will be lost. Instead, many users elect a Time Machine backup, Migration Assistant transfer, Archive and Install, or Finder copy to correct the problem. None of these reinstall strategies are “best practices” in a professional environment.

Too often these strategies compound rather than correct the problem. If, however, if you have prepared in advance, the task is significantly easier for the initial reinstall and any other time you need to get things working again.

This multi-part tutorial suggests a long term strategy designed to produce a problem-free install, and a quick reinstall if problems should arise again — with the proviso that you spend a one time spare afternoon preparing the necessary files and materials. The strategy is intended to produce long term results and far less down time.


What You Need:

  1. A spare external FW USB drive big enough to hold your OS X and application install discs, and copies of all files that you use regularly, including Mail, Photos, Movies, Music Address Book databases, serial numbers, and any other information you require — essentially what you use daily.
  2. A cloning utility such as the shareware app Carbon Copy Cloner, or commercial application SuperDuper.
  3. A pdf or text file containing the serial numbers of all your applications and plug-ins.
  4. Your Mac OS X install DVD.
  5. A spare afternoon – a one time requirement.

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This is part one of a multi-part tutorial that suggests a long term strategy designed to produce a problem-free install, and a quick reinstall if problems should arise again — with the proviso that you spend a one time spare afternoon preparing the necessary files and materials. The strategy is intended to produce long term results and far less down time.

What you’ll need:

OS X install DVD – Tiger, Leopard, or Snow Leopard retail disc.

USB2 or FW drive large enough to hold disc images for all applications, and important data on your boot drive. Note USB drives are only bootable on Intel Macs.

This lesson will take about two hours.

DVD drive.

Locate your retail install disc for Leopard or Snow Leopard and mount it on your desktop. Then open Disc Utility, which is located in Applications/Utilities and launch it. You will be presented with the following screen.

Click on the MacOS X Install DVD listing on the left side of the Disk Utility, and then click on the New Image icon on the top of the box. In the Save As box, name the image you are saving as “SnowLeopardInstall,” or something similar, and keep all settings the same as shown here. “Save as” the image to your desktop.

A progress bar appears as the image is being copied as a dmg image file to your desktop. The process should take about10 to 15 minutes depending on how fast your DVD drive is, and the size of the image. Snow Leopard install discs, for example are about six gigabytes.

Once the image is created, eject the retail install DVD. There should be a volume icon on your desktop called “SnowLeopardInstall.dmg.”

The next step is mount your USB2 or Firewire hard disk drive on your desktop. One consideration that is critical here is the size of this drive, because it will hold not only the OS X install DVD image, but disc images of all your application installs, and any critical files that you use daily including iTunes, photos, address book backups, Mail, etc. A 150GB drive should cover most installs, but a 250GB or larger HDD is optimal. A bus powered Firewire 500GB drive is recommended and should cost approximately $100.00, or a USB2 drive bus or externally powered will also work well. Remember that only an Intel Mac will boot from a USB2 install HDD.

In Disk Utility, locate the proposed install HDD in the left volume pane, and then click on the partition button at the top of the Disk Utility box. In the Volume Scheme drop down menu, choose 1 Partition – Format: Mac OS Extended (Journaled). The screen should like like this:

Click on the Options Button, and elect GUID Partition Table, and then click on the Okay button. Then click on Apply and allow the drive to be formatted. You may need to rename it anything wish, but I designed it as “One Install HD.”

Next, select the HDD drive name on the left page (One Install HD)and click on the Restore Tab on the upper right size of the Disk Utility. All the remaining settings should look like this:

Then click in Image Button below the Restore Tab and select the “SnowLeopardInstall.dmg.” on your desktop in the open dialog box that appears.

Click on the Okay button and this is what you should see.

Next select the One Install HD drive icon (or whatever you have named it) on the left side of the Disk Utility and Drag it into the elongated box to the right of the word Destination. Everything should look like this:

Click on the Restore Button, and the HDD will be transformed into a bootable external HDD. It should take about ten to fifteen minutes.

Once completed, a new volume will appear on your desktop and the following screen will be presented — exactly like your Leopard or Snow Leopard Install DVD.

Test what you have created by going to your System Preferences/Startup Options to confirm that your Firewire or USB2 drive is an boot option. It should appear as an option. Then quit the installer, and wait for Part 2, coming soon.


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Introduction. We saw in part one of this multi-part series the procedure for creating a bootable USB2/Firewire hard disc drive containing the OS X installers.  That tutorial can be accessed here or here.  In this installment, we will utilize a similar procedure to create DMG images of your application install DVD/CDs.

Although this task takes several hours to complete, significant time and effort will be saved whenever you need to reinstall your operating system, restore important data files, and critical applications.  No technical knowledge is required.  If you know how to swap DVD and CD install discs, and click on two buttons in the Disc Utility, you’ll have no problems.  The process won’t interfere with other work that must be done.  Check email, and do web research or other tasks as the process occurs.  Just compute how long it takes to create the first DMG image from an install DVD, and use that to gauge when the next disc must be inserted.

This process embraces a long term strategy designed to produce a problem-free install, and a quick reinstall if problems should arise with an application or the operating system in the future.  It follows the premise that an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.   You will be rewarded with far less down time, because a clean reinstall can be accomplished quickly and efficiently using the OS X, applications, and data installer you have created once.

What you’ll need:

  1. The install DVDs and CDs for your critical applications.
  2. The serial numbers for those applications.
  3. The USB2 or Firewire boot drive you created in part one.  As you remember, it should be large enough to hold disc images for the applications, and important data and files on your boot drive.
  4. An internal or external DVD drive.
  5. A clean, soft, dry cloth to clean the data side of the application install discs.  Alternative, a commercial available disc cleaning solution.

The tasks detailed by the tutorial will take about two or three hours to complete depending on the size and number of install discs, and speed of your DVD drive.

The first step is to assemble your application install discs.

This graphic represents a sampling of the DVD install discs from the Adobe Production Bundle, and Final Cut Studio 3 (2009).  Identify and assemble the install discs for the applications you regularly use.  Additionally, I set aside discs for iWork and iLife ’09, other commercial discs, and any purchased applications I downloaded from the internet.  They included Fotomagico 3, Kinemac, PhotoZoomPro2, and various video related programs.  Make it a practice to save the installer packages to your hard drive for any internet purchases.  This dispenses with having to create a DMG of those installers.

Store All Serial Numbers. Develop a “best practices” of saving the serial number of each application you purchase.  Copy that serial number to a master text or word document immediately and then update that document for each new serial number you obtain.  Then export the document as a password protected pdf document to enable quick and secure retrieval of the serial numbers when installing your applications.  The document can include log-in passwords as well, and is used to quickly serialize your applications during the reinstall process.  This has worked for me, but you are free to develop your own procedure.

Properly Store and Clean Your Discs. Carefully store your original install discs.  Damaged or dirty discs result in read/write errors and could lead to disc failures.  Avoid  touching the writeable or data side of the CD/DVD.  Always hold your CD/DVD by its center hole or by the outer edges.  Keep your discs out of direct sunlight, away from heat and anything that may scratch on the discs.  Always clean dust with a soft cloth or use a CD/DVD cleaning kit.  Store all discs vertically and in a dust free box.

The Long and Winding Encode. Once the clean install discs are assembled, mount the first Final Cut Studio install disc from your DVD drive, and launch the Disc Utility from the Utilities folder.

Create a disc image of the first install disc by selecting the installer disc image in the lower left side of the disc utility, and then clicking on the “new image” button in the upper middle of the disc utility.  In the resulting dialog box, rename the disc if you want, or accept the default name.  I usually append a number to identify the disc.  I then save it to a folder on my HDD that corresponds with the program/suite I will eventually install.

The burn process proceeds as the disc utility creates a DMG image of install disc.

When the process is completed, eject the first DVD installer disc and repeat the process for the remaining discs of each application and suite.  When completed, your disc Final Cut Studio (2009) disc image installer folder should look like this:

The Process Completed and Organizing Your Install Discs. Remember to maintain separate folders for each suite and downloaded applications you have.   When the process for all discs is finished, copy the folders containing the DMG images and the pdf file of serial numbers to the Firewire or USB HDD we created in part one of this series.  Put them at the root level of the drive, and they should copy without incident so long as the drive has sufficient space — an issue we addressed in part one of this series.

Final Thoughts.  The utility and importance of this process is immense.   One afternoon of inconvenience will provide a foolproof, effective and reasonablly quick reinstall of your boot drive complete with applications, data, and settings.  The process simultaneously creates backup images of application install discs, guarantees their safekeeping, centralizes your serial numbers, and maintains a repository of your important data.  We’ll address backing up your important data files and settings in a future installment.

Part III coming soon.


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In the first two parts to this series we detailed how to create a bootable Mac OS X install hard drive, and include disc images of pro apps installer DVDs and other programs on it. In part three, we identify a user’s data files, custom files and presets, and folders that should be copied to the bootable installer/content hard drive. The process to complete a clean install of your boot drive will be greatly simplified if all data files, presets, and folders are identified and copied early on. Remember to clone your boot drive using an application such as Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper before attempting these tutorials. This step will preserve all your important data if an error occurs, and provide a restorable clone image. But before we begin, a little housekeeping is necessary.

1. Scan Image For Restore Alert. Several readers have reported a Disk Utility alert message when trying to restore the MacOS X installer disc image to the bootable hard drive created in part one. Introduce the following step after the OSX installer disc image is created, but before you try to restore it to your bootable hard drive. Select the OS X installer disc image in the list of disks and volumes.

Then choose Images > “Scan Image for Restore” from the Disk Utility menu. Let the process complete.

Then, continue with the restore process.

2. Confirm That Your Bootable HDD Is Large Enough to Store Installer Images and Content. This essential decision earlier in the process is revisited here due to some reader inquiries. Carefully gauge how big a drive you’ll need to store OSX and application install DVD images, and data and content before commencing the process. For many, 150 GB drive should be sufficient, but each user’s needs will vary. If you have a sizable number of movies, photos, user content, and data files and documents, consider a higher capacity drive up to 500 GBs or more. Choose the best drive and enclosure you can afford.  The iStoragePro Pocket 2.5 inch drive (iT1PKT) is a good choice for many given its form factor, triple connection interface, and decent pricing.  The drive is enclosed in a 2.5-inch enclosure, is bus-powered, fast, and includes an on/off switch, two FW800, and one USB2 ports, power and connection cables and is offered in 250GB to 500GB capacities. iStorage offers special NAB2010 pricing until the end of April. E mail the company to secure the pricing.

3. Identify Which Applications Must Be De-authorized or De-activated. Some companies require internet access to activate/authorize or deactivate applications. Adobe is one example for its recent CS series of applications. To reinstall and use the applications on a new hard drive or computer, they must be first deactivate or deauthorized on the old drive or computer. This is usually done by launching the app, and choosing the “deactivate” command from the help menu.

Carefully identify all software and application that  require deactivation before attempting a clean install.  The Final Cut Studio suite does not require activation, but the user should log which applications and software must be deactivated. A little research and diligence here will save time and inconvenience in the long run.  For example, both Kinemac and HD Log are tied to your computer and must be deactivated.

4. Locate Personal Data Files, Folders and User Presets, and Copy Them To Your HDD. Data files and folders are usually located in in the User folder under Documents, Photos, Music, Movies, and Application Support. This include iTunes Libraries, and iPhoto and Aperture folders in the Pictures folder, Word or Pages files in the Documents folder, and video in the Movies folder. Other important data may be scattered on your hard drive, or saved to the Desktop. It is incumbent that the user identify the location of these files and to copy them the bootable HDD.

5. Copy Essential Settings and Files. In addition, there are several user defined preferences and back up or archive files that should be copied. These include the Safari bookmarks.plist in the User/Library/Safari folder, the entire Mail folder, and the Mobile Sync and SyncData folders in the User/Library/Application Support. Open Address Book, and export an archive of its entire database. Do the same for iCal. The point being is that each of these applications handle file archives/backup files differently, and it is important for the user to identify the process for backups.

6. Comb Your Hard Drive For Other Essential Data, Custom Files and User Created Templates and Presets. If you’ve created custom Motion, Pages, Numbers, or Keynote templates, locate them in the appropriate User/Library/Application Support folder, and copy those preset to your bootable HDD. Copy any important, essential, often used, or otherwise critical data file or folder to the new drive and note where it was located on the old drive.

Summing Up. This exercise enables the user to identify important files, and evaluate how organized workflow has been on the previous drive. The process will established where each application saves data files, how presets are created and stored, and where important data is accessed. Learn how to save your data data files efficiently and effectively. Data saving procedures are the functional equivalent of organizing folders in file cabinets. They are only as good as the organizational procedure and structure you’ve established. Elect a makeshift approach, and important data may be missed. However, the clone strategy provides a fail safe backup. Any missed files, custom presets, or other data reside on the cloned copy of the boot drive that was created when the process began.