Upgrading to OS X Lion

OS X Lion is finally out, and I’m sure many Mac users out there plan to upgrade. I’m currently in the processing of reformatting my MacBook Air for it, and here are the steps I’ve took to prepare for it. For those who wonder about the features and if Lion is for you, check out my previous post about Lion. I will however be writing a new post about using Lion soon, so keep a lookout for it.


Step 1: Check your system

You’d want to make sure that you system is able to run OS X Lion. On your desktop, go to the Apple icon on the top left.


When the menu appears, select About This Mac


A window will pop up, and you’d see the following:

About this Mac Annotated

Check that your OS is version 10.6.8 (the latest), that your processor is minimally a Intel Core 2 Duo (if you see i3, i5 or i7 you’d fine too), and that you have minimally 2 GB of memory. If your OS does not show the numbers 10.6.8, click on the Software Update… button and follow the instructions. If you are running 10.5 and below, meaning OS X Leopard and before, I’m afraid OS X Lion is not for you; you’d need to update to OS X Snow Leopard before upgrading to Lion.

Step 2: Backup

Assuming that your system is good to go, you’d want to backup your data. Personally, I keep most of my files in Dropbox* so I don’t have any files I’d need to backup on my MacBook Air. However, it’s good to check your Documents, Downloads ,Movies, Music and Pictures folders just to make sure you didn’t miss out anything.

On my iMac, I have music and videos that are not in Dropbox, as well as files on the Desktop. What I did was to run Time Machine on my iMac, and also did a copy of all my files onto a portable harddisk.

Step 3: Make a list of applications you’re using and prepare them

Next, I went to my Applications folder and made a physical list of the applications I have installed. This is also a good time to evaluate if you need those apps, and skip the installation if you are not using them anymore. Applications that are bought through Mac App Store can be ignored since you can easily install them later; what you need to take note are those bought elsewhere. Make sure that you have the license codes written down, and download the new installation files (not necessary now) or dig up those discs.

If you need a particular application and you don’t have the installation disc/file, you might just want to stick to your current OS unless you are prepared (and able) to get a new copy of the app.

Step 4: Reformat (optional)

This is not a necessary step, but it’s a step I do nonetheless because I like to use this time of upgrading to be also a time of stocktake and refresh. Hence I’d reformat my computer to wipe out all old data and with it bad system files and maybe viruses. To do that, you’d need a copy of OS X Snow Leopard (since you’d need it anyway to upgrade to Lion). To learn about formatting your Mac, refer to the later section of this post. After reformatting, remember to run Software Update.

Step 5: Purchase OS X Lion from the Mac App Store

Here’s where it gets fun. Run the Mac App Store, and purchase Lion. Everything else is pretty straightforward from there.

Step 6: Enjoy

Need I say more? Enjoy the new OS!


Reformatting your Mac

Note: you might want to print this out or make sure you have these set of instructions on a separate machine before proceeding; you won’t be able to access this on the machine you’re reformatting!

Step 1: Insert disc/flash drive

My MacBook Air comes with OS X Snow Leopard in a flash drive, and as an aside, I must say it’s a beautiful piece of engineering. Anyway, if you intend to reformat a DVD-driveless machine like the Air, make sure you have an external DVD drive or the OS on a flash drive; running it over Remote Disc is not doing to work.

Step 2: Restart your Mac (automatic)

Select Install Mac OS X and you’d then be prompted to restart your computer.

Step 3: Choose your language

When your computer boots up from restart, you’d be prompted to choose a language. After that, you’d be at the Install Mac OS X page. Here, do not click Continue. Instead…

Step 4: Choose Utilities > Disk Utility from the toolbar at the top

Step 5: Choose the main drive and format it

After entering Disk Utility, you’d notice a list of drives on the left. Select the topmost one (the one above Mac OS X — or something similar) and then select the Erase tab on the right (by default, you’d see the First Aid tab selected; Erase is on the right). Format should be Mac OS Extended (Journaled), and the Name should be something useful, like OS X. Of course, you could put some weird name but remember that this is the drive where your OS resides. After you are done, click Erase.

As an aside, my MacBook Air with 40 GB used only took like the time of the above sentence to be erased. Amazing.

Step 6: Quit Disk Utility

Step 7: At the Install Mac OS X screen, click continue and follow instructions

Step 8: After installation, run Software Update until your OS is at version 10.6.8

Step 9: Continue with Step 5 of installing OS X Lion


*You can check out my previous post about what Dropbox is, and how I use it here.

Further Readings

Cult of Mac: How To Upgrade Your Mac To OS X Lion… The Right Way

Revert To Saved: Mac OS X users: clone your Macs before installing Lion

Cult of Mac: If You Want To Migrate From Snow Leopard To Lion Tomorrow, You Need This Update

PCWorld: Get Your Mac Ready for OS X Lion Installation

Daring Fireball (John Gruber): I Believe in Murphy’s Law (on backups)


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