A Completely Clean Install of Mountain Lion

26/10/2012 Off By DavidAllenWizardgold

I use my iMac everyday, it is a 27 inch model with an i5 processor and it has 16 GB of memory. It wasn’t a top of the range model with the i7 processor and all of the added extra goodies that you can get, such as an SSD drive, but all the same it is still a fairly fast machine. It came with 8 GB of RAM and I bought extra from Crucial, which is one of the best vendor’s for third-party memory. A great machine to use with Dragon Dictate.

So as part of my work as a writer, blogger and video podcaster, I comment upon being an Apple user. This requires me to try out quite a lot of different applications and I’m quite happy to install of these onto my iMac. There comes a time though, when the waters get a little bit muddy due to the use and abuse of a computer, even a Mac. I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that there isn’t any perfect software, without any bugs in it whatsoever and over time, with installing and uninstalling, a certain amount of crud builds up.

Clean install of mountain lion
During the last month I’ve experienced a few small problems with my Mac. As you would expect from us Mac users, I have been unhappy about this. We Mac users do like to have things working just right and as close to perfect as is possible. So due to the fact that there have been two kernel panics for definite and a couple of occasions where the computer has restarted itself due to unknown problems, it is time for me to do a clean install of Mountain Lion. Some people call this a nuke and pave.

Experiencing some Mac slowdowns

Aside from the kernel panics, I have already noticed that at times the computer can get a little slower than it should be. I do tend to have quite a lot of applications open at any one time, but then I do have that 16 GB of RAM that should take care of that. I have noticed that there have been problems with audio lately. Only yesterday, while I was working with Final Cut Pro X which had been working fine, there was a very annoying lag with the audio. I also had a similar problem using ScreenFlow.

Sorting out this problem with Mountain Lion and my Mac

The first part of the solution is to backup, backup again and then back up some more. There is no way that I’m going to lose any of my data or lose access to any of my favourite applications during this reinstall process. I have Time Machine running, so that is one backup. I have a separate hard drive toaster in which I have a 2 TB drive, partitioned into two drives. On one of the partitions I do a Superduper backup, usually once a week, but lately I have been doing it every two or three days. I do also have one other drive available and I will probably do another fully bootable backup clone drive on that. Talk about belts and braces.

My offsite backups and my Drobo


I have been moving the DMG installation files for any softwares that I didn’t get through the Mac App Store over to the Drobo for safekeeping. I will be able to use these to reinstall those applications. The Drobo is also becoming a repository for as much data from the main hard drive as I can possibly move across as copies. This gives me another backup source for all of the important stuff.

Another area of backup heaven is Dropbox and I do have much of my data stored within the Dropbox folder. Obviously anything that I have it within Dropbox on my computer is automatically sent to the Cloud and is therefore completely safe. I also have a couple of other accounts that do a similar thing and on top of that there is the iCloud service. So as you can see, I am pretty well covered for backups of my data and my system.

Migration Assistant versus a completely fresh and clean install

What I could do is to use the Apple Recovery Tool which is hidden away on the hard drive. The way that this works is that you boot into that recovery tool and you download a completely new install from your iCloud account. It is also possible to use a bootable install of Mountain Lion on an DS card and this is the choice that I will be making. I have already created a Mountain Lion installer on a 16 GB memory card. When I have reinstalled Mountain Lion on the computer I will then have a choice of using Migration Assistant or installing all of the applications from scratch.

Getting ready for a clean install of Mountain Lion

I think that if I use Migration Assistant, even though it is easier, there is the chance that I could also reinstall one of the problems that I’m trying to get rid of. It is for this reason that I will reinstall all of the applications one by one. This will be made easier by the fact that many of my applications that I use, I have got from the Mac App Store. There are a certain number of applications that I use all of the time and so will be installed straightaway. Then there are a number of other applications that can sit there either in the Mac App Store or as DMG files and I will put them on as I need them.

Looking forward to a faster rosy future with my iMac

I know that by doing this I will improve the way that Mac is working. This is especially the case, seeing is I have had those kernel panics over the last couple of weeks. And I will be happy again, or at least happier. To be totally happy I would be buying one of the new iMacs that was announced at the iPad mini event, with its sexy very thin design and with a Fusion Drive included. The next level of happiness would be that I could afford to buy a 256 GB SSD that I could put into a Thunderbolt converter or connector. With such a configuration, I would use the SSD drive as the bootup drive and put all of the data on the 1 TB drive still in the machine.

Caught by the limits of AppleCare

Another option that would be quite nice, would be to add an SSD internally to the iMac, as it is possible when buying a new one. I would also increase the 1 TB drive to a 2 or 3 TB drive. On account of the fact that, that would invalidate my AppleCare probably, I can’t really do that. I have wondered if I could ask the nice people at Apple to do the upgrades for me. I somehow don’t think that they would take kindly to me bringing in third-party items to put in to my iMac. That is why I have been thinking about the possibility of booting via a Thunderbolt connected SSD. I have heard that there are some people that have done this and it works pretty well. Seagate have a Thunderbolt type of connector that can be used.

Further Upgrades in two years time

So the long-term plan is to wait until the AppleCare has expired, by which time I will have had this computer for three years. I doubt if I will have the cash to go out and buy a new one, so the plan will be to breathe new life into this iMac. In two years time there will be SSD drives that will be cheaper that I can install into the iMac for extremely fast bootup times and the 1 TB drive can also be replaced with something larger. It may even be like having a new computer.

Saving for a new computer

One of my Mac friends on Twitter says for a new computer by buying herself gift cards. Wyld_Celtica_V is the name that she goes by and I am really impressed by her planning and financial savvy. In these difficult financial times, it is really not a good idea to max out credit cards. If you put cash aside, either into the mattress or into a separate bank account, then that money will get used by other things as they come up. So by buying gift cards, basically what you are doing is to ring fence a specific amount of money for the next Mac. If you have a regular income, what you could do is to decide how long you are going to save for and then do some working out about the amount to spend on a gift card per month. This is a genius plan!

I could have saved myself some time

I have had to spend this morning going through all of my applications one by one to make sure that I had the serial numbers and the licences where I could get at them. It has been a time-consuming operation and I’m not quite finished yet. I have now promised myself that any time I get new software that is not from the Mac App Store I will use the application Appshelf to record all of the relevant details as it happens. So for example, today I upgraded to ScreenFlow version 4 and this came with a new serial number. I have already entered all of the necessary information into Appshelf. My preference is to buy the apps from the Mac App Store where possible as this is the easiest way to take care of the apps that I use. Some people like to use the application 1Password to record all of their serial numbers and licenses and this is also a very good plan.

Here I go, into the abyss, wish me luck

When you have to do a complete reinstall like this, it can seem quite scary. Just so long as you have taken all of the steps to protect your data, then there is no reason why you should not do something like this with confidence. I have the backups, I have the information – Just let me at it! I will write another post about how I get on with the process of doing the Mountain Lion clean install when I come out of the other side.