The right way to switch your OS

As part of our transitioning the facility over to Avid Media Composer 6 for broadcast work, we’re also transitioning our Mac Pros from Mac OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) to OS 10.7 (Lion).   My original plan was to simply wait for OS 10.8 (Mountain Lion) to come out this summer, but as MC6 was designed to run in Lion and some drivers we’re about to install require Lion, it made sense to go ahead and upgrade everything now.

When transitioning from one OS to another, the worst thing you can do with your professional creative workstation is to simply Upgrade your OS.   That is, allow the OS software to simply overwrite the existing OS.   This usually results in a lot of instability because it’s not a clean install, there is a lot of deleting / overwriting / deleting / overwriting and so on.   Professional applications run their best when they are simply installed cleanly into the OS.    There’s also a lot to be said for a perfectly stable operating computer system.

So here’s how we do our upgrades on our Mac Pros.

1 – Install a fresh hard drive inside the computer and format it with the name Macintosh HD LION.

2 – Install Mac OS 10.7 to that fresh hard drive.

3 – Re-install all pertinent software onto the Mac OS 10.7 hard drive.

4 – Leave the original Mac OS 10.6.8 Snow Leopard drive alone.   If we need to run anything off that hard drive, we simply re-boot the computer to that drive.

Here’s how it looks on the desktop, these are three physical drives inside the computer.   The topmost drive is always the one we booted off of, so we even know at a glance which OS we’re running.

The Aux drive is where we keep graphical elements and such.    So now what we’re going to do is essentially “freeze” our Final Cut Pro 7 system on the SnowLeopard HD.   We will NOT be installing FCP 7 on the Lion drive because there’s really no reason to.  It’s not going to run that much faster and we’re not going to be using it much at all moving forward, so why bother installing it on the Lion drive?   Anytime we need to run that software, we simply reboot to the Snow Leopard HD.

Now if you’re running a laptop or an iMac, you could make a Disc Image of your Snow Leopard drive to an external drive for safe keeping.   Then if you need to reboot in Snow Leopard you can simply boot off the external drive.  However you do the OS switch, always do a clean install of the OS and then install all of your software fresh onto that hard drive.

Oh and if you’ve not upgraded to Mac OS 10.7 Lion yet, you should be aware that the installer will self destruct after installation is completed.   And it’s a 4 GB file download.   So if you ever need to install it again, you’ll need to download it again.  All 4 GB.   If you’d like to keep a copy of the installer around, follow these instructions on Cult of Mac.

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