Nuke from Orbit: Reinstalling my Mac from scratch

Discussion in 'Apple' started by DaveF, Mar 23, 2013.

  1. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    My 2007 MacBook Pro is, obviously, long in the tooth. Going on 6 years this summer since I entered the Apple fold, it's done well. And while it's far slower than current hardware, my home needs have become very modest and the iPhone and iPad have become my latest computer upgrades. So, like my 2004 Honda Accord, I'd rather change the oil regularly and try and get 200k miles from this laptop instead of buying a new Mac right now. (And to that end, I replaced the stock 160GB drive with a 500GB two years ago, and replaced a failed fan, spending $30 instead of $1300 to replace the computer.)

    But perhaps you've experienced the cruftiness of old Windows machines? Conventional wisdom was that a Windows 95/98/XP machine needed to be wiped and reinstalled every two years, because the accumulated gunk of system upgrades and software installs and deletions, ultimatley bogged the system down to where you were better off starting fresh. I experience that and did a number of from-zero Windows reinstalls.

    The reality is, Apple computers suffer this as well, though maybe over a slower time scale. I've taken this machine from 10.4 Jaguar to 10.8 Mountain Lion over five years by install-in-place system upgrades. I've added and removed numerous apps; tried and discarded various utilities and haxies; and transitioned the computer into its third household LAN. The past year I've had a number of bit-rot problems, with settings not remaining set, chronic dropping of a USB drive and exasperating iTunes synching problems.

    I've reinstalled twice the past year, but each time I used Migration Assistant to bring all my data back from my SuperDuper! backup. For fear of losing personal data, itunes metadata, and iMovie settings, I've basically reinstalled the bitrot everytime.


    But my problems are getting worse, my annoyance with the computer increasing; but I don't want to buy a new computer right now. Stepping back and taking a breath, I concluded I had little data at risk.My personal data is in my Documents folder. Photos, music, movies -- give or take some settings -- are obviously stored in their respective media folders. iCloud now has Calendar data and bits stored online. My iphone and ipad are synched and have duplicates of the key metadata, so I should be able to synch backwards and recover everything.

    So I'm doing a nuke-from-orbit, reinstalling with Migration Assistant, and hoping heal the addled brain of my MBP, and maintain all important data and metadata.

    But what I've learned over the years is that everytime I do something like this, I wish I had a few notes from the last time to help along. So here will be a few notes for me to find and help out when I do this again in a year :)

    Maybe it will help you a little.
     
  2. HDvision

    HDvision Screenwriter

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    You need an SSD disc for the OS. Anything else will not help you improve the mac experience and get your mac a longer shelf life. SSD. Get a 256gb for like 199 bucks. Reinstall everything. You will not believe the upgrade.
     
  3. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I'd love to do that. Until now, they've been too expensive to justify putting into this computer. I'll reconsider that later this year. It would be a nice improvement. And I've found I don't need 500 GB. A 256 GB SSD would be enough.
     
  4. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Step 0: Say goodbye to the family
    This is a 12 hr process. At least. Everyone use the bathroom. 'cause we're not pulling over until we get there.
    Step 1: Operation Pessimism
    Run Time Machine
    Run SuperDuper!
    Make sure BackBlaze is up to date
    A cloned external drive backup is necessary.
    2) Make a Recovery Disk on USB (or other)
    http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1433
    (I could have also booted from the Snow Leopard DVD, or my SuperDuper! drive to access tools and wipe the drive. the USB approach worked well. I'm running Lion, which ultimately installs itself from the AppStore, by download. If you don't have broadband internet, this will be very slow.)
    3) Install media?
    I keep downloaded installation files and a text file with their registration codes in a folder in my Downloads folder.
    Installation discs (e.g. for iLife and iWork) are kept in my desk.
    And I've got a small collection of apps bought through the App Store.
    If you don't have those, life gets difficult or expensive
    4) Eject!
    Disconnect all external drives and backups except the recovery disc
    5) ReBoot
    http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1533
    Restart computer, holding down the Option key
    Select the recovery disc
    Run Disk Utility
    Take a deep breath, a stiff shot of whiskey...
    Erase the main harddrive / partition of your Mac (take care not to blow away your BootCamp partition)
    Quit Disk Utility
    6) Reinstall
    Select the reinstallation option from the Recovery Disk
    This will take a few hours
    7) Border Control
    When the option presents itself, take another drink, and choose not to use Migration Assistant (or copy anything from an external Time Machine or other drive)
    Create your normal user account. Do whatever you normally do for password and account name
    I think this is where iCloud says howdy. Sign in to that.
    7) Walk, Don't Run
    Don't run any apps yet. Don't launch iTunes. Don't bother with Mail. Just wait.
    8) App Store Updates
    Before doing anything else, run the App Store, go to updates, and run any updates. If your Recovery Disk is a version old (as mine was), you'll have another major OS update to wait through
    9) Installations
    A defining moment is before your: Money or Time
    If you've got a lot of Apple software on DVD media...you can choose to spend money and make life easier by buying / installing from the AppStore. But I'm here to be cheap, I didn't re-buy software.
    Otherwise, start with Apple's iWork and iLife first. Install those off disc.
    Then run App Store again and get all the updates for the Apple apps completed
     
  5. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    10) Rob, the Copy Man, the Copy Meister, makin' the copies
    Plug in the SuperDuper! cloned drive
    Make a New Finder window for the Mac hard drive and for the clone drive
    Navigate on both to: Macintosh/Users/Username/
    Copy the contents of your data folders from the backup to main drive.

    [*]Desktop
    [*]Documents
    [*]Downloads
    [*]Movies
    [*]Music
    [*]Pictures
    [*]Public
    [/list]
    (This is a good time to purge needless download dupes from Amazon, DVD rips you're done with, etc.)

    11) Go Dog, Go!
    Now systematically run and confirm applications are working and seeing the data

    [*]iTunes (log onto your account)
    [*]iPhoto (turn on PhotoStream)
    [*]iMovie (will have to re-generate all thumbnails)
    [*]GarageBand (this won't work unless you did the previous steps of installing from DVD and running Apple updates)
    [*]Pages
    [*]Numbers
    [*]Keynote
    [*]Contacts (restores from iCloud)
    [*]Reminders (restores from iCloud)
    [*]Notes (restores from iCloud)
    [*]iCal (restores from iCloud)
    [*]Messages
    [*]Safari
    [/list]
    12) Message in a Bottle
    I've been using Gmail the past few years, so I didn't copy Mail inboxes or settings from my backup. If you go this route, they're hidden in the Username/Library folder. You'll have to unhide it to get into the Mail data, and copy it over.

    http://www.macworld.com/article/1161156/view_library_folder_in_lion.html
    http://hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=20110704093233123

    Since I'm using Gmail with 2-step auth, I went into my user account settings and created a new application-specific password, setup IMAP account in Mail using the unique google password, and let Mail re-download all the messages for the next hour or two.

    https://accounts.google.com/b/0/IssuedAuthSubTokens

    13) Woody's Round-up
    The rest was tidying up

    [*]Install SplashID and synch to iPhone to restore its data (no idea where that data is kept in current version.)
    [*]Install Backblaze, and do the Transfer Backup option to connect it to previous backup
    [*]Connect iPhone and iPad, sync, and enable WiFi syncing again
    [*]Install printers
    [*]Setup I Love Stars app and Witch app.
    [*]Install MS Office and make sure it runs
    [*]Set Dock to Left, turn off Menu Bar Transparency, set hot corners
    [/list]
    And that's about it.

    So far, this is working noticeably better than using Migration Assistant. After a few days, I'll see if this cured the miscellaneous quirks I'd been having. If I could do this along with an SSD drive upgrade, it would be like a whole new computer.
     
  6. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Step 14: stop installing questionable 3rd party utilities that require root level access. There's 100% of your cruft issue right there.
     
  7. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Respectfully suggested, that is! ;)
     
  8. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    The offensive ones from Logitech and ManyTricks (?) are long gone :) But there are still 3rd party utilities like Witch, Connect360, Magical, and BackBlaze that are still necesssary.

    I think it's the accumulated cruft of 4 OS upgrades in place, along with a few from-backup reinstalls. Once a problem occurs, it becomes baseline, and gets re-copied in perpetuity. Jettisoning most of the Library and detritus from partially removed applications will hopefully help a lot.

    I'm hoping Apple will upgrade iLife and iWork so I have an excuse to buy those from the Apple store in a future upgrade. That will make the next system upgrade a little simpler.

    I also keep hoping Apple will relax its App Store rules, so I could find SuperDuper!, and a few others there.

    And if MS Office ever gets there...!



    Unfortunately this didn't fix the problem where my computer spontaneously renames its network connection. Overnight, it iterated the "Computer Name" (in Sharing) from David's Computer to David's Computer (10). This has been an annoyance for a while now; googling it finds others have the problem, but there's no clear solution.
     
  9. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Not surprisingly, this is causing problems with BackBlaze. I need to wipe out my online backup and start again. (It throws up a major complaint because the online and computer systems are so different. It's not a big deal since I don't rely on Backblaze as a TimeMachine-like archive. But one more detail to fuss with today.)
     
  10. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Witch is from Many Tricks, did you nuke it or not? It fundamentally changes how your OS operates, expecting that to work through an OS upgrade without leaving cruft is a bit over optimistic. And when it goes wrong you can't blame Apple or the OS for that. YOU chose to introduce it into your system.

    It's all about expectations. Apple makes it very clear that you CAN do this stuff if you really want to, but any time you give a 3rd party tool Root level access you accept all blame when things go wrong. It's a tradeoff. And one you don't get to decide on, in iOS, to many people's frustration.

    Which is why they now have an App Store version with limited but SAFE functionality.

    I'm not familiar with C360, does that get root access?
     
  11. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    At this point, I don't think it's haxies, but Apple software, that's causing my grief:

    * USB Harddrive spontaneously disconnects from Mac
    https://discussions.apple.com/thread/2516325?start=0&tstart=0

    * DVD drive spontaneously does eject mechanics (no disc inserted)
    https://discussions.apple.com/thread/1751084?start=0&tstart=0

    * iTunes won't sync iPhone and iPad

    A fourth problem seems to fixed: applications would not retain settings and had to be e.g. allowed to have internet access everytime they launched.

    It's an older computer running the latest OS. Maybe the DVD drive is failing. Seagate seems to have some known driver problems with OS X (or maybe the drive is bad). And everyone knows iTunes has serious problems.
     

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