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Summary:

The wait is over. Lion is here. But are you (and your Mac) prepared? Here are five things you need to really, really need to do before you upgrade to Mac OS 10.7 (and links on how to do them).

snow-leopard-lion

So you think you are ready to install Lion on your Mac. You’ve watched the keynote, been following the complete upgrade path for some time now, and have been anxiously awaiting the release ever since you heard that OS X Lion is finally shipping in July. But are you really ready? To help you make sure you’re fully prepared for the upgrade, we’ve created this checklist, along with links to our recent how-to articles.

1. Make sure your Mac can handle the upgrade

Not all Macs can tame a Lion. Your Mac must have an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor to run Lion. If you’re not certain that your Mac meets these specs, you can easily identify exactly what mac you have and get the specs from there.

2. Upgrade your existing Mac’s hardware (optional)

Now that you know that your Mac has the processing power needed for Lion, consider adding memory to your Mac to improve the performance. You’ll probably want at least 4 GB total RAM.

To take the best advantage of the quick boot time in Lion, you may want to upgrade your Mac’s boot drive to a solid state drive.

If you have a desktop computer, you will probably want a Magic Trackpad. OS X Lion supports gestures, and the Trackpad fully enables you to take advantage of these new features throughout the OS. It is also a good idea to have an extra external hard drive to make a backup of your current OS X Snow Leopard instance to (this is especially helpful if you need to keep running old apps in Snow Leopard, more on this below). You can use this as a bootable clone drive for recovery in case something goes wrong.

3. Prepare your existing Mac software for the upgrade

Most of this, you should be doing already as routine maintenance to keep things running smoothly. Just in case you have let your maintenance go, there are some things that you will want to do to prepare for the upgrade.

The biggest challenge for some may be to ensure that you have at least 10GB of free space on the drive you plan to upgrade.  Keep in mind that the installer itself is over 4GB itself.  There are plenty of utilities out there that can help you clean off your hard drive and free up some space if you need too.  One final thing to consider is turning off File Vault if you have it enabled, as Lion has made significant updates in this area that you will want to take full advantage of.

4. Make a plan for the apps that won’t run with Lion

You may have heard that not all existing Snow Leopard Apps will run on OS X Lion.  But will yours? The easiest way to check is to go to the Apple Menu then About This Mac, click on “More Info…”, and highlight the “Applications” category located under Software.  Sort the list by kind and look for anything labeled PowerPC.  There are even web sites that are tracking the compatibility of Apps that run with Lion.  You can look for alternatives, but if you have certain Apps that are not following in Lion’s footsteps, there are at least three ways to keep running your apps running with Lion installed.  It is also a good idea to take the time to see if any of the third-party purchases you rely on have updates specific to Lion prior to installing the update.

5. Locate a fast network connection for downloading

Operating system upgrades are not small.  And having to upgrade OS X through the App Store over the internet may be sign of changing times.  But if your network connection is not up to the task, or you have a bandwidth cap that you do not want to surpass, then perhaps finding an laternat download location is something you need to do.  If you are near an Apple Retail Store, it may be quicker to plan a visit just to download Lion. (Our colleague Kevin Tofel even downloaded Lion over a 4G connection.)

And that’s it.  Five tasks to ensure that your upgrade will be as painless as possible (assuming of course you don’t think the steps themselves are all too painful).  There is one alternate path you can take to Lion that renders all of this preparation unnecessary.  Buy a new Mac with OS X Lion already installed.

  1. David Crellen Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Would an install of Snow Leopard as an instance in VMware Fusion allow running apps not compatible with Lion work?

    1. Almost, running a version of OS X Snow Leopard Server in a virtual machine was one of Dave Greenbaum’s three solutions outlined in the following article: http://gigaom.com/apple/three-ways-to-keep-running-your-rosetta-apps-with-lion-installed/

  2. Question: any way to switch the order of the full screen apps once they’re launched? Or do I have to close and reopen them in the order I want them to appear when I swipe from full screen app to full screen app?

  3. How to upgrade from 10.5.8 to Lion? Is Apple selling a pack for this config? Or do i have to first buy a pack for Snow Leopard and then Lion?

  4. I’ve never understood the focus on boot time in hardware or software reviews — especially for Macs. The average uptime on my laptop is 60 days. If I stop working, I put it to sleep, I don’t shut it down. If I’m travelling, same thing. Why would you ever shut it down, unless a software update required it (and most don’t)?

    1. If I remember correctly, it’s a legacy bullet point from comparisons against Windows and Linux. For a long time, Linux was perceived as the slowest to boot, because it showed you everything it was doing during the boot process, whereas Windows (and the Mac) hid all that console verbiage behind pretty graphics. That got fixed for most Linuxes at about the time Vista shipped. Suddenly, people started noticing how long it took Vista to get to the point where you could do anything useful (boot Vista, start Word, open new document, start typing). ISTR one of the early “I’m a Mac” commercials making a big deal about that. The fact that most Mac users (and Win7 users) sleep or hibernate their systems instead of shutting down is courtesy of new reliable software that the “popular image” of “using a computer” hasn’t caught up with. (And if Apple had shown sleeping and waking up a Mac vs. shutting down and starting Vista, they would have been, rightly, yelled at for comparing Apples and lemons.)

  5. chris meredith Monday, July 25, 2011

    also Make sure your Drivers can handle the upgrade. I have a e-sata raid that I cannot access since the upgrade to 10.7, I have downgraded to 10.6.8 since then as Silicon Image has no timeline on the new driver

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