How-To: Upgrade to Leopard


Leopard BoxThere are some things you can do prior to installing that I sometimes recommend. Many of these things are not guaranteed to work (and some people actually say will do more harm than good). I, for one, don’t see an issue with the basics that some recommend: Start by repairing permissions: either run Disk Utility from your hard disk while in OS X, or do so from the Tiger DVD. Make sure you are currently at Tiger 10.4.10 (as of this writing, 10.4.10 is the latest public version, with .11 on the way).


Like with any other OS upgrade, you’ll want to back up all of your data (duh). The trick I used for my system upgrades/moves previously, and with the Leopard beta, was to run an exact copy to a Firewire disk using SuperDuper. SuperDuper is nice because you can at least make an exact copy of your disk that works well in the demo mode. To get advanced features, you have to buy a license. SuperDuper will also take careful looks at system files, Spotlight info, etc., and is good about copying the correct data while leaving system-specific files behind.

I’m typing this on my new MacBook Pro, where I’ve used the Migration tool to safely move from my “backup” Firewire drive. Leopard continues the Migration Assistant, and even improves on it, so unless we hear reports that it no longer works, you can most likely safely migrate from a Firewire backup made with SuperDuper. This works well even when moving between PPC and Intel Macs. I mainly recommend this strategy, even though Leopard asks you to back up prior installing. The reason being, Leopard’s backup uses Time Machine, which right now, I’m not sure would work with pre-Leopard copies of OS X. If for some reason, you need to bail out, and are stuck on Tiger, this is the safest bet.

At this point, with your backup safely in your hand, and everything updated, you can go ahead and stick in the Leopard DVD, and follow the instructions to reboot and start the process. Here’s where you can vary:

1. Some folks say it’s okay to simply do an “upgrade” install over a previous version. Usually, Apple does a fairly good job at keeping their installs clean and stable (unlike a certain other OS maker – ahem). With Leopard, however, we’re seeing some major changes to core files, and the introduction of dozens of new frameworks, so this may be a case in which it’s wise to not do a straight upgrade.

2. The next option – if you didn’t use SuperDuper to make a good backup earlier – is to do the old-fashioned “Archive and Install”. I’ve used this in the past, and it’s actually very useful in recent versions of OS X, where you can use the Migration Assistant on your rebooted fresh install to copy the files you want back over from your old archived copy of OS X. Fair warning, though: you’re going to need enough free space (read: a huge hard drive) to handle a copy of all of the data currently on your drive.

3. If you already have a backup (courtesy of SuperDuper), you can do a clean install of OS X. This is also known as “Erase and Install”, and does as it says – it wipes your drive clean before loading a standard new install of the OS. It, like the archive and install option, will provide the Migration Assistant, so you can get all of your data back from the Firewire disk.

Sure, you can use a second hard drive in your Mac Pro, but everybody knows you’ve already filled that up with your illegal downloads of the last few seasons of “Lost” and “Star Trek: Voyager”, right? It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone.

The Easy Part: The actual install

After you select the type of install you want, you’ll be asked a few other easy-to-answer questions, and you’ll be guided through the rest of the process before it just copies the files. After that, you’ll restart the computer, and you may or may not need to run through the Migration Assistant before you can be on your merry way, enjoying your new copy of Leopard with all of your old stuff still intact.

Make an updated backup

Once you’re confident with your Leopard install, you can erase that Firewire drive, and activate Time Machine. Unfortunately, as I was writing this, MacRumors discovered that Apple may have pulled the feature allowing Time Machine backups to Airport hard disks. I guess we’re back to plugging in the drive the old-fashioned way.



I have a powerbook G4 and am going to upgrade to Leopard. I am worried that my Microsoft won’t transfer, Itunes and all my photo’s. There are programs that I wouldn’t mind losing that I have added over the years. Should I use the upgrade option or clean and install? I also don’t have an external back up source. I recently purchased a time capsule and thats why I am upgrading to get time machine. Suggestions?


I do not write Good English When I got my first PC in 98 it was windows and I spent 4 years fixing the crap, eventually my wife left me but she let me buy iBk G4 before so I happy to be with Mac but sometimes its the crap on the web that gets me. experiment and adapt.


It seems to me most of you have varying degrees of experience with Tiger to Leopard migration I up-gaded from Panther to Tiger on IBk G4 14 inch and have very little problems in fact better than my iBkG 4 12 inch Tiger to Leopard there are dis and advantages to both stability and speed Tiger is the best still but Computering progress is falling over itself we users can not keep up, since 2003 I have iBk G4 14 and in 2006 iBk G4 12 in 2009 , a 2007 Generation Macbook Tiger to snow leopard and now Pro so we are into the 64 bit era will making all obsolete sometimes progress is a step to far ,Panther to Leopard upgrade what can we say?


I’m about to upgrade to Tiger and then to Leopard from my G5 machine with Panther, wish me good luck!!!

The good thing is that I don’t need anything from what I have now, so I’ll try “Erase & Install”

Any advise?


I have a similar problem. When you read and follow the installation guide it takes you the simple route, BUT, with a difference on my computer it wont allow me to install. I need to go click options and when I do that it tells me that I have to erase all data.
I just want to UPGRADE NOT ERASE from 10.3.9 to Leopard.

What do I do about this? Any suggestions?


i have the macbookg4 running , panther 10.3.9i bought the discs leoprard 10.5.2but when i try to install leopard i get the error:Mac OSX cannot be installed on this computer?can anyone help me ?im newbie to mac


I downgraded my Macbook from Leopard to Tiger so that I could run Pro Tools. Now I’ve upgraded back to Leopard, with a full back up – I thought – to an external hard drive. But now I can’t open Mail – not on the Mac and not from the external hard drive. Where has it gone? Have I lost all my folders? I’m without email, and without very precious emails and documents saved to the email Folders. Completely panicked.


I just upgraded to Leopard 10.5.4 from OS X 10.3.9. I love Leopard and most things appear fine after the installation, except Safari and Software Update, both say they cannot connect to the server. My internet appears fine, works for email and Firefox works just fine. What can I do?


Hi Jenelle,
Given my experience I’d say – Don’t do it! It lets you upgrade but things don’t run properly afterwards and the response from the apple store is you shouldn’t really do it. Either upgrade to Tiger and then to Leopard. If you still have 10k plus of free space you might be able to do an archive and install.

I ended up going into the store and my 40 minute (double length session) with a genius extended to kicking out time (4 hours) and I carried on working to 2am at home…

On an already upgradeed machine I did (with the good support of the genius) an archive and install. It’s effectively a clean install which backs up your old system to a directory.
In theory it restores your account basics afterwarsd and you can put the rest back. In my case however it failed to restore things, and just did a clean install and I had to create a new account adn manually pull thingns back (which has been tricky but is working.) In the end the system is at least running in a usable manner.

So basically do what you can to get a backup device. If you can borrow one off a friend, if you find the money to buy one, being able to save all your files somewhere safe and install from scratch will give you a far better system all round. Yes you’ll have to restore things but better to do that in a controlled way when you expect to have to (most of your settings are in ~username/Library/Applications and are plist files, or you can reconfigure setups from scratch adn just use the backup for all your piccies.

Oh and don’t expect iCal to be the same if you use it much.

It’s had a rewrite which has stripped out 80% of it’s functionality and usability as a time management tool and left it as a weak and incapable calendar. I expect we’re going to be sold a useful time management tool separately any day now.

Best of luck with your ibook, and do find a way around upgrade (and make sure you have the memory too..

(still fixing her system from the double upgrade and I used to work in unix tech support at top level some years ago)

Jenelle Ferreira

I have an ibook G4 and I’m looking to upgrade my OSX 10.3 to Leopard. Is this possible? Also I don’t have any way of backing up all my files. I have over a thousand wedding photos that I won’t to keep. I am not very mac savy. Do you know if the people at the apple store would be able to do the upgrade? Thank you


well, I so wish I’d found this first.
i just upgraded my ibook g4 from 10.3.9 to 10.5
I think it was a bit much for it.
thankfully i got backsups (with backup) and just transfered a whole bunch of stuff to a firelite disk i have first (partly to create enough space). 9g it said it needed, I cleared 10 and it filled it.
It looked like it was going okay until I opened iCal (which my life is basically run around – with a whole load of different calendars. I was really looking forward to being able to put them in groups and make life simpler.

It’s certainly simpler… I’ve only got about a third of my calendars left.
Before I manually create a new calendar in the shiny new ical from the backup which i have restored to a spare folder – is this a known problem with a known get around?

also where do you change the colour of a calendar in the new ical – I may just be over stressed and overlooking it, but the fact it’s rearranged all the calendars to various colours, none what they were before is making it even harder to identify which ones are missing (all of the work ones with my bookings for the next few months are definitely missing of course. …

with gratitude to anyone who can help…



to will, #32, You will have to buy another copy of leopard to get a new Key. However, if you feel like being sneaky you might want to try and call apple and tell them that you lost your key but you have a disk. They may charge you 15 bucks, but that is cheap for a legitimate CD Key. I havent tried this myself, but I have known it to work.


How many copies of an operating system can be installed? We’ve got an Imac at home, which has Leopard, and I’m running a Tiger MacBook. Can I use the same disc, or will I have to buy it all?


Great post!

I’ve got only one question and i don’t find any solution. May be you can solve it.

My mac is a Mac Intel iMac and i’ve made a full HD copy bootable with superduper in my external HD USB2.0, not firewire.

Then i’ve started from this copy and all works fine.

Is it possible to migrate all my data from this USB device if i choose the migration assitant?
I’ve read that must be a firewire disk but is it possible to do it with a usb disk bootable?

In case this fails, is any solution to restore the old system?

Thanks!! ;)

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