Snow Leopard: The Installation Process

SnowLeopardInstallIn addition to the numerous refinements that Snow Leopard brings, among the first you’ll notice is an easier installation experience. Some options that experienced Apple (s aapl) users have come to know and love have been changed or relocated, resulting in an experience that is far less intimidating than installing Microsoft (s msft) Windows.

Traditional OS X users may be familiar with some of the more advanced installation options beyond the usual “Upgrade Mac OS X.” Options such as “Erase and Install” and “Archive and Install” have been changed for Snow Leopard. To prevent users from accidentally erasing their hard drive, the erase and install functionality has been relegated to manual formatting via Disk Utility.

Should one need to archive and install (which is where your previous system files are archived in a separate location and a new system is installed in their place), the installer will it automatically when it detects an attempt to install the same operating system as is currently found on the Mac. When installation is complete, Snow Leopard cleans up after itself and doesn’t leave users with an ugly “Previous System” folder as before.

Trickery With Versions

With Snow Leopard’s “behind the scenes” archive and install process, it now automatically installs the current OS version number. For example, if someone is running 10.6.3 and reinstalls, when installation is complete they will still be using 10.6.3 instead of 10.6. This removes the need to run an hour of software updates, but it does present a potential problem. When “dot releases” come out, compatibility is sometimes affected, and users archive and install to revert back to a previous system version. Beyond erasing and installing, this doesn’t seem possible with Snow Leopard.

Wither Rosetta?

By default, when you install Snow Leopard, it will not install Rosetta, Apple’s technology to allow older PowerPC apps to run on Intel processors. As most applications are Universal and Snow Leopard itself requires an Intel processor, Apple is finally making big strides to leave behind the world of PowerPC. Should users still need Rosetta, it is available as an optional install.

QuickTime X vs QuickTime 7

Snow Leopard introduces Apple’s redesigned version of QuickTime, dubbed QuickTime X. Though several of the more popular third party plugins will work with QuickTime X out of the box, users may need to resort to QuickTime 7 and any plugins they’ve used with it for playing more specialized content (or you could just turn to the much more robust VLC).

Snow Leopard will include QuickTime 7 as an option, but will not install it by default unless users already have QuickTime 7 Pro on their system. Should you try to open a file in QuickTime X that requires QuickTime 7, Software Update will automatically download it for you if it’s not already present on the system.

Unanswered Questions

As mentioned earlier, it remains unclear whether Apple has a solution in place in case users install a “dot release” like 10.6.4 and wish to revert back. What we’ve heard about the archive and install seems to infer you would end up with 10.6.4 upon completion.

There’s also still some question as to how Snow Leopard will behave with fresh installs and with older operating systems. Will users need to install Leopard first when swapping in a new hard drive, for example? Recent evidence points to no, but we won’t know for sure until tomorrow.

I’m sure many of you are going to have questions about the installation process, upgrade requirements, and the like. Feel free to use with the comments below to help the process along as the Apple faithful adopt yet another new operating system.