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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.

36 Responses to “Snow Leopard: The Installation Process”

  1. John I. Clark

    Seriously Chris, six months later and you still haven’t fixed the typo in the third paragraph? Bizarre…

    I also think there’s some weird talk swirling around about the Archive and Install option. I don’t believe the default option can possibly be an Archive and Install, but I could be wrong… I just know that the old Previous Systems folder was necessary to the process, and I frequently fix botched Photoshop installs by fishing the ScriptingAdditions folder out of there on older systems.

    Also, the method linked to that uses Terminal doesn’t do an Archive and Install, it simply does some weird amalgamation of a clean install, leaving all your data, Application Support files, plugins, etc. to be manually moved over later. If you don’t really know what you’re doing, you’ll have a severely messed up machine by the end of the process.

    Most of all though, I can’t believe there isn’t more discussion out there about the alleged “default” Archive & Install. Until I see some sort of proof, I’m assuming it’s just an upgrade install, done straight over the existing install, no matter what version someone might be running…

  2. Meredith

    I’m still lost on the whole Archive & Install front. I hesitate to do it the Terminal way, but if the installer (once I can get it running, which often takes several attempts, because C-boot doesn’t work for me, nor does selecting the DVD from the Startup Disk Preference Pane) can do it automatically, what happens to my old files, if there’s no “ugly” Previous System folder? Where do all my files go?

  3. “the more robust VLC”? You must be kidding. VLC is so quirky and has such a bad interface, it is ridiculous. You can’t move back or forward one second; it jumps ahead about 30 seconds or more with just a single click on the arrow. VLC preferences get corrupt so easily, they include a “Delete Preferences” application with it. The VLC subtitles are very hard to read. Other than those few details, VLC is GREAT!

  4. Thanks Felipe.
    The only thing is that i dont have an external hardrive to put everything onto :( Would i only need to save my files or all of my applications as well on my MD. cause i have the adobe suit on my computer and i dont want to loose that.?

  5. I have Mac OS X 10.4.10 and i want to install snow leopard x 10.6 do i have to have any version in between or can i got straight to the snow leopard upgrade and do i have to back up my data or when i install snow leopard will all my files still be there???
    Thanks :)

  6. I installed Snow Leopard on my two iMacs and my MacBook Pro in about two hours per machine. The install DVD comes with version 6.0 but after the install, the software update downloaded and installed version 6.0.2. I chose also not to install Rosetta as I do not have any applications that require the older PowerPC processors.

  7. William Wong

    I have install Snow Leopard and I have problem with the Quick Time X. On my video camera download, all I get is a black blank screen with the sound. Anyone have the same problem or I need to change some setting. I am new to Mac.

  8. I just installed Snow Leopard on my iMac and the computer is now launching ‘software update’ with this message :

    “To open Microsoft AU Daemon, you need to install Rosetta. Would you like to install it now?”

    What does this mean and do I want to install it ?


    • That’s the Microsoft “Auto Update” feature wanting to run. You must have Office for Mac installed. It’s asking about Rosetta because, apparently, the Microsoft auto-update feature isn’t Intel native. Rosetta enables the running of PowerPC code on Intel macs. This was automatic under Leopard but is an option with Snow Leopard.

  9. I am quite a rooky, and not sure if this question has an answer? Have been living in USA for quite a while… some months before I had to go back to Europe I bought a macbook. After arriving in my home town I tried to submit my new mac for the up date program of snow leopard… and it doesn’t work! someone has a clue, why?

  10. People are saying the installation process is really easy-but it was not so for me.

    My Macbook’s Harddrive crashed earlier this year and was replaced by one of the techs at the local Apple store, everything worked fine. When I went to install Snow Leopard, it said my HD was not the correct format-even though when I had a Support Tech talk me through how to find the format over the phone, it was indeed the correct format.

    In the end the tech told me I had to wipe my entire hard drive to install SL, and while I am happy to have done so, it was a major headache to move everything to the external then back and to reinstall all of my programs again.

    Good OS from what I have seen so far, but if you have had any HD troubles recently, be careful about install.

  11. You didn’t mention whether or not Snow Leopard comes with built in grammar and spell check, but I’m assuming it does not given your inability to manually proofread your articles before you submit them:

    “the installer will it automatically when it detects an attempt to install the same operating system as is currently found on the Mac”

  12. Since when is installing Windows an “intimidating experience”? What was the last version of Windows you installed to come up with a claim like this?

    Actually I think installing OS X is a bit of an intimidating experience as it forces you to register yourself. (Unless you know the trick how to get out of this dialog of course.)

    • I agree with Thomas. Installing Windows is very straight forward. It seems to me that your Apple fanboy attitude is clouding your ability to write an objective article.

    • Installing Windows is indeed an “intimidating experience”. I have done it hundreds of times, and I’m Microsoft Certified, so I know what I’m talking about. The average user is not going to know all the options that Windows presents to you, starting with the 25 digit serial, the different “versions” that you can upgrade to, the networking tabs, the device drivers it needs, etc. And heaven forbid if you change out a hard disk and try to reinstall. Then you end up calling India to get a new registration number.

      My Snow Leopard upgrade went flawlessly well. I inserted the disk, clicked 2 OK boxes, chose my drive destination, and it did all the rest. Absolutely painless.

    • The average user probably isn’t going to change out a hard disk during an install. If they do, that means they’re at least somewhat tech savvy and would easily be able to acquire another product key.

    • I wish I could say the same here… It installed alright. But…
      Adblock Plus not working
      1Password needs a beta upgrade
      Flip4Mac needs a beta upgrade
      Cannot get Speed Download and 1Password to work at the same time
      Mail keeps forgetting the POP password (never did that to me under Leopard)
      Support for FLV format in Quicktime X which had been widely colported on the web turned out to be a false rumour.
      Thumbnails in Finder update as slow as ever (when, oh when will Mac OS X learn to cache thumbnails just like Windows XP)

      I won’t revert to Leopard (though I have a good backup), but not too pleased either…

  13. Gazoobee

    err … what does this part mean?

    “Should one need to archive and install … the installer will it automatically when it detects an attempt to install the same operating system as is currently found on the Mac.”

    I mean you wrote the article to explain the process right? I’m very experienced at installing Mac OS-X but I have no idea what you mean by this.

    Are you trying to say it’s automatic? That it’s automatic if the major version is the same? That it always does this? Are you just referring to the automatic clean-up?

    I’m sure that when I get the disc it will be straightforward, but this is the third article I’ve read today on Snow Leopard installs and none of them actually explain what the differences are or how it works when you actually install it. This is almost the same exact wording that Apple uses as opposed to an actual explanation of same.