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.
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.
- Make sure your Time Machine and other external backups are all up to date and functional.
- Run Apple’s software updates on both OS X and in the Mac App Store to ensure that all of your software is up to date. Especially make sure that you are running OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard before trying to upgrade.
- And of course check the health of your hard drives by fixing your file permissions in Disk Utility.
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.