Back up b4 Leopard upgrade!

Update: I'm seeing reports that other people are having upgrade problems. Before you upgrade to Leopard you really want to create a bootable back up.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

Update: I'm seeing reports that other people are having upgrade problems. Before you upgrade to Leopard you really want to create a bootable back up. There are 2 free utilities that will do this for you on either a FireWire or USB 2 drive:

I've bought and used both of them and they both work great. Create a bootable back up with either one and then do your upgrade. If it works, great. If not, you can always go right back to Tiger - reinstalling right off the external boot drive. End update. Now we return to the original article.

And other things I learned installing Leopard The nice FedEx man dropped by this morning with my Leopard Family pack.

After I did an incremental back up of my system to an external FireWire drive - I do try to practice what I preach - I inserted the DVD.

After restarting I skipped the incredibly slow DVD verification process.

Put Leopard on a diet Then I selected the install that I normally use on a Mac: the Archive and Install option. Selected the boot drive, and then saved about 5 GB of capacity by clicking Customize on the Install Summary screen.

I only use Brother printers - a B&W laser on a wireless USB server and a color laser multifunction on the router - so by skipping the HP, Epson, Canon and other brands I knocked about 3 GB off the install. On my laptop I'll probably install them all - I never know where I'll be when I need to print something - but on my tower that isn't a problem.

Then I deselected all the translations and the additional fonts, which saved another 2 GB. I doubt that I'll suddenly wake up speaking only Korean.

This is more important on a laptop, since OS stuff generally gets installed on the fastest part of a drive - the outer tracks - so smaller and slower 2.5" drives need all the help they can get. But I am religious about backing up everything, so that 5 GB of capacity I saved is really 10 GB.

30 minutes after clicking Install The system rebooted, brought up the colorful startup screen and then HUNG! No log in, no menu bar, nothing. The disk drive was working, so I let it go for a while, but after I watered the garden and it *still* hadn't booted I restarted.

That's when I was glad I had a back up My first thought was that maybe a USB peripheral had interfered with the boot, something I've seen in the past. Disconnected them all, restarted and . . . nope! that wasn't it.

I prefer to panic only as a last resort. Maybe I'd had a particularly inopportune hardware failure. So I booted off the FireWire drive and discovered that everything was fine. Whew!

Back to the install So I re-installed Leopard - this time as an Upgrade Mac OS - rather than my preferred Archive and Install.

Success! It booted up just fine.

Other lessons A few potholes have appeared.

  • SuperDuper, the back up application, won't be tested on Leopard for another couple of days. I'll upgrade it when the tested version is released. Otherwise I'd have just started up Time Machine, the cool new back up app in Leopard. When you attach an external drive Leopard asks if you want to use it for back up.
  • Letterbox, a wonderful Apple Mail utility that optimizes Mail for widescreen (is there any other kind?) display, hasn't yet been updated for Leopard either.
  • For some reason Final Cut Pro *required* me to manually type in the serial number, even though I cut-and-pasted it in. Hey, it's a long serial number and I'm a slow typist.

I also noticed that my RAM usage at start up is about 4x what it was under Tiger. I've got plenty so it's no biggie for me, but I wonder what I'll see on my MacBook.

Other than that, everything is working fine. I love the Quick Look feature that lets you look at a file without opening the application. And the built-in preview in the print dialog box is very nice too.

Update II: check your Admin accounts. I discovered yesterday that I had NO admin accounts. Which meant I couldn't add applications, delete old accounts and make major changes to the system. I didn't realize I had the problem until I wanted to install a new app.

After a quick look at the Apple discussion forums I'd guesstimate that this problem is affecting less than 0.1% of the Leopard installs. If you have the problem it is important, but not urgent, that you fix it. You can use your machine and all your apps, you just can't change anything important.

How to tell:

  • Go to System Preferences and click on Accounts
  • The list of accounts on the left should have at least one that says "Admin"
  • If they all say "Standard" you have the problem

It is easy to fix. Boot up from your Leopard install DVD. After selecting your language go up to the Tools menu and select "Reset passwords". Create a new account with the name "root" and give it a strong password.

Reboot the machine. In the login screen there should be an option to log in as "other". Choose that, login in as "root" with the strong password. Then go to System Preferences>Accounts, choose your main account and give it Admin privileges. Log out of the root account and log back into your main account and you are large and in charge.

I had to go through this process twice before it worked. So it at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

The Storage Bits take Yes, you really should back up your system before you upgrade to Leopard. Use either SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner 3 to create a bootable backup on an external drive. I'm glad I did.

Update III: Despite the glitches I'm really enjoying Spaces, Quick Look and the little, unmentioned enhancements. My current fave: when doing a partial screen capture (cmd-shift-4) a little box next to the selection cursor tells you the pixel dimensions of the selection area. I put pictures in two dimension limited blogs all the time and it is a nifty, time-saving feature.

Comments welcome, as always. How did your upgrade go?

Editorial standards