How to prepare your Mac for OS X Lion

With the next major release of Mac OS X(s aapl), 10.7 Lion, on the way, it’s a good idea to start preparing your Mac for the transition soon. Here are some steps to make sure your Mac is ready for Lion.

Step 1: Get up-to-date

Make sure everything on your Mac is up-to-date before upgrading to Lion. First of all, make sure you’re running the latest version of OS X, which is Snow Leopard 10.6.8, using Software Update. Software Update will not only check for updates to OS X, but also firmware updates or new versions of Apple applications such as iTunes or iLife. You can find Software Update under the Apple logo in the menu bar. You should also check that your applications are all up to date, but for that you’ll need to check in the apps themselves, since Software Update only works for Apple products.

Also note that you can only install Lion if you have Snow Leopard installed; you can’t go straight from Leopard to Lion.

Step 2: Backup

You’re about to replace the entire operating system on your computer with a new one, so it’s a good idea to make a backup, just in case something goes wrong. The best thing to do is to create an exact copy of your Mac’s hard drive using a tool such as SuperDuper!. SuperDuper! can either perform a regular backup, or create a bootable clone of your hard drive, meaning that if something does go screwy, you can boot from the external drive you made the backup on. From there, you’d be able to try to sort out the problems with the Lion install.

If you don’t want to, or can’t, make a full copy of the entire hard drive, then backup your most important files and folders. Your Home folder is a good place to start, since it probably contains a lot of files that are irreplaceable, like photos and home movies. The Home folder is the folder named with your username, and is found in /Users on your hard drive, or under Desktop in the Places menu in your Finder sidebar.

You can either use Time Machine or SuperDuper! to do this backup, or simply just drag and drop a copy of the folder onto another hard drive. You might want to look around in the Finder to check for other important folders which aren’t in the Home folder, as well.

Step 3: Remove incompatible apps

Lion is going to be the first version of OS X which doesn’t support PowerPC applications. That means any application without an Intel-specific (s intc) version won’t work on Lion, and is best uninstalled.

In order to find which of your applications are PowerPC only, you can use System Profiler. Hold down the Option key, then click the Apple menu. The top item in the list should be System Profiler. Click that, and System Profiler will open. In the sidebar, find Applications under the Software heading. After a few seconds, a list of every application installed on your Mac will appear on the right. Now go through the list and for each application, look at the Kind in the bottom pane. Applications which say either Intel or Universal are fine; they’ll work on Lion. You’re looking for anything which says PowerPC.

If you find any PowerPC applications, you’ll want to uninstall them before you install Lion. You can also check your other apps as well to make sure they will work with Lion; some applications are bound to have issues, even if they aren’t PowerPC applications. A great way to check is using RoaringApps, a website which is gathering data about which apps are compatible with OS X 10.7.

Step 4: Make space on your hard drive

A typical install of OS X usually takes somewhere between 6 GB and 10 GB of hard drive space. You’ll need to make sure you have at least that amount, and preferably more, free on your hard drive in order to install Lion. To quickly check how much space is available on your drive, open a Finder window to any folder on the drive. The amount of free space available will be shown a the bottom of the window.

If you find that you don’t have enough space left, you can use a tool such as OmniDiskSweeper to find the biggest files and folders on your hard drive. Once it’s been through your hard drive, you’ll see a list of everything, sorted by size. Anything that has a large file size and you no longer need, delete in order to make room for Lion. Remember, the more space you have available when it comes to upgrading, the better.

Step 5: Install Lion

Once you’re sure that everything is as ready as it possibly could be, your Mac is now prepared for the upgrade to Lion, which should arrive sometime within the next couple of weeks. Are there any vital extra steps I missed? Shout out in the comments.