How to start fresh with OSX but restore my music and photos?
May 10, 2008 1:06 PM   Subscribe

How should I go about formating and re-installing Mac OSX on a computer I've been upgrading and using for five years? I want to start fresh and clean with a new install of OSX, but with all my songs, photos, movies intact in iTunes and iPhoto on the new system.

I've been using the Apple "Migration Assistant" since 2003 to continually migrate my mac from one powerbook to another to another and finally to my Mac Pro.

After five years of upgrades I've accumulated enough cruft in my Library files and elsewhere that things are starting to just plain not work. I have two things called "desktop" in my finder's sidebar that seem to have different files in them but both correspond to my desktop. The keychain access seems completely hosed after accumulating thousands of entries over the years and it recently became corrupted, but unfixable.

Anyway, I'd like to start fresh and clean this mac and start over re-installing just the apps I use, but I don't want to lose any of my old data. I'm planning on getting a USB external drive for this operation and dragging my music, photos, all documents, movies, software downloads, etc to the backup drive, then wiping the drive clean with a format.

My biggest worry is losing five years of music and music settings as well has my 75Gb of photos from the last five years. How do I go about meshing my archived music and pictures folders with iTunes and iPhoto once I'm on the clean system? Do I import all the files one by one? Do I just plop my old directories over the ones on the fresh system?
posted by mathowie to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do I just plop my old directories over the ones on the fresh system?

Yes, just copy the Music, Movies and Pictures folders entirely over as soon after you reinstall Mac OS X. This includes the configuration data for the iApps.

You can do the same with the Documents and Desktop folders.

Also, after reinstalling OS X, rename your home folder's new Library folder to Library.old. Copy over your backup home folder's Library folder in entirety.

If you have backed up the entire computer, you can drag over items from the backup's root level Library folder to the requisite folders on the new root-level Library folder. These would be items in the Applications Support folder, for example, and the Preferences folder. This may help having to prevent re-registering software applications or just generally save you time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:24 PM on May 10, 2008


hmm, if I drag the Library over too, wouldn't I just re-introduce all the problems I'm trying to solve by cleaning up my system?

Actually, I have no qualms about reinstalling apps, I'm mostly just worried about iPhoto and iTunes so I'll just re-install then copy those folders over. Thanks!
posted by mathowie at 1:33 PM on May 10, 2008


hmm, if I drag the Library over too, wouldn't I just re-introduce all the problems I'm trying to solve by cleaning up my system?

You could walk through the backup home folder's Library folder, go through the Application Support, Mozilla, Mail, Preferences etc. folders one by one to copy over only what you want or need. Most of the files are clearly labeled as to their association with various Apple and third-party applications.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:48 PM on May 10, 2008


Apples OS installer also has an "Archive and Install"-option. It will install a fresh system but moves your old system files to a seperate folder. You can then decide which applications and settings you want to move over by hand.

Your music and other documents are preserved.

Read more for the fine print.
posted by maremare at 2:00 PM on May 10, 2008


The "Archive and Install" will not work if you want to reformat the hard drive. Reformatting the hard drive could fix directory system problems that can accumulate over the years, problems which can cause the "Archive and Install" process to fail, which leaves you with an unbootable computer. I used to recommend the "Archive and Install" only if we were reinstalling the same major version (to go from 10.4.11 back to 10.4.1, for example) where there was less likelihood of directory problems.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:06 PM on May 10, 2008


Backup everything you want to save to an external. For your basic files (.txts, .docs, .psds, etc) there should be no way for them to carry corruption with them, they do not access any sort of registry when you open or save them, so worst case scenario is they would not open on freshly installed apps (which I doubt).

For your apps, definitely reinstall. You can save a lot of painstakingly tedious data-(re)entry if you export all your preferences first. Pretty much all mail programs, calendar programs, browsers, address books and the multitude of other customizable applications have an export option. Export all those to one folder and throw that on your external, too.

Then take OS X (buy Panther, it's worth it) and choose 'erase and install', and manually put everything back in place. it's really the only way to guarantee a clean install.

The advice of others as to how to backup would be wise to follow, as well.
posted by pedmands at 3:17 PM on May 10, 2008


Then take OS X (buy Panther, it's worth it)

I think you made a mistake in your big cats here, and actually meant Leopard...
posted by maremare at 3:56 PM on May 10, 2008


maremare: "Then take OS X (buy Panther, it's worth it)

I think you made a mistake in your big cats here, and actually meant Leopard...
"

Hoo-haw! Panther would indeed be a devolution, silly me.

Can't wait for the beta release of OS X Calico.
posted by pedmands at 4:16 PM on May 10, 2008


My biggest worry is losing five years of music and music settings as well has my 75Gb of photos from the last five years.

Since it sounds like your question has been answered, I'll just chime in with the mini-lecture that if you care about those files, they should already be backed up (e.g., on DVD-Rs, a USB HDD, or a NAS drive.) Your Apple's hard drive, and indeed any hard drive, can and will crash any time for any or no reason.
posted by blenderfish at 5:01 PM on May 10, 2008


My stuff is already backed up to a second internal hard drive using time machine, but I've also got a mirror of the data uploaded to mozy.
posted by mathowie at 6:48 PM on May 10, 2008


I'd be tempted to go about it this way:

Export app preferences and other system-ish data where you can: the Address Book is a pain to restore without an export. Create a bootable clone of your drive with Super Duper! or Carbon Copy Cloner. Format the old drive and install a clean copy of Leopard. Copy across Music, Movies, Pictures, Documents, etc. -- everything that's basically just files. (The iTunes and iPhoto library files are good to go, too.)

Then start reinstalling your apps, copying across ~Library/Application Support/[App] and ~/Library/Preferences/[App] if you think you need specific customisations. (For some, you'll want the stuff in /Library/ too.) Probably best to run install the 'biggies' (iLife, iWork, OpenOffice, MS Office, Adobe apps, Aperture, the Apple Pro Apps) first, along with the omg-how-do-I-use-my-Mac-without-them apps (Quicksilver, Your Preferred Text Editor, etc.). Then run Software Update, to get all the Apple-related updates.

It's a good way to get rid of the app-crud that may not affect your system but nabs disk space.
posted by holgate at 7:46 PM on May 10, 2008


Thanks for all the suggestions everyone. I ended up backing everything up using SuperDuper, wiped the main drive, reinstalled, and moved the music and photos directories and everything worked magically!
posted by mathowie at 4:17 PM on June 17, 2008


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