After months of anticipation, Apple released OS X Lion (10.7), and it was downloaded over one million times within the first 24 hours of availability. Needless to say, it is an instant hit, and made many improvements to OS X. Before you run off to install Lion, there are a few things you need to do before taking the plunge.
Follow the steps outlined below to ensure that your transition to Lion is as painless as possible.
Does Your Mac Meet the Minimum System Requirements?
Every new OS release comes with a different set of minimum system requirements. Macs that could run Snow Leopard may not be able to run Lion, so you should make sure that your system can run Lion. At a minimum your Mac must meet these requirements to run Lion:
- a Mac with an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor
- OS X v. 10.6.6 or later – Apple recommends 10.6.8
- 2GB of memory
- 7GB of available hard drive space
- an Apple ID for some features
- an internet connection
If you need to find out if you Mac meets these requirements, click on the Apple menu, and choose About this Mac. You will see your processor speed, memory, and current OS version on one handy screen. If you do not have a minimum of 2GB of memory, do not proceed with the install before you obtain and install additional memory. If you are running a pre-10.6.6 OS, we will discuss updating it later.
To see how much hard drive space you have left, check your hard drive information. To do that, select your hard drive (click on the Finder’s Go menu and choose Computer, then select the drive from the list), and hit Command + I.
If your hard drives are visible on your desktop, you can also select the drive from there. You should see the drive’s capacity and the available space when the drive information window appears. If you do not have a minimum of 7GB of available space, you need to clean up your hard drive to make additional space. To be safe, consider freeing up a few extra GB of space if possible.
Have You Updated Mac OS 10.6 Yet?
If you have not installed all of the available software updates up to 10.6.6, you must do so before you proceed with the upgrade to Lion. To see which updates are available, click on the Apple menu, and choose Software Update. Your Mac will connect to Apple’s servers and determine which updates you have yet to install.
You can choose to install all Mac OS updates up to and including OS 10.6.8, or you can choose to stop at 10.6.6. Apple recommends that you install everything up to and including 10.6.8 before attempting the Lion upgrade, but confirmed that you do not have to install any updates past 10.6.6. We performed the upgrade from one system running 10.6.6 and another running 10.6.8, and both installations were successful with no complications.
Have You Performed a Full System Backup?
No matter how advanced any operating system is there is always the chance that a major software update or an OS upgrade may result in a catastrophic data loss. It is imperative that you perform a backup of your personal data at a minimum, but a full system backup is recommended. The easiest way to do that is to use Time Machine.
If you already use Time Machine to perform automatic backups of your Mac, click on the Time Machine icon in the menu bar (a small clock) and the time and location of the last backup should be displayed on the drop-down menu. If your most recent backup is no longer current, choose Back Up Now from the menu, and Time Machine will begin backing up your system immediately. Make sure that the backup completes successfully before moving on.
If you do not see the Time Machine menu bar icon, all you need to do is click on the Apple Menu, choose System Preferences, and then click on Time Machine. From here you can also verify that Time Machine has performed a backup since you installed any outstanding OS updates.
You can click the checkbox next to Show Time Machine status in menu bar to place the icon in your menu bar. You may need to Click the lock to make changes before you are able to change any settings on this preference pane.
Before You Purchase Lion…
There are some additional things you should consider before making the actual Lion purchase from the App Store and beginning the installation process. The OS X Lion installer is approximately 3.5GB in size. If your ISP has a bandwidth cap, consider how a download this large will impact your remaining quota for the month, and determine if it is going to force you to go over your quota and pay additional fees. If you have to update multiple Macs, you may consider burning a bootable copy of Lion after you download it rather than downloading it over and over again.
It’s Time to Purchase, Download, and Install Lion!
Open the App Store application (in your Applications folder), and the link to purchase and download Lion should be on the front page. Follow the instructions to make the purchase, which will require you to log in with your Apple ID, and pay $29.99 + applicable taxes for the upgrade. Once you have made the purchase, begin downloading Lion. A Lion icon with a status bar will appear on your Dock, and let you know how far along the download is.
Once the download is complete, it is a good idea to make a copy of the Lion installer, because after the install process completes, the installer file is automatically deleted. Find the installer application in the Applications folder, and make a copy of it. It is a good idea to copy the installer to an external drive or a network drive, so you can access it even if your current install does not complete successfully.
Once you have made a copy of the installer, click on the Lion icon in your Dock to start the install process. When the Install Mac OS X window loads, lick the Continue button and follow the prompts to upgrade to Lion.
The installer will take a while to complete, and the time will vary depending on your processor speed and available RAM. When you boot into Lion the first time and start using it, your Mac may be sluggish and slow to respond. This is because Spotlight is indexing your files, and this goes away once Spotlight’s indexing is complete.
Install Updates and Enjoy Lion!
Once your installation is complete, you will be prompted to install some additional software updates. You may also want to run Software Update to double check if there are new versions of any other software available to download. Once all of your software updates are done just enjoy Lion.