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Installing or Upgrading to Leopard: Best Practices

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Finally making the switch to Leopard? Be sure that you know everything about your upgrade options before you start by using these tips by Ryan Faas to make the process as smooth as possible.
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After a year-and-a-half wait, Mac OS X Leopard is available and ready for the masses. But before you install, remember that Leopard is a major overhaul of almost every part of Mac OS X.

Taking some time to understand your upgrade options will ensure that you enjoy installing and using Leopard.

Make Sure You Have Everything You Need

First, make sure that you have a Mac that meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements. Leopard’s interface is much more graphic-intensive (3D and animated) than any version of Mac OS X before it.

As a result, breathtaking visual effects permeate Leopard and the applications designed for it. Leopard also relies on a number of background processes for many of its new features. This means that Leopard needs more raw horsepower and memory than previous Mac OS X releases.

The minimum system requirements to install Leopard are the following:

  • Power PC G4 (800MHz or faster), G5, or Intel processor
  • DVD drive
  • Firewire
  • 7GB of free hard drive space
  • 512MB of RAM

You should also invest in a high-capacity external hard drive (or a second internal hard drive, if you are using a Power Mac G4/G5 or Mac Pro) for Time Machine.

Time Machine does a good job of backing up only items that have changed since the last backup, but the Time Machine archive will eventual grow fairly large.

A large hard drive to dedicate to Time Machine is a wise investment and means that you will be able to maintain backups that allow you to turn back the clock weeks, months, or even years if needed.

An external drive is ideal because it is easily removed if your Mac is damaged and it operates on a completely different bus from your internal drive. This means that physical failures of your drive or drive controller are less likely to affect your backups.

If a large external drive isn’t available, consider partitioning your internal drive. This will not help if your hard drive fails physically, but it will provide a safety net for accidentally deleted files and for many file- and volume-corruption problems.

You should also perform a backup of your existing data in case anything bad happens during the upgrade or install process. Leopard’s installer is by and large pretty safe and stable, but having a backup before any major upgrade is always a good idea.

If you elect to erase your drive and start fresh with Leopard, you’ll need a backup.

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