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It's that time of year again. That time that I have to remind my readers that they are about to install a "major" update to their operating system and things are gonna break! I don't think that there has been a major operating system update in the history of operating systems that hasn't broken something. We've got too many apps and too many peripherals to know what's gonna break and what's not. I was reminded of this by reading all the 1 Star (mostly 5 star reviews overall) of Lion on the Mac App Store. 90% of the 1 star ratings were from users complaining that their PowerPC Apps didn't work anymore or that some other 3rd party app/driver didn't work. Even if something does have a bug, you have no way of knowing whether or not the bug is a major bug for YOU until you see for yourself. Also this (Mac OS X 10.7 Lion) leaves behind your Power PC Apps. While many of you have probably moved on and are running the "latest" versions of all your Apps, there are little things that may still use PowerPC code that you're not even thinking of that simply won't work anymore in Lion and again you won't know until you try it.


Test Lion Before You Install It

Over the past few years I've taken the approach of "testing" a major operating system BEFORE committing to it on my main computers and there's actually a pretty painless way to do this. It's called installing Lion on a Clone Backup of your Mac. Hard Drives are dirt cheap these days and it's worth the investment to get an extra one to use for OS testing. Here's how it works:

1. Buy a large external hard drive (at least the same size as your internal drive or larger).

2. Download SuperDuper!

3. Create a Clone backup of your entire internal boot drive using SuperDuper! onto the new hard drive.

4. Boot from that new clone backup to make sure it works. All your stuff should be there including all your apps and documents.

5. Install Lion on this backup drive and boot from it with Lion installed.


Now run it for a few days (weeks, months or whatever you need) to make sure that EVERYTHING works the way you want it to.


After your testing is over you'll have an easy choice to make. If everything works as you need it too, then you can feel free to (backup your drive again) install Lion on your internal drive. If all hell broke loose and things aren't working or you'll need major updates before things work the way you want them to, then no worries. You can swtich back to your internal drive running Snow Leopard and upgrade to Lion at another time or not. The only other thing to remember is that if you create a bunch of documents or changes while booted in the clone, you'll need to transfer those back to the internal drive.

You can get Mac OS X Lion 10.7 here from the iTunes

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6 Responses to Test Lion BEFORE you install it

  1. Chita says:

    1. Super Duper “Sandbox”
    Can’t say enough about its usefulness in testing major updates like this. This way, you won’t even have to worry about any new files you’ve created.

    2. Phyl’s find for checking your PowerPC software: ArchDetect
    has me thinking about what software to finally leave behind.

  2. Don says:

    Good idea, terrible solution. Obviously, you haven’t done this yourself (how could you have spent “months” with it on a back up?) and haven’t thought it through. If you spend “a few days (weeks, months or whatever you need)” actually working on your computer (using the back up drive), you’re going to have dozens, perhaps hundreds of files in various locations. And if you’re like most people, you’ll also have all sorts of settings that you’ve altered. If, after all this time of working on your back up, you decide to make Lion your OS of choice, and then you install Lion on your internal, you’re going to have to go through and change all of your settings to what you want plus find all of your newly added files and copy them to your internal HD.

    A better solution, IMO, would be to clone your current internal HD to an external, then upgrade your internal to Lion (it will be faster than using an external to run the OS and applications). Any file you save must be saved to the internal AND to the external.

    If you have any problems, you can always restart off the external running SL. Remember to save files to both internal and external. If you have too many problems and decide to return to SL, just use something like SuperDuper to put everything on your external back on your internal. If you’re okay with Lion, just unplug your external and you’re ready to go.

    • Terry White says:

      The months part was an exaggeration. The idea is that you DON’T really use the test drive for hours of work. Use it just long enough to test things and perhaps create a project in each of your apps to make sure it does work. However, let’s say you did spend weeks or months working off this drive (I doubt that it would take that long for you to know what works and what doesn’t), you could then restore the clone to your internal drive and keep right on going.
      When I do this testing using a clone, I work off my internal drive and periodically boot into the test clone when time permits and I want to try something. I do it gradually this way because i may not think to test everything I use in one session. I’ve done it this way for the past 3 major OS updates without a problem. Lastly in the case of files being everywhere, I use Dropbox for my documents and most of what I use in Apple’s apps (contacts, calendars, etc. are sync’d to the cloud (MobileMe/iCloud). There is very little that is actually married to the boot drive itself. This is also how I go between two Macs with ease and never having to worry about what I might have accidentally forgot to copy over.

  3. lh says:

    I do have some applications that will not work in OS10.7, quicken for one so I am going to have an firewire external drive with OS10.6 for those applications and back that up to a Drobo external drive. Lion will be installed on the internal drive with backup to other drive on the Drobo. I do not think my rosetta applications will every be upgraded to OS10.7 so will always have two operating systems.

  4. mark says:

    Mr. White,

    You are indeed right.
    I’ve been an Apple user from Apple II days to the present. And every major upgrade that I have encountered, like this, has a time of growing pains because there are too many applications and items that get broken. Too many minor strings of coding that need to be rewritten.
    The best advise that I can give is to upgrade at the end of the OS life.

    NOW is the time to upgrade to Snow Leopard Mac OS X 10.6.8 runs very stable. I have run it for almost two months without rebooting.
    That would have been an impossible feat in the classic days.
    How many complaints are there from Snow Leopard breaking applications?
    By now, I would think very few, I haven’t seen too many that have not been worked out.

    But who listens to their own advice and waits…
    I didn’t. I bought it the day it came out.
    However, like you, I got my big hard drive out and make a clone back up of my Snow Leopard and then purchased the Lion.
    Yup, it broke too many apps for me.
    Now I am happy back to using Snow Leopard knowing that one day my Lion ready and waiting for apps to run smoother.
    Maybe, perhaps, next year.


  5. Chris says:

    That’s actually a really good idea – and something I should have done a while back.

    File loss is never fun.