Preparing for 10.6 Snow Leopard: Installation procedure changes?

While rumors and speculation about Snow Leopard can easily change, I enjoy delving into some periodically to discuss what people would like to see in the upcoming operating system. Recently, Macintosh rumor and news site AppleInsider


Written by Topher Kessler

While rumors and speculation about Snow Leopard can easily change, I enjoy delving into some periodically to discuss what people would like to see in the upcoming operating system. Recently, Macintosh rumor and news site AppleInsider claimed Snow Leopard has gone to Golden Master status, which means the current version is the one that will ship unless some major bug crops up in further testing by developers. In this edition, it is clear that Apple has changed the installation process in rather significant ways.

As it stands, the changes serve to overcome many problems or limitations that OS X users currently have when either upgrading or reinstalling their operating systems. Here's the list of enhancements, according to AppleInsider (keep in mind these are not official):

  • Although Rosetta and QuickTime 7 are both included on the Mac OS X 10.6 installation DVD, both are designated as optional installs by default. However, if Mac OS X 10.6 is being installed on a Mac that contains a registration a key for QuickTime 7 Pro, the installer will install QuickTime 7 automatically.

  • Options to "Erase and Install" and "Archive and Install" are no longer present in the Mac OS X 10.6 installer. According to those familiar with the software, this was done for convenience, so that users do not accidentally erase and install their Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard partitions. However, "Erase and Install" remains available through Disk Utility, which is also included on the installation DVD.

  • If you need to reinstall 10.6, it automatically archives and installs for you.

  • A reinstallation will not affect your Mac OS X version number. In other words, reinstallation of Mac OS X 10.6 on a Mac that contains Mac OS X 10.6.1 (when it becomes available) will not overwrite any new components delivered by 10.6.1. So when the reinstall is complete, you will still be running Mac OS X 10.6.1. This will save users considerable time.

  • There is no "Previous System" folder at the root level after reinstalling.

  • If a power outage occurs, installation will pick up from where it left off.

  • To prevent the Blue Screen error that plagued some users when upgrading to Mac OS X 10.5, a software compatibility check is included that has a list of known "bad" apps, and disables them. Those programs are moved to an "Incompatible Software" folder.

  • Unlike Mac OS X 10.5, you cannot install Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on computers where the hard drive reports a S.M.A.R.T. failure.

  • Installation initially triggers a large chunk of data to be copied from the installation DVD to the user's primary hard drive. The bulk of the installation is then managed from the hard drive, speeding up the installation process considerably. After a successful installation, that large chunk of data is automatically removed.

From a troubleshooting perspective, some of the more intriguing features are the capability of the system to pick up where it left off after a power outage, checking for and disabling incompatible software, and not overwriting new system components when reinstalling an older version. These changes basically mean that system reinstallation will be more practical for people who run into problems, especially after an update to third-party software. I am eager to see how well they work for the average user, since if Apple implements them well this would mean an OS reinstallation could be a much more feasible workaround for certain problems than it is now.

As for installation options, it seems the biggest decision in Snow Leopard will be whether or not to install the Rosetta dynamic code translator for running PowerPC applications on the Mac. This is good news for people who still have to run old PowerPC code, especially since there was speculation as to whether or not this would be included in the OS at all.

I wonder how many other installation options Apple will provide in addition to Rosetta and QuickTime? Looking back at the options for OS 8 and OS 9, you could easily pop in the installation disk and add system components, applications, and utilities to enhance the system with a variety of useful features. I have missed this in OS X, and hope for something similar to be implemented soon.

Read our article on graphics and processor requirements for more information on preparing for Snow Leopard.

Questions? Comments? Send us feedback:
Be sure to check us out on Twitter and the CNET Mac forums.

Topher has been an avid Mac user for the past 10-15 years, and has been a contributing author to MacFixIt for just over a year now. One of his diehard passions has been troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware both for family and friends, as well as in the workplace. He and the newly formed MacFixIt team are hoping to bring enhanced and more personable content to our readers, and keep the MacFixIt community going here at CNET. If you have questions or comments for Topher or the other MacFixIt editors, feel free to contact us at

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