Otterman and a Mac:
Workflow for installing OS X:
Combo Updates and Clean Reinstallation

Otterman speaks (blog) links: 2003-7; 2008-9

Update: See "'General Maintenance' recommendations," by Topher Kessler. Macfixit, 24 May 2010 and "Preparing for an upcoming OS X update," by Topher Kessler. Macfixit, 19 Mar 2010.


Workflow for installing the Mac OS X Combo Updater
[Derived from MacFixit, 2004-2006.] OS X's Software Update can automatically install system updates for OS X (e. g. 10.4.10 to 10.4.11). However, experienced Macusers have always opted to mannually download the larger stand-alone combo updater and adopt a sequence like the one below.

Why the extra work? Well, MacFixit used to compile reports of user woes after each OS X update and many problems were solved by applying the stand-alone combo updater. This was still being suggested for Snow Leopard, "Using the combo updater is a fairly standard troubleshooting step that can help fix various OS problems, and is a good way to keep your OS installation as fresh as possible." And a fellow macaddict in charge of a mac cluster once experimented with OS X Panther updates and felt that the combo-updated macs experienced less problems.

  1. First ensure you have a fully recoverable backup of all data with an app like Super Duper!
  2. Drag the folder com.apple.SoftwareUpdate located in /Library/Caches (the Library folder at the root level of your hard drive) to the trash.
  3. Download the current stand alone Combo Updater and save it for later.
  4. Startup (restart) your Mac from an external drive.
  5. Ensure your power supply is plugged in!
  6. Launch Disk Utility from the external drive and perform a "Repair Disk" operation on your mac's internal startup drive.
  7. Restart again, from your internal hardisk, while holding the "Shift" key to boot in Safe Mode.
  8. Make sure all Apple-installed applications and utilities are in their original locations (e.g. Dashboard).
  9. Disconnect all FireWire/USB devices.
  10. Apply the Mac OS X Combo Updater, and allow a normal restart when prompted.
  11. Do not perform any other operation while the update is in process.
  12. When complete, repair permissions using Disk Utility.
  13. Re-connect firewire devices one by one.


Workflow for installing OS X on a new Mac or a clean reinstal on an existing Mac
I favour a fresh installation of OS X after a year of use, and even earlier depending on my usage. It appears to eliminate accumulating problems. It also keeps my application folder trim as I only resintall a critical core of my 150+ apps and add others only as needed. A clean reinstalltion coupled with the cleaned up hardisk has given my system a boost - enough to encourage me to attempt it as it can be tedious process.

OS X Clean re-installation

  1. First backup all data with Super Duper!
  2. Make a list of existing software in the Applications folder (select all and copy, then paste to some text file or Google Docs).
  3. For System Preferences, a screen grab may suffice.
  4. Run the Install OS X programme: "erase and install"
  5. Customise - omit other languages and most printer drivers (avoid bloatware and reduce installation time).
  6. Avoid key-ing in a password repeatedly by omitting to provide a system password - wait until all the immediate system and application software installations are completed.
  7. Download and run the stand alone Apple System X combo update (see above) rather than allowing the automatic Software Update to run.
  8. Repair permissions.
  9. Restart.

Immediate settings

After software installations are complete:

Shareware installation and re-registration
Since I appear to use more than 150 applications at some time or the other, I only install the apps I need to get started and be productive. With everything online, this is much easier. And a google search reveal a software's most updated source.

The more obscure apps are only installed as and when the need arises. WHile it can be tiresome to extract serials numbers and re-register shareware, the speed bump is an incentive. Also, I like that I decluttering my system and trim my apps folder. With my serial numbers now on 1password that makes things quite convenient. I just need to get preferences sorted out!

See my annotated applications list with links.