Written by: Daniel Haurey on 09/08/09

Labor Day 2009: Its 8:50AM and with a steamy cup of coffee in hand, I look down at the table to see the OS X Snow Leopard upgrade package that has been quietly competing all weekend with barbeques and pool parties for my attention. With no hard plans on the agenda, my inner-geek gets the best of me as I mutter, “there’s no better time than the present”. I make a beeline toward my study. I’m upgrading my MacBook to Snow Leopard. As I sit down, inner-geek taps me on the shoulder. “You’re not going to just stick that disc in and let it roll, are you?”

Ah, the OS upgrade dilemma. Seasoned computer users and experienced IT professionals alike know all too well that, many times, an “in place upgrade” can lead to problems. At best, this type of upgrade has a tendency to leave lots of junk behind, among other shortcomings. At worst, the upgraded computer is rendered unstable or completely hosed. (Hosed is geek-speak for “really, really messed up”.

But something feels different about this one. Somehow, I feel compelled to put my fate into the hands of the Apple team and “think different” this time. Not to let my anxiety go unchecked, inner-geek speaks again. “I understand that you’re feeling brave, perhaps the coffee has something to do with it, but please, just Google, what to do before upgrading to OS X Snow Leopard and see what you find, please, Dan.” And so I submit. As I expected, the results are rich with advice and war stories of Snow Leopard upgrades gone good and bad. Practical Me wants to get this thing running, fast. But inner-geek knows better. He’s been burned before.

With a slightly elevated pulse, I rationalize that the average consumer wouldn’t consider searching Google for OS X pre-upgrade exercises, let alone going through some of the aggressive motions that I found in the search results. Would Joe Mac User, let alone Joe Six Pack make a bootable backup of their OS X installation before running the upgrade? I think not. So with a chip on my shoulder and points to prove, Practical Me wins.

About 49 minutes later, I was running Snow Leopard, safe and sound. No issues at all to speak of. A pretty thorough check revealed that all of my apps and data were intact. My biggest worry was my Parallels 4.0 installationfor Windows Vista Business, but it too was running just fine. So far, I haven’t felt any of the performance gains that many people are talking about, but in all honesty, the machine was pretty snappy from the start. I also haven’t completely looked under the hood yet at some of the newer features.

So, was it a flawless operation? Yes, with a caveat. One of the main catalysts for my upgrade, like so many others, was the Microsoft Exchange support. After getting Snow Leopard up and running, I almost immediately configured the Mail application to connect to our Exchange 2007 Server at the office. The configuration itself was relatively easy for me, a technical person. But it would have frustrated an average end user. The results were annoying and disappointing. But the Exchange support debacle is a different story for a different day in a different posting. This was a Snow Leopard OS upgrade experience post, and I have to take my hat off to Apple for a job well done in that regard.

Disclamer:  The writer is an experienced IT professional.  The laptop that is the subject of this blog post had virtually no data stored on it.  Before performing an OS upgrade, always consult an IT professional and/or make backup copies of your data.


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