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Mac OS X Clean Install Migration Guide

by , 10:30 AM EDT, September 28th, 2001

Feeling ill? Six months of installs, pre-releases, betas and experiments gone horribly wrong can leave the meticulous OS X user feeling queasy. Many of us are novices who are learning a whole new operating system. That can make finding and removing the digital crust almost impossible, but with the release of Mac OS X 10.1, it's a perfect time to start with a clean slate. If you happen to be the kind of user that's been incrementally upgrading the same Mac since System 7.5.5, piling OS upon OS, there's nothing to see here. Move along now. Show's over. "But I've never had any trouble. I know a million people who-"

Hey! We're not talking to you! Scram!

Okay, now all us obsessive, neat freaks can get to work. We're all well aware of that secret cleansing mojo bestowed on those who follow The Ritual of the Clean Install™. In the opening months of OS X, did you camp out on the update sites to download first and ask questions later? I did. In my case, I managed to install at least a dozen apps accessible only via the Terminal. Some day, I'll learn where they are and how to get rid of them. That day is not today. Today we sandblast our hard-drives clean of un-optimized code and death defying pre-alphas.

Wait. Back up.

That's right. Unless you want to lose your bookmarks, e-mail, buddy lists, QuickTime favorites, addresses and such, you're going to need to find those precious jewels and store them safely until the process is complete. On Mac OS 9, this was a relatively straightforward process. Preferences were in the (gasp!) Preferences Folder. Sometimes it's about that easy. This guide will show you how to find what you need to save in OS X. I'll cover some of my favorite and most used applications. Even if your favorite isn't included, you should start to see patterns and the reason behind the madness; and hey, what else are you going to do between now and the in-store release? You've got company coming. Get cleaning!

Here at the massive, labyrinthine Mac Observer Labs I'll be using... well, one dual USB iBook. I'm fortunate. Once my data is backed up, I can reformat and do a System Restore since it came with both Mac OS 9 and 10.0.3 pre-installed. When I achieve that factory fresh, new Mac smell, I'll update to 9.2.1, then 10.1. From there I'll transplant my saved data, ready to once more forge ahead to the cutting edge of the Macintosh.

So let's start with a few easy ones.


This program is a screen saver that downloads data gathered from the Aricebo radio telescope and analyzes them for signs of intelligent life (check out our SETI@Home team). It's currently incompatible with Mac OS X's built in screen saver scheme so only one should be configured to run at a time. The current version (3.0.5) does not offer password protection, but it will run even when no user is logged in.

The SETI@Home screen saver is a machine specific program. It doesn't belong to any one user. It's owned by the local machine on which it runs, hence its important files aren't contained in the Users folder. To save progress of the current work unit, a folder and file need to be transplanted after installing a fresh copy of SETI@Home.

Macintosh HD : Library : Application Support : SETI@Home_Data
Macintosh HD : Library : Application Support : SETI@Home Preferences

The newest version of the screen saver can be found at the project's Web site.

Son of Weather Grok

Want to monitor the humidity in Reykjavik, Iceland? Son of Weather Grok (SWG) will do it. Download and track the latest weather data from any number of cities using free public sources. In this program's case, city data can be saved if desired. The data is machine specific, so move this folder to the same location on the new install.

Macintosh HD : Library : Application Support : Weather_Data_Files

The other preferences are user specific and located within this folder:
Macintosh HD : Users : username : Library : Preferences : Son of Weather Grok Settings

The newest version of the weather monitor can be found at the Stimpsoft Web site.


It's more than movie trailers, darn it! It's the media architecture that eats like a meal. Other than the serial number, if you have the Pro version, the big thing to save would be the Favorites. After all, you can re-enter the serial from the updated list you keep on file. You do have one of those, right? ;)

Macintosh HD : Users : username : Library : Preferences : QuickTimeFavorites

If you want to get everything there are two more files.

Macintosh HD : Users : username : Library : Preferences : QuickTime Preferences
Macintosh HD : Users : username : Library : Preferences : Player.plist

Presumably 10.1 contains the newest version of QuickTime, but you can always find it at Apple's Web site.


Any program capable of upsetting both AOL/Time Warner and Microsoft is worthy of notice, and this underdog does it. This instant messaging ace provides a single interface for AIM, MSN, ICQ, Yahoo, IRC and Jabber. One buddy list, one location for logged messaging sessions. Both of which are worth keeping.

First, there's a folder that contains the configuration file, a backup config file and a folder containing all saved message sessions. The config file stores buddy lists, away messages and such.

Macintosh HD : Users : username : Library : Fire

Fire's own property list file contains everything else like application and individual service preferences.

Macintosh HD : Users : username : Library : Preferences : Fire.plist

The latest version of the multi-IM client can be found at Epicware's Web site.


Eudora is the king of all e-mail apps, with more features than any other e-mail app on the planet.

If you installed Eudora in Mac OS X, you will find a folder called Eudora Folder in your Documents folder. This folder contains all of your attachments, your settings, the various and sundry mail boxes you have, and everything else that is pertinent.

Macintosh HD : Users : username : Documents : Eudora Folder

Well that's enough for today, but stay tuned for more guides. As we get the hang of things, I'll be covering some of the more important applications in the coming days: Mail, Internet Explorer, OmniWeb, and more. I'll also be looking a few Mac OS X settings you may well want to keep.

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