OS X Lion: Getting Ready for the Leap

| Lion

Apple’s release of OS X Lion is only days away, so it’s time to make sure your Mac is up to snuff and that you minimize the potential headaches and surprises when you make the transition from Snow Leopard. Making the jump to Lion shouldn’t be a big problem for most people, and a little planning ahead will help make sure you aren’t in hot water when Apple unleashes the update on the waiting masses.

Gear Up
Before considering whether or not the move to Lion is for you, makes sure your Mac can handle the new OS. Apple says OS X 10.7 requires at least a Core 2 Duo Mac with a minimum of 2GB RAM, at least 10GB free hard drive space, and Mac OS X 10.6.6 or newer for access to the Mac App Store when it comes time to purchase the update.

Lion on the MacBook AirLion runs on all current Mac models, and most older Intel models, too

Most Macs shipped after 2006 have at least a Core 2 Duo processor. Here’s Apple’s baseline for Lion-compatible Macs:

  • MacBook The first Core 2 Duo MacBooks shipped in November 2006
  • MacBook Pro The first Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros shipped in October 2006
  • iMac The first Core 2 Duo 17-inch iMac shipped in September 2006
  • Mac mini The first Core 2 Duo Mac mini was a late comer with an August 2007 launch
  • Mac Pro Every Mac Pro going back to its August 2006 introduction is Lion compatible

Lion likes memory, so The Mac Observer recommends you have 4GB RAM or more in your Mac for best performance. We also found that Lion can occasionally fail to install on hard drives that are dropping down to or below 10GB of free space.

If you aren’t sure what processor powers your Mac, how much RAM you have installed, or how big your hard drive is, the System Profiler app can help you ferret out those details. To launch System Profiler, go to the Apple menu, select About This Mac, then click More Info.

System ProfilerSystem Profiler shows which processor is tucked away in your Mac

The Hardware section should already be selected when System Profiler launches. Just check the right-side window for your processor type and total RAM. Click Serial-ATA in the Contents column to see details about your hard drive and SuperDrive.

Even though Apple introduced Mac App store support with the Mac OS X 10.6.6 update, updating to Mac OS X 10.6.8 ahead of installing Lion is a good idea. Apple has been updating its own apps for Lion compatibility, and ensuring you’re running the latest OS, along with the latest app versions could help avoid some unwelcome surprises — like apps that no longer launch.

Up to Speed Apps
Just as Apple has been hard at work to ensure its apps include Lion support, third-party developers have been working extra hours, too, so they’ll be ready when OS X 10.7 ships. In some cases, however, developers have no plans to update their apps for Lion compatibility, and apps that rely on Rosetta simply won’t run at all.

Rosetta is Apple’s software layer that lets Intel-based Macs run apps that were coded only to run on older PowerPC-based computers. Since Rosetta is going the way of the dinosaur with the release of Lion, those older apps — and in some cases, newer apps — will stop working once Lion is installed on your Mac.

You can check individual apps to see if they require Rosetta to run by selecting the app’s icon, then choosing File > Get Info (or Command-I) in the Finder. If the Get Info window shows Kind: Application (PowerPC), the application won’t run with Lion installed.

PowerPC apps won't run on LionThe app on the left won’t run on Lion because it requires Rosetta

Check with the developers of the apps you use to see if they plan on releasing Lion compatibility updates, if they have updates out, or if their software is already Lion-compatible.

If going through your Applications directory one app at a time to check for compatibility issues isn’t your thing, check out the RoaringApps Web site. They have been compiling a list of Mac OS X applications and detailing whether or not they are Lion compatible, and the list gets updated regularly.

Be sure to check your Login Items, too, since items can sneak in and get forgotten. You can see what items are launching when you log into your user account by choosing Apple Menu > System Preferences > Accounts, then click the Login Items tab.

Check Lion compatibility at the RoaringApps Web siteCheck Lion app compatibility at the RoaringApps Web site

After ensuring Snow Leopard and all of your apps are up to date, backup all of the data you don’t want to risk losing. Even though the odds are in your favor that all of your data and apps will still be there after upgrading, knowing you have backups makes for great peace of mind in case something does go wrong.

Apple’s own Time Machine makes easy work of backing up files, applications, and even your operatin system, assuming you let the utility copy everything from your hard drive. Other utilities, like SuperDuper!, MacKeeper, Data Backup 3, and Carbon Copy Cloner can handle backing up your hard drive ahead of the move to Lion.

Unleashing Lion
When Apple releases Lion some time before the end of July you won’t need to line up at your favorite Apple store to get a copy. Lion will be released only as an electronic download through the Mac App Store, marking the first time Apple has released an operating system without physical media.

To get your copy of Lion, choose Apple Menu > App Store to launch the Mac App Store application, then do a quick search for Lion. Odds are that Apple will make it really easy to find, so you shouldn’t have to look too far. Lion will set you back US$29.99.

Once the Lion upgrade finishes downloading, it will walk you through the upgrade process. Depending on your Mac, the upgrade could take as little as 30 minutes to complete. Slower Macs, of course, will take longer.

A little planning ahead will make your move to Lion easier and less stressful, and backing up ahead of the upgrade can save you from disaster — as unlikely as that may be. Apple also shared some early details about the upgrade process in June.

Once Lion is officially available, TMO will offer our usual look into what the OS has to offer, and share tips on how to get the most of Apple’s latest cat, so be sure to check back to see what’s in store.

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Thanks for the ‘heads-up’ preparation. I believe that we can also check whether an app is PowerPC, Intel or Universal by selecting Software/Applications in System Profiler. There is a column called ‘kind’ which neatly shows which apps won’t work with Lion. (you can sort by kind to make the task even easier)

Lee Dronick

Thanks for the ?heads-up? preparation. I believe that we can also check whether an app is PowerPC, Intel or Universal by selecting Software/Applications in System Profiler.

I was going to post that, but you beat me to it.

My iMac has a number of Rosetta apps and I may not upgrade that, at least not early on. My MacBook Pro only has a few and large percentage of them are “Read me” apps written by publishers too clever for PDF or TXT.

I am going to be the first to download Lion. I am camped outside the Fashion Valley Apple Store using their free WiFi and charging my MacBook from the mall’s maintenance electric outlet. It just doesn’t seem right not to wait in line.


(I don’t look at any of this as being under the ADC NDA, just experiences on upgrading in general.)

I have been working with the Lion beta in a variety of ways and I second Jeff’s suggestion to back everything up. Also make sure that backup is bootable. I just upgraded a 10.6.7 system to Lion GM and it ran well except for all the special applications we’re forced to use at work. These made everything go crazy. Non-corporate users hopefully will be ok but if you’re running special software that launches at startup or adjusts how basic Apple software runs, I’d make sure those are up to date or uninstall them until you have a properly functioning Lion system. Mail takes awhile to convert to the new format. My test Mac didn’t have music or photos but I presume those will also go through an update process so plan on letting the upgrade process work until it’s done.

One thing happened that might be because I’m using a corporate configuration but Lion wanted me to enter a new password once it finished the installation process. I’d suggest logging onto your Mac with your admin account first, change that password (to the same works), then go through each user account you have and change those. I started with a user account and my admin account didn’t work. I had to log off, then log back in as the admin and was given the chance to reset the password.

Finally, just because your application says its universal or Intel doesn’t mean it will work properly. Go through every application you own and make sure it’s been updated to the latest version available from the vendor. Check the vendor site to see if they say it has been tested under 10.7. SuperDuper! has been updated (twice) to handle 10.7 and several others I use have also been updated. I’d pay particular attention to utilities and anything that provides a system-type function. I believe Office 2008 works but it contains PPC helper applications. Same with the Adobe CS4 suite.

Good luck and have patience while it downloads and installs.


I am going to be the first to download Lion. I am camped outside the ... It just doesn?t seem right not to wait in line.

NO WAY!!  THAT HAS TO BE A BIG WHOPPING JOKE you’re telling us! (Please, Sir Harry - tell us that was just a very clever joke, right?)

Lee Dronick

Sir Harry Flashman said:I am going to be the first to download Lion. I am camped outside the ... It just doesn?t seem right not to wait in line.
NO WAY!!? THAT HAS TO BE A BIG WHOPPING JOKE you?re telling us! (Please, Sir Harry - tell us that was just a very clever joke, right?)

Yes it was a joke. However, it is not a joke that I, and others, sit outside the Apple Store to use the free WiFi. I can also go up on the second deck, near the food court, to use the free Apple or Starbucks WiFi. It is a lifesaver when my wife is off buying purple tops and mom jeans. “You go off and shop, I will sit here with a cup of coffee and my iPad.”

I probably will wait a few days after Lion is released before downloading and installing it. I want to see if there are any problems with it.

I am disappointed that there won’t be any Lion t-shirts handed out at the Apple Store.


Jeez!  Using Get Info on all those apps would be a pain.

If you want the list, open System Profiler, click on Applications under the Software heading, and when it’s loaded, click on the “Kind” column header.  Everything is there (probably including some stuff you don’t want) from Classic to Universal, with Intel and PowerPC in between.

And BTW, if you want to cut out a step, holding down the option key when you select the Apple Menu changes “About This Mac” into “System Profiler.”


In my review of PPC apps on my computer, the only one that I couldn’t easily replace (or just forget about) was AppleWorks 6.  This is because I have a lot of old files in AppleWorks5 or ClarisWorks 4 format that will not open in Pages.  It would be a lot of work to open each one and save it as a newer format.  I keep these files as archives, but every once in a while I do look at them.

So last night I got SheepShaver to work running Mac OS 9 which can run AppleWorks 6 (there’s a classic Mac OS binary inside the Mac OS X bundle, isn’t that handy?).  Therefore I can access my files. Therefore I’m OK with losing Rosetta.

Most apps have been or can easily be recompiled to Universal binaries. Most of PPC apps I had were open-source programs or ports of classic Mac games to Mac OS X, for which I easily found newer Intel binaries.  I haven’t yet hunted down an Intel binary of Myst III, but that’s pretty low priority right now.

Lee Dronick

This is because I have a lot of old files in AppleWorks5 or ClarisWorks 4 format that will not open in Pages

No BeagleWorks files?


@webjprgm Just in case for my own benefit - you didn’t happen to find any Intel binaries for Oids, Head Over Heels, Undying or America McGee’s Alice did you ?  I’d love to upgrade OS, but keep these games if possible !

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