OS X: Upgrading to Lion

OS X Lion was shown off during Apple’s annual World Wide Developers Conference keynote on Monday, and will be available some time in July. This marks the first time Apple will be distributing its Mac operating system without offering a physical disc installer, and not every Intel-based Mac can support Lion. Read on to see who can install Lion, and what’s involved.

MacBook Air with LionLion: Apple’s newest Mac OS

Lion-compatible Macs
OS X Lion requires a Mac with an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 or Xeon processor. That means most Macs shipped after 2006 have at least the minimum horse power to run Lion.

  • 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

Starting with the Right OS
OS X Lion is an upgrade, so you need to make sure your Mac is running OS X 10.6, or Snow Leopard, before you begin. If Snow Leopard isn’t already installed on your Mac, you can buy it at your local Apple Store or the online Apple Store for US$29, or through companies such as Amazon.com.

If you haven’t installed Snow Leopard, you won’t be able to upgrade to Lion. Also make sure to update to Snow Leopard version 10.6.7 through the Apple’s Software Update application, or by downloading the updater from the Apple Support Web site. Version 10.6.7 added Mac App Store support, which is necessary for downloading the Lion upgrader.

Upgrading to Lion
Once OS X Lion is available, you’ll be able to download it from the Mac App Store, which also just so happens to be the only way to purchase the upgrade. Lion is priced at US$29.99, just like Snow Leopard.

The Mac App Store will download the Lion upgrader app to your Mac. Once it finishes downloading, just follow the onscreen instructions to complete the upgrade process.

But What About…
Apple is making the upgrade to Lion simple, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few questions lingering, like:

  • Do I have to re-download the Lion upgrade if I need to reinstall OS X? No, you won’t. The Lion installer is saved as a file on your Mac. That can be saved to another disk and can be used again if you ever need to reinstall OS X. Lion also includes a restore partition on your hard drive that can be used to reinstall or repair your Mac’s operating system, and Lion can be restored from a Time Machine backup.
  • What About Mac Users with Slow Internet Connections? The Lion upgrade is 4GB, which can take a painfully long time to download on slow Internet connections. If you don’t feel like waiting hours — or even days — for the download to complete, your best bet is to take your Mac to a faster Internet connection, like an Apple Store.
  • Can I Buy a Lion Family Pack? Apps downloaded from the Mac App Store include copy protection that lets you install titles on up to ten computers that are authorized with your account information. That means you won’t need a Family Pack license for the Macs in your house. Your $29.99 upgrade fee has you covered.

If you want to find out right away when OS X Lion is available, Apple will be sending email notifications. There’s a simple form to fill out on the company’s Web site.

Lion isn’t due to hit virtual store shelves for a few more weeks, so more questions — and hopefully a few more answers — are on the way. The Mac Observer will be watching Apple and OS X Lion closely to make sure you get the answers you need before jumping into Apple’s next operating system.