Re-Installing OS X, although easy to do, can be a big pain. Setting up OS X and then re-installing all your applications and running Software Update can take hours if not days. What about any custom settings, printers, and user folders? While this isn’t something you will have to do regularly, if your hard drive breaks or you did something you shouldn’t – like delete the Applications folder, you’ll need to re-install. The good news is that there’s an incredibly easy way to avoid the hassle of re-installing and here’s how to do it:
About System Images:
First, let me explain what a System Image is. Basically a System Image is a snapshot of your entire hard drive that can be restored quickly and easily. In the IT world, System Images are used to set up and configure hundreds if not thousands of machines easily, in a fraction of the time.
A System Image can contain anything you want it to, including applications, users and settings. I heavily recommend that you create your System Image from a fresh install of OS X to save space and hassle. If you have a portable hard drive, you can install OS X onto it instead of wiping and re-installing on your computer.
What you will need:
1. Either another Apple computer or a portable FireWire hard drive to either boot from of create the image on.
2. The incredible and free SuperDuper! from Shirt Pocket Software.
3. Your OS X install CD/DVDs.
How to create your image:
In order to simplify this tutorial, I will explain how to do this with a portable FireWire hard drive as the image. You can also do this with two computers with the machine to be imaged running in Target Disk Mode.
1. Start your computer and plug in the FireWire hard drive.
2. Insert the OS X install CD/DVD.
3. Double click on the Install OS X icon and follow the instructions to begin the install process.
4. Very Important: When you get to the point where you pick the drive OS X will be installed on, choose the FireWire hard drive.
5. Be sure to customize your installation if you want to get rid of unnecessary printer drivers, language packs and add-on software. Be sure to remove the Microsoft Office Test Drive if your system came with it.
Note: If you are installing from a purchased OS X DVD that didn’t come with your computer such as the OS X Leopard DVD, it will not include the iLife suite. (iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband, etc)
6. Install the OS on your FireWire drive.
7. Start your computer from the FireWire drive by holding the Option key as soon as you hear the startup chime. Choose the FireWire drive from the options.
8. Configure OS X to your liking – create accounts, change the desktop, set passwords, etc.
9. Run Software Update and install all updates until there are no more to install.
10. Install any printer software you may need.
11. Install any applications you always use such as Microsoft Office, Firefox, Skype, etc.
12. Update any applications you installed. – Especially if you are installing MS Office.
13. Shut down the computer, unplug the drive and start up normally.
14. Once the computer is started, plug in the FireWire drive.
15. Run SuperDuper!
16. On the left drop-down menu, choose your FireWire drive. This is what you will be copying from.
17 On the right drop-down menu, choose “Disk-Image”.
18. In the dialogue that comes up, name your image and be sure to choose “Read Only Disk Image”.
19. Click Save and on SuperDuper!’s main screen, click “Copy Now”
20. Enter the appropriate password and the image will begin creating.
Note: This will take quite a bit of time for the image to create – anywhere from 30-90 minutes depending on the size of your image and speed of your computer. Make sure your computer will not fall asleep while this is working. Adjust the energy saver now.
21. When the image is finished, copy it and SuperDuper! to the FireWire drive and you are good to go!
Using your Image:
1. Boot from the FireWire drive
2. Open Disk Utility
3. Erase the Hard Drive you are restoring to (not the FireWire drive)
4. Run SuperDuper!
5. Choose your image in the left hand menu.
6. Choose the Untitled hard drive in the right-hand menu
7. Enter the Administrator password and click “Copy”
8. In about 10-15 minutes it should be ready.
I would recommend creating an image when you either first get your computer or upgrade major versions of OS X – Tiger to Leopard. Since the computer is already in a fresh state, this is the perfect time to create an image without having to re-install first.
Also, you may want to update your image every six months to a year to include all the Software Updates that may have come out.
Finally, don’t include user data in the image – Pictures, Movies, Music etc. This will keep your image size lean, speed up the process of imaging and prevent you from restoring old data. User data should be restored from a backup. You can use your FireWire drive as a backup system as well as the imaging system – if it’s large enough.