Yesterday, at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference, Steve Jobs unveiled a slate of new software from Apple, including iOS 5 and OSX Lion. The most intriguing thing for me was Lion, and not just because it is named after the king of the beasts. It has multi-touch gestures built into the OS, autosaves everything, combines Expose and Spaces, fullscreen apps and at least 246 other new features – and it is purchased directly from the App Store for $29. Apparently, you purchase the software, download it and then it installs itself with a single click. As far as I can tell, there is no way to do a clean install of the software, meaning completely wiping out everything on your hard drive and starting over.
This begs some questions: is Lion really a new OS version, or merely a Snow Leopard upgrade? And what big cat is the next version going to be named after? The Lion’s pretty much at the top of the feline food chain. Any other cat will pretty much be a step downward. I’m just saying. Unless they go with Liger, which is pretty much my favorite animal. But, I digress.
To upgrade from Snow Leopard, there are both hardware and software requirements; you have to have one of several Intel processors, and you must have the latest version of OSX. If I have, say, version 10.6.4 instead of 10.6.7, I can’t install Lion? Why not? In every other OS on the market, when you purchase the full version, as long as you meet the hardware requirements, you can install the OS software with the option of a clean install. This seems not to be the case with Lion. Apparently it must be installed on top of Snow Leopard. So, if I don’t install the “latest” version of Snow Leopard on principle, I’m hosed.
Perhaps in the rush to put all of its software in the App Store, Apple is slipping hooks into its OS via software updates, which would then allow for full OS versions to install on top of the old OS version. I just pulled that out of an unmentionable spot, but pretending that I’m right, this would lend itself to a heavy buildup of cruft in the OS and after a while would make your Mac sloow dooooown unbeeeeeaaaaaaraaably. It’s a good thing to do a clean install every once in a while. Cleans out the old pipes, tunes up the OS and gets rid of the gunk left behind by all that old software that you keep downloading and forgetting about.
So, to answer the question posed by @robimbs yesterday on the Twitter, how do you do a clean install of Lion? It’s easy. Do a clean install of Snow Leopard, get all of the OS updates and security patches installed, then open the App Store, purchase Lion, download that, click the install button and voila! Four hours after you’ve started you are ready to reinstall all of your apps! Personally, I would rather have the disks please, Apple.