The rights and wrongs of installing

Between September 2005 and July 2011 I was a regular contributor to MacFormat in the UK.

Whereas I’m posting the published articles for my MacWarehouse writing with the MacFormat ones I’ve decided to post the text as submitted, including any comments that I included for design. I am, however, allowing myself a few small edits for clarity, in this case that involves removing one dead link and updating another.

The particular one is my fourth column, written in December 2005, and is an expansion of a section from my first submission which was cut for length. This is presented purely as a historical record as much, if not all, of the information contained in it may well have changed in the meantime.

The rights and wrongs of installing

In my first column I mentioned that you should learn the safe way of installing and should always make sure that you can back out of an installation, but how exactly do you do that?

There are seven stages to a successful update, or indeed for installing a new product.

1 – Take an image of your system as it is now

Apple’s Disk Utility enables you to make an exact copy of your hard drive as either a bootable copy on another hard drive or as an image file that can be saved on any volume such as a drive or a server.

Taking an image of your system before you start to work on it means that you can always go back to a known working state if things go wrong with the update. Restoring an image is far faster than wiping the hard drive and installing everything from scratch or trying to undo whatever the update just did.

2 – Repair privileges

Disk Utility can also check that things on your drive are as they should be, making sure that file privileges for certain items are correct. It is important to make sure that things are as they should be before you start to make changes.

3 – Clean caches and run maintenance routines

Delete the folders

~/Library/Caches and /Library/Caches

Run the periodic routines which usually run every night. These give your system a minor “tune-up” before you start the installation. To force them to run when you want them to open Terminal and issue the following commands:

sudo periodic daily

sudo periodic weekly

sudo periodic monthly

Repairing privileges, clearing caches and running maintenance routines will fix any minor problems that you may not have been aware or and will ensure that the caches will be created afresh taking the update into account rather than risk using any old data.

4 – Disconnect all FireWire devices

This is particularly important when installing OS updates and has been known to cause problems if not done.

5 – Install the update or program

6 – Repair privileges again

7 – Leave things where the installer put them

Some programs, particularly Apple ones, will not update properly if they are not in the same place that they were installed, or you may have problems with the application not being able to find required support files. e.g. if you put iTunes into a sub-folder of your Applications folder called Music then there have been reports that Apple installer will not be able to update it. If you want to have your applications in another folder then create an alias of the application and then put that into the folder concerned.

Isn’t there an easier way?

Yes there is, you can do all of the above without having to go into the command line or remember  which cache folders to delete.

Carbon Copy Cloner is a great way of making images of your system and is a lot friendlier than using Disk Utility.

Two utilities, Xupport and Cocktail, enable you to clean out your caches, run maintenance routines, optimise your system and repair privileges without you having to go anywhere near the command line.

Xupport now appears to be dead

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