Basic Upgrade Install of Snow Leopard

The default installation method for Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) is an upgrade from Leopard. If you prefer, you can erase your hard drive and start fresh with a clean install but in this step-by-step guide, we’ll perform the basic upgrade installation.

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Snow Leopard Basic Install: What You Need to Install Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard Basic Install: What You Need to Install Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6).


What You Need to Install Snow Leopard

  • An Intel Mac. Snow Leopard only supports Intel-based Macs; it does not support older PowerPC Macs. If you’re not sure which type of Mac you have, use the Can I upgrade to Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6)? FAQ to find out.
  • A Mac running Leopard (OS X 10.5). The upgrade version of Snow Leopard that was first made available will only perform upgrades and clean installs on Macs that already have OS X 10.5 installed. Apple will release a full install version of Snow Leopard soon. The full install version will allow you to install OS X 10.6 on any Intel Mac, regardless of the OS that’s currently installed.
  • 1 GB of RAM. More is better, but Snow Leopard will run on a Mac with 1 GB of RAM.
  • 5 GB of free space on your startup drive. Snow Leopard actually uses less hard drive space than older versions of OS X, but you need 5 GB of free space for the installation to complete successfully.
  • A DVD drive. If you have a MacBook Air that doesn’t have a DVD drive, you will need to use a network DVD drive or an external USB DVD drive to install Snow Leopard.

Gather everything you need and let’s get started.

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Snow Leopard Basic Install: Preparing for the Installation

Snow Leopard Basic Install - Preparing for the Installation
The Snow Leopard installer.

Before you insert the Snow Leopard Install DVD into your Mac, take a bit of time to prepare your Mac for its new OS. A little advance housekeeping will ensure a quick and uneventful installation. The housekeeping chores we recommend will also make it easy for you to revert to your previous OS, should a problem occur during installation or should you need an older version of OS X to run an older application.

Detailed instructions are available in the Prep your Mac for Snow Leopard guide. Once you finish (don’t worry; it doesn’t take long), come on back here and we will start the actual installation.

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Snow Leopard Basic Install: Start the Snow Leopard Installation

Snow Leopard Basic Install - Start the Snow Leopard Installation
Select the destination drive for the Snow Leopard installation.

Now that we’ve taken care of all the boring housekeeping chores, we can get down to the fun part: installing Snow Leopard.

Install Snow Leopard

  1. Insert the Snow Leopard install DVD into your DVD drive. The Mac OS X Install DVD window should open. If it doesn’t, double-click the DVD’s icon on your desktop.
  2. Double-click the ‘Install Mac OS X’ icon in the Mac OS X Install DVD window.
  3. The Mac OS X installer window will open. Click the ‘Continue’ button.
  4. Select the destination drive for Snow Leopard. The selected drive must already have OS X 10.5 installed.
  5. Click the ‘Customize’ button if you want to make any changes to the packages that will be installed. Most users can skip this step, as the default packages should prove adequate, but if you want to add or remove specific installation packages, this is the place to do it. For example, you may want to remove languages you don’t need or make changes to the printer drivers that are installed. Snow Leopard uses a new method for installing and using printer drivers. Previous versions of the Mac OS installed a long list of drivers that most of us never used. Snow Leopard’s installer checks to see which printers are attached to a Mac, as well as which printers are nearby (connected by a network and using the Bonjour protocol to advertise that they are on the network). If you want to install all available printer drivers, expand the ‘Printer Support’ item and put a check mark next to ‘All Available Printers.’
    Click ‘OK’ when you’re done.
  6. When you’re ready to proceed with the default install, click the ‘Install’ button.
  7. The installer will ask if you’re sure you want to install Mac OS X. Click the ‘Install’ button.
  8. The installer will ask for your password. Enter your password and click the ‘OK’ button.

With these basic questions out of the way, your Mac is ready for the actual installation.

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Snow Leopard Basic Install: Copying Core Files and Restarting

Snow Leopard Basic Install: Copying Core Files and Restarting
The installation progress bar.

With the preliminary setup out of the way, the Snow Leopard installer will start the actual file copying. It will present a status window that displays an estimated time to complete, and a progress bar that provides a visual clue to how much work is yet to be done.

Copy and Restart

Once the Snow Leopard installer copies the core files to your hard drive, your Mac will restart. Don’t worry if you stay at the gray boot screen for a long period; this process can take a little time. I waited for what seemed like at least three minutes, although I didn’t actually measure it. Eventually you will return to the installer screen and the status bar will reappear.

The installer will continue to copy necessary files, as well as configure the OS, getting it ready for your use. Once this process is complete, the Snow Leopard installer will display a new window announcing that the installation of Snow Leopard was completed successfully. You can click the ‘Restart’ button and start using your new OS. If you went off to take a coffee break while Snow Leopard was doing all the work for you, your Mac will restart on its own after a minute.

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Snow Leopard Basic Install: Welcome to Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard Basic Install: Welcome to Snow Leopard
Pressing the ‘Continue’ button is the final step of the installation.

After you install Snow Leopard, your Mac will go through its first restart and then either bring you to a login screen or directly to your desktop. Once you reach the desktop, there will be a short wait as Snow Leopard performs a few background tasks and then launches the Max OS X Setup Assistant.

Setup Assistant

The Max OS X Setup Assistant will display its welcome screen and play a bit of music. Once the welcome animation is over, the Setup Assistant actually has nothing to do, because you upgraded from a previous version of OS X and there’s nothing more to set up. You can click the Continue button and start exploring your new installation of Snow Leopard.

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