OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Installation Guides

Which Installation Method Is Best for You?

Snow Leopard, the last version of OS X that you can purchase on a DVD, is still available from Apple's online store and retail stores for $19.99, a very reasonable price.

Why does Apple continue to sell a version of OS X that was first released in the summer of 2009? The most important reason is that Snow Leopard is the minimum requirement for using the Mac App Store, and the Mac App Store is the only way to purchase and download later versions of OS X, such as Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks and Yosemite.

At some point, Apple will stop selling Snow Leopard, but while it's still available, I highly recommend that you purchase it and keep it on hand. The main reason is that if your Mac should suffer a catastrophic drive failure, forcing you to replace the drive, you may need to install Snow Leopard before you can download a current version of OS X from the Mac App Store.

Of course, you can avoid that headache by having a good backup system, but $19.99 is a small price to pay for insurance in my book. And there's an added bonus. You can create a Snow Leopard partition on your Mac to run old games or apps that aren't compatible with newer versions of OS X.

Snow Leopard Install Options

The rest of this guide will take you through the various methods of installing Snow Leopard. Each method assumes you have an OS X 10.6 install DVD that you purchased from Apple. It also assumes that your Mac has a built-in optical drive.

If you don't have an optical drive, you can use an external unit or connect to another Mac that has a DVD drive via Target Disk Mode. You can also create a bootable USB flash drive of the Snow Leopard install disk, but you'll still need access to a Mac that has an optical drive.

Snow Leopard may not be compatible with newer Macs that were sold after the July 1, 2011 release of OS X Lion. If you have one of the newer Macs, you can use the OS X Recovery Disk Assistant to create a recovery drive on a USB flash drive or external drive.

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Snow Leopard Minimum Requirements

Snow Leopard Minimum Requirements
Courtesy of Apple

Snow Leopard supports a wide range of Macs, going back almost to the first Intel-based Mac. But just because your Mac uses an Intel processor doesn't mean it's 100% compatible.

There's more to meeting the minimum requirements for Snow Leopard than checking your Mac's model name and comparing it against a list. The compatibility requirements include the type of processor and graphics card that are installed.

If you have a Mac Pro, it may be possible to update components to meet the minimum requirements, although you may find that the cost of such upgrades convince you to buy a new Mac instead. Either way, this guide will help you determine if your Mac can run OS X 10.6.

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How to Perform a Clean Install of Snow Leopard OS X 10.6

Clean Install of Snow Leopard OS X 10.6
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

That $19.99 Snow Leopard DVD that Apple sells is actually an upgrade version, or at least that's what Apple said in 2009 when it released the DVD. Fortunately, this isn't really the case; in addition to using the DVD to perform an upgrade install you can also use it to perform a clean install on a Mac that doesn't have a system installed.

You're most likely to use the clean install method if you're installing Snow Leopard because you replaced your drive. Chances are the new drive is empty, just waiting for an OS. You might also use the clean install method if you want to add Snow Leopard to a drive partition, so you can run older games and apps.

This step-by-step guide will take you through the Snow Leopard clean install process.

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Basic Upgrade Install of Snow Leopard

Basic Upgrade Install of Snow Leopard
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

If you want to perform an upgrade install of Snow Leopard, you must have OS X 10.5 (Leopard) already running on your Mac. This upgrade method probably won’t be very practical for those of you who purchased Snow Leopard as a bit of insurance in case your Mac’s hard drive fails and you don’t have a usable backup.

But many of you have never made the transition to Snow Leopard, and you may wish to do so now. This is especially true if you have an aging Mac and you want to squeeze the last bit of performance and the longest possible life out of it. If your Mac is compatible, Snow Leopard is a pretty good upgrade.

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Create an OS X Boot Device Using a USB Flash Drive

USB drive
Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

If your Mac doesn’t have an optical drive, and you don’t wish to purchase an external USB DVD drive, you can use the Snow Leopard DVD to create a bootable USB flash drive.

Of course, you’ll still need access to a Mac with an optical drive, but we’re going to assume that you can cajole a friend or family member into helping out, or perhaps access a Mac at work that has a DVD drive.

If you can access a Mac that has an optical drive, then you can use this guide to create a bootable flash drive that you can use with any Mac that supports USB 2.0 or later.

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