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This document explains how to upgrade a Mac to OS X 10.5 Leopard and keep your data & applications. This is not the only way to upgrade your Mac, it reflects the recommendations of ITS.

Staff & Faculty, please note: FCAP upgrades to OS X Leopard are by request only. Please contact the User Support Center at x4487. (Staff & Faculty approved to upgrade to Leopard can borrow external hard drives.) The procedure for upgrading to Leopard is similar to receiving a new FCAP computer. For more information, see: Upgrading your FCAP Mac to OS X 10.5 Leopard

The safest, most-reliable way to upgrade your computer is to back up to an external drive, Erase & Install, and then use Migration Assistant to move your data back onto your computer. However, if you do not have access to an external hard drive, Archive & Install may be your best option.

  • The Erase & Install option deletes everything on your hard drive and replaces it with a fresh installation of Mac OS X. This is the “cleanest” method of upgrading a computer. If you create a clone of your Mac before erasing it, you can use Migration Assistant to transfer all of your accounts, personal data, and applications from the clone to your upgraded computer.

  • The Archive & Install option moves existing system files to a folder named Previous System, and then installs a new copy of Mac OS X. If you select this method, you will want to also select (check) "Preserve Users and Network Settings" which imports existing user accounts, home folders, and your network settings into the new system. (Archive & Install will only work if you have enough space on your computer hard drive, so doing a clean-up before upgrading may be helpful.) If you choose to Archive & Install, backup all of your irreplaceable data before you begin the upgrade.

If you don’t already own a firewire external hard drive, now may be a good time to buy one. You will use it to perform your upgrade and can continue using it with Leopard’s highly-anticipated backup application, Time Machine. You need an external hard drive that is at least as big as your computer’s internal hard drive. Consider getting a larger drive so that Time Machine does not run out of space; as your backup disk fills up, Time Machine deletes older backups to make room for new ones.

Check the Compatibility of your Software

Some third-party software is known to be incompatible with Leopard and can cause serious problems. Before installing (or migrating) your applications, please refer to this list of known incompatibilities on


Before any upgrade, it is important to do a backup.

ITS recommends using Carbon Copy Cloner to create a full backup of your system. This program makes an exact “clone” of your computer on a bootable external hard drive. After the upgrade, all you need to do is migrate your data from the external hard drive to your upgraded system.

You can download the latest version of Carbon Copy Cloner directly from Bombich Software.

Read Carbon Copy Cloner Help: “Using Carbon Copy Cloner to create an exact clone of your hard drive” and follow the directions to “clone” your computer onto an external hard drive. Once the copy is complete, check that the backup was successful by finding all your important files on the drive.

Erase & Install

Once you have backed up your system, you are ready to upgrade to Leopard.

  1. Disconnect any third-party peripherals (printers, card readers, etc) from your computer.

  2. To start your Leopard installation, insert the Mac OS X Leopard Install DVD and double-click the “Install Mac OS X” icon.

  3. When the Mac OS X Installer opens, follow the onscreen instructions to select your Mac OS X startup disk. Eligible disk volumes appear with a green arrow icon.

  4. By default, the installer will upgrade your currently-installed version of Mac OS X to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. You do not want to upgrade. Click the Options button on the "Select a Destination" window and choose Erase and Install.

    (If you do not have an external hard drive, at this point you would choose “Archive & Install” and skip the Migration Assistant. When prompted, check "Preserve Users and Network Settings”.)


Near the end of the install, Leopard will ask if you want to transfer data from another Mac. Choose “Yes” to use Migration Assistant. Plug in your external hard drive and follow the on-screen instructions to migrate your user account and applications.

Now you have an upgraded machine with all of your documents and applications.

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 |  Last updated January 10, 2013

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