With the recent release of OS X Lion, I have been trying to decide if I do a clean install or an upgrade. After doing some research into how Lion installs it looks like Apple wants you to do an upgrade. I don’t see any way to download and image and do a clean wipe of your hard drive before upgrading. With more and more modern software this seems to be the trend. Upgrade in place, rather that start clean. I think this is a good thing for the most part, but as a programmer myself I worry about legacy stuff being left behind. Large piles of leftover configs and code left as remnants in a digital attic. Operation system upgrades are especially concerning in this regard. I always see files and settings that have been changed, but still retain some of the old style in them. This make me think that there is a large amount of extra overhead to maintain these “legacy” settings. They are not always cleaned up properly on install and just clutter things up. This can cause unexpected results, crashes, etc.

On the other hand, a clean install is always a pain. You have to back up all your data, although Time Machine makes this significantly easier than it ever has before.  Then you have to re-install all your applications, as well as make sure you can track down any licences you have acquired over the years. Then you have have to re-set up all your personal preferences. I have made this part easy on myself for the command line at least by automating and having an external repo for all my .*rc type files. The only advantage that this gives is it forces you to explore the new release to see what it does and re-evaluate your workflows to utilize the new features. I find this part to be my favorite part of an upgrade. Seeing what third party tools I no longer need, testing out new ways to think about how I work.

The hardest part of a clean wipe is my tendencies toward digital hoarding. I don’t like deleting data of any kind, especially stuff I have created. I still have images of machines that have been long gone. I have folders that date back to my first Mac on OS 6.  It’s not like it is hard to maintain this habit, storage keeps growing and dwarfing any small files I might want to keep around. I now have more free storage than I know what to do with.

Having said all that I think a clean wipe is what I want to do. There are a lot of things on my laptop that I don’t really need and wouldn’t mind the opportunity to clean it all up and start over. In order to do this I may have to get creative on how I install Lion, but that is also part of the fun.

I will post more as my adventure to do a clean install progresses.