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How to start fresh with a new user account

John Moltz | Aug. 26, 2015
Remove the cruft of years with a clean install of OS X.

The first move, obviously, was to back up. So I backed up three times in three different ways. Really. I normally keep two backups of my important drives, a daily one in Time Machine and a weekly one via SuperDuper. Why both? Time Machine can be fickle and a SuperDuper backup provides a complete, bootable disk image in case a drive goes south on you (sometimes a drive just takes off to Mexico) and you need to run OS X off it in an emergency.

The third backup was just a straight copy of files from my Documents folder, my iTunes and Photos libraries, those mailboxes, and a few other things I didn’t want to lose. I probably didn’t need this, but hey, I’ve got drives and when you’re blowing up a user account with all your important crap, it’s not the time to be stingy.

Cleaning house

Everything backed up, it was time to reformat the drive. That proved easier said than done. I had saved the Yosemite install application when I first upgraded to 10.10 (if you don’t have it, you can download an updated version from the Mac App Store) so I copied it straight to the Applications folder on the drive I wanted to reformat and ran it. It rebooted and started the Yosemite install process, but it never gave me the option to format the drive. When the process was done, I found I had the same user account, just running 10.10 instead of 10.10.4. That… was not what I wanted at all. I had thought you could reformat the drive via that process but apparently it’s not an option when you’re running the install from the drive you’re installing to.

I could have booted into Recovery mode to run the installer, but then I would have had to wait for it to download. Who’s got time for that in this economy? But guess what I had. A bootable FireWire 800 drive copy made via SuperDuper. So I booted off of that, reformatted the internal drive and ran the installer. Then I rebooted off of the freshly formatted drive, finished up the niceties like signing in to iCloud, and ran the Yosemite updates from the Mac App Store. (I could have avoided this by downloading the updated installer but I figured the updaters would be smaller. That may not have actually been true.)

Now to put my data back. Remember, I was starting over. Migration Assistant was bringing forward some amount of unidentifiable cruft dating back to 2003 that I was trying to get rid of, so using it was not only not an option, not using it was the whole point. I needed to copy things back in old school.


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