Home Home Tech Reloading my Mac from scratch has made it fresh and new

When I first got a Mac in 2011, it was an amazing experience that made Windows seem even more broken, but after transferring data to a new Mac and several OS updates, it was time to re-install from scratch.

I’m currently using a 2013 MacBook Pro with Retina display, Core i5, 500GB SSD and 8GB RAM. Although the digerati/complainerati are always carrying on about wanting 32GB of RAM in their MacBooks, which I don’t deny would be useful for many power users, my configuration has always worked very nicely for me.

However, after witnessing the effortless transfer of my entire system from my old non-Retina MacBook Pro 2010 to the 2013 model, and after having updated through several macOS versions, and after having installed a mountain of software… it was time for an update.

Firefox, which I only used to post articles into iTWire’s CMS, was more sluggish than normal (and I’ve since ditched it as entering articles via Safari, my everyday go-to browser, is working fine – bad habits of using Firefox for CMS data entry because of some issue from years ago with the CMS were hard to break.)

On top of that, Firefox still doesn’t support Apple’s pinch to zoom on the trackpad – so goodbye at long last, Firefox, I’m not re-installing you again.

Anyway, my Mac was feeling a bit sluggish, it seemed to be running out of memory, and while I only had what I needed automatically starting up at log-in, I had a ton of apps that I simply wasn’t using.

So, I backed everything up with Time Machine, I made a backup to Acronis Cloud, I made another manual back-up of all my important folders to an external SSD and wanted to reload macOS from scratch.

I did save my macOS Sierra installation file when I had last downloaded, and was going to use DiskMaker X to make a Sierra USB boot disk.

However, DiskMaker X said there was some corruption with the file, so I started downloading it again. Even though I was on a 50Mbps connection, the download seemed too slow.

Because it was about 9am, and I knew Apple Broadway near Sydney’s CBD wouldn’t open until 10am, I decided I’d drive over and get the Apple Genius Bar people to re-load macOS for me.

I got there at 9.40am, with only a couple of people waiting (and more slowly arriving). The Apple staff were inside having some kind of meeting.

A greeter was already outside with his iPad, setting quick appointments for people. Mine was precisely at 10am. I got in, a quick diagnostic of my Mac was done (it passed with flying colours), and within 10 minutes I was out the door again, with macOS Sierra freshly installed.

I’ve since re-installed Office 365, Paragon NTFS to natively read and write NTFS formatted drives, Acronis True Image 2018, BTT from Boastr.net, Caffeine, Skype, Parallels Desktop 13, Windows 10 via Bootcamp, Acorn photo editor, VPNNinja, Touché Touch bar emulator, Uber, Duet, 1Password and Parallels Toolbox.

I still have various other apps I want to re-install, but my Mac is running smooth and fast, free of all the cruft accumulated over almost 7 years, hundreds of apps, billions of hours of Internet surfing, zillions of articles written, lots of peripherals plugged in and more.

Frankly, I should have done it earlier, but my Mac has always run impressively smoothly – there was no real need to re-install. 

It was only in recent times that I felt things started deteriorating a little, until eventually I decided — that was it — a total re-install was in order.

The experience has been painless – all the apps I’ve ever purchased have their installation keys waiting for me in my email or at the sites concerned, anything I need from the Mac App Store is still there.

Naturally, this advice is just as pertinent for PC users wanting a refresh, and yes, you’ll need some spare time, you’ll need to make sure you back up your passwords, your bookmarks, your documents, your emails and any other data you will need.

I wholeheartedly recommend not only using your operating system’s built-in back-up tools, but also using third-party software like Acronis True Image 2018 for a fresh set of online and offline backups.

If you have the desire but not necessarily the technical skills, find a friend or family member with necessary know-how and time to help, or engage your local tech guy and pay them to help you backup and refresh your digital life.

Starting from scratch with a freshly re-installed system, only putting back the data and apps you need, is a wonderful thing.

It may well be time for you to do the same thing, too, but if not, back up anyway, and prepare for the day when you’ll take the re-installation plunge, too — and if you haven’t yet already — update to an SSD also.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.


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