Order Leopard from Amazon for the best price.
Get a dedicated backup drive to use Time Machine.
You can use SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner to back up your drive for free.
Upgrade and Install works fine.
If you want to Erase and Install, make a clone of your drive first and then use Migration Assistant to bring over the programs and settings.
You can upgrade a Mac with no DVD drive by linking it to another Mac via FireWire Target mode.
Some start up processes like indexing for Spotlight and backing up to Time Machine take a while once Leopard is up and running.
Installing Leopard: a Real Story and Lessons LearnedCategories: Before You Buy
OK, so we've all read online the theoretical options of installing Leopard, but how does it really happen and what sort of real life planning goes into it? I'll recount the approach I took with my 3 Macs.
First of all, there is the ordering. Right now, Amazon has the best deal on Leopard. But since I'm not allowed order from Amazon on MFM's affiliate account, I went to another Mac website and clicked through their Amazon affiliate link to support them instead. If you plan to get the best price and order from Amazon, please click through MFM's Amazon link to support us in the same way!
Since I knew I'd be upgrading 3 Macs, I bought the Family Pack. Yes, nothing prevents you from doing that with the single license disk, but it's the right thing to do. One way to look at it is to treat Apple right for NOT having copy protection on their consumer software. Besides, our AAPL stock appreciation should more than pay for everything I've bought from them.
So I ordered the free slow shipping from Amazon, which quotes you something like 6-9 days to deliver. I always select the slowest, cheapest shipping option when ordering major company products on the web. I've found that living in in SoCal puts me just a day or two from most shipping warehouses. The order shipped from about 30 miles away in LA, so the USPS would have to stick it on a turtle to take that long. It shipped Saturday and I got it Tuesday.
I knew it would be coming soon and I wanted to use Time Machine, so I had to figure out a plan to free up some space. What I didn't know until I got it was you need a dedicated drive for Time Machine, not just a lot of space on an extra drive that you are using for other things. Of course I could make a partition, but that was overly complicated with so many drives laying around.
Here's our setup: 1 PowerMac for heavy lifting work with 2 internal drives, 1 small and 1 large external drive; 1 PowerBook with a busted optical drive; 1 MacBook that's pretty full already. All the extra drives have some files on them, so I needed to plan to free up a drive for Time Machine. I also wanted to free up a drive for backup before installing.
The first route I took was to upgrade the PowerBook with the busted optical drive by hooking it to the MacBook in FireWire target disk mode and running the install from the MacBook's DVD drive. The first problem was that the MacBook install didn't like the PowerBook's hard drive format. So I thought the "Upgrade and Install" option was out and I'd have to wipe the drive doing an "Erase and Install".
That now sent me down the path of needing to back up the whole PowerBook drive, so I moved all the files from my small external to my big external and downloaded both SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner. If you have an exact clone of your original drive, you can do an Erase and Install and then once you start up Leopard, you can tell it you want to migrate files from an old Mac and instead hook it up to your cloned drive fooling it. This way you can easily get all your apps and settings back after an Erase and Install. Nice!
The other nice thing I discovered is that Carbon Copy Cloner is Donationware and SuperDuper has a free trial, so there really is no barrier to just trying them out and paying later if one is valuable to you. I was relieved to not have to shell out more money.
Once the drive was cloned to the small external, I decided to attach the PowerBook to the PowerMac this time and installing from there instead. As it turns out, the PowerMac was fine running the Upgrade and Install option, so I chose that knowing at least I had a backup if things went South. I think the drive format issue came up because I tried to upgrade from an Intel based Mac which might want a specific kind of drive formatting. I'm guessing that the install DVD actually has 2 installs based on whether the Mac is Intel or PowerPC based and got mixed up on the drive formats.
So the PowerBook Upgrade went without a hitch. I had it run while I had lunch and came back to a Leopard-ized Mac. Since that went well, I decided to go with less caution and run the Archive and Install option on the PowerMac without backup. That at least gives me the option to go back to Tiger if the Leopard turns out to choke and I need my workhorse right away.
Before I did that though, I moved all the files on the 2nd internal drive to the large external, to be a little safer and to make space for Time Machine. I ran that upgrade while going for a run. The PowerMac upgrade went smooth as well.
Here's another tip: if you are concerned about how much space the install will take up on your hard drive, customize the installation by deselecting printer drivers you don't need, as well as foreign languages and associated fonts. This can save gigs of space. For some reason these are installed by default in Leopard rather than opting in to get them. Look for these under Options as you click through the install screens.
My PowerBook is a 1G G4, which is at the low end of the supported Macs list. After starting up for the first time in Leopard, the Finder took FOREVER to respond. I thought the install was botched. I watched it as unresponsive in Activity Monitor for a good 5 or more minutes while other programs were just fine. It eventually came around though. I'm guessing that Cover Flow and Quick Look beat on the machine so hard that Apple preps the Finder in some way to deal with it.
Also, the processor was whacking away which ran the fan for awhile after first launch. Activity Viewer was telling me the process doing that was called MDS, whatever that is. After a quick Google, I found out that is the process Spotlight uses to index your drive to get ready to be of service. That took a while but eventually finished.
And like the indexing of the drive, starting Time Machine for the first time begins a long copy of your hard drive to your back up drive. That took hours on my PowerMac. You can still keep working, but it will be chugging away in the background and you should plan to leave it going until it's done. That's a one time shot though. For subsequent backups, it only copies new changes.
What about that MacBook?
Well, my wife uses it and there's not enough space to install Leopard on it right now. She just has only a few gigs available. I've been on her to go though her old Entourage email (we've moved to Apple Mail) so we can throw out that several GB Microsoft database file. You Entourage users know the one I mean, the one that get corrupted every few days and needs to be rebuilt. Yech! I'll install Leopard for her once that's deleted.
So What's Next?
I plan to give some real world accounts of the new features in upcoming weeks to let you know if it's worth the trouble. Use the Comments section below to make any special requests. For now I can say that Quick Look is way more useful than I ever figured.
Still have questions or your own Leopard install story, Let us know in the Comments section below!