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My MacBook Pro is so slow that it would put a Windows XP laptop to shame, so I am considering a fresh installation of Mac OS. I have Time Machine backups of the system, but I don't want to restore system files, preferences, applications, etc., because it would probably reimport stuff that was slowing down the system in the first place.

What's the best way to go about this? I am currently downloading the OS from the Mac App Store. I know how to start off the installation from an external drive. But then what? I just want my documents and iPhoto library.

Anyone with any experience with this?

Am I right in assuming that since I have a current Time Machine backup, in the worst case I can go back and find any missing files if I do a clean install?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

As I answered in this recent question your Time Machine drive will also appear as a valid Migration Assistant source if you opt for wipe and reinstall - I was surprised. When you use Migration Assistant you do get some control over what you install and what you leave behind.

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Different people will recommend different strategies, but here's what I'd recommend:

  1. Do a clean install of the OS. Get everything installed and set up the way you want it.
  2. Import your documents and iPhoto library from a Time Machine backup.
  3. Copy the latest backup of your pre-reinstall computer to another drive as a back up backup.
  4. Delete the rest of the old backups and set up Time Machine again.
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Call me mr thicky but how exactly do you do step 2? Just open time machine and move to the folder you want to restore and then do what? Cheers Tia – davidfrancis Mar 25 '12 at 20:39
Select the files you want and click Restore in the bottom right. – timothymh Mar 25 '12 at 21:02

If not sure it's 100% necessary but you might want to deauthorize your existing install of iTunes before doing the clean install.

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