Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Is it possible to copy all my applications from the applications folder onto an external, format my mac, reinstall OS X and finally copy the applications back into the applications folder for installing them?

Will that work? I am asking because my macbook seems to be behaving in a very odd manner, has become excessively sluggish and is preventing me from recording anything in logic.. I have tried the usual freeing up space, clean desktop, fixing permissions, verifying and repairing disk as well as resetting pram and making sure I have all the latest software and firmware updates. The macbook is only 8 months old and is running Lion with 8gb of ram, I really cannot understand what is wrong with it. Even when trying to watch a movie, the player will get serious audio/video synchronisation issues and I noticed that every time my wifi is on the fans speed up like a plane taking off. I even checked and it is clean from any dust. I am perplexed :(

If anyone could help me please, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks in advance!

share|improve this question

Sure. That's definitely possible. I would recommend you use Time Machine to create a backup of your computer, that way you wouldn't lose any data. Also, because you're using 'Apple's way', its guaranteed to work better

Backing it up: Time Machine

Time Machine, by default, will backup your entire computer. However, you can choose to exclude certain folders from the backup:

In Time Machine preferences you can click the Options button to adjust settings. A sheet similar to this appears when you click Options:

time machine preferences

This sheet allows you to exclude files, folders, or entire volumes from being backed up. You might want to do this to avoid filling up your backup drive.

Restoring it: Migration Assistant

Then, using OS X Recovery, you can do an Erase and Install. Once that is complete, you can use Migration Assistant to bring across certain information, like just your Apps, or perhaps your user information as well.

migration assistant

This would be the preferred way as it ensures just in case, you wont lose anything you explicitly want to and Apple system applications are reinstalled correctly.


share|improve this answer
Thanks for the answer, I am actually just backing up the data manually because time machine seems to take an image of the entire drive and I want a clean install because perhaps one of the programs or settings may be the fault of the cause, so basically any photos, music, VIs, and apps I will be transferring to the external one by one. – guitarist Mar 14 '13 at 0:37
Time Machine is recommended, and you can defs do what you want with that. I will clarify on that in my answer in a moment – Josh Hunt Mar 14 '13 at 1:05

OK, so. As my predecessor said, it is possible, however:

Some apps have resources in other parts of OS X Volume, i.e.: /Library/Application Support/

i.e. Minecraft or GarageBand. Copying them will not work, you'll have to copy things also in Application Support.

share|improve this answer
Yeah, I was wondering about that actually. I went into that folder to save things like Virtrual Instruments / Components for Logic and the settings I have for each instrument because that would be a nightmare to set from the beginning again! – guitarist Mar 14 '13 at 0:39
Remember that also apps have resources in you Home Folder: i.e.: ~/Library/Application Support/minecraft – Michal Hodur Mar 15 '13 at 11:33

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.