I love playing with new operating systems, and also love to experience the default behaviour that Those That Be have decreed are the New Best Thing. Up until now, I've always - be it Windows or Mac OS X - nuked my hard disk before installing, so it would be easy to see what the authors had in mind for my new desktop experience. Now I'm married, however, and my wife has an account, files and preferences set up it was too much of a hard sell.

But, from my point-of-view, I'd like to reset all the system preferences to what they would have been for a fresh install. Does anybody know an easy way to do this?

  • For example: I read somewhere that by default one doesn't get the little lights in Dock icons to show if an application is running, but mine appear. I'd like to change that, and other settings, to be the default. – saw-lau Jul 22 '11 at 23:22
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    I would imagine that creating a new user account, would be sufficient enough. Comment not answer because (1) I don't know (2) this isn't a very compelling answer :). – Jason Salaz Jul 22 '11 at 23:36
  • @saw-lau: all of the developer previews had the dots hidden by default. Even though the final release has the same build number as the last developer preview, that was changed to visible by default. Since the build number didn't change even though a few minor things did change, most journalists didn't pick up on it. – Abhi Beckert Aug 12 '11 at 4:11

I would start with a new user - if you felt it was easier to start there - you could always make one good back up, delete both users (keeping a third one for admin purposes) and migrate in your wife's account from the backup. You could make a new account for you and then copy in the files you want quite easily from the backup.

Most things you need are Documents, Music, Pictures so it's trivial to copy them back from a backup.

It's nicer to do this rather than go mucking among all the preference files unless you want to learn that end of things.

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Starting with Lion, you can install Mac OS X in a virtual machine.

Go download Virtual Box and boot a new VM off the dmg inside the lion install package.

It's a great way to play around with the new system, without actually having to go through all the trouble of installing/configuring all your apps.

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There are two ways you could achieve this but first open terminal.app and run this so that you can view your Library folder:

chflags nohidden ~/Library

Rename Preference folder

Backup your ~/Library/Preference folder and rename it then log out. Once you log back in Lion will recreate any preferences it can't find. And when you want to go back just delete the newly created Preference folder then rename your backed up Preference folder back to the original name and log and log back in again.

Delete com.apple.* files

If you want to make the change more permanent but you don't want to mess with third party app preferences you could just go into the Preference folder and delete all the files that start with com.apple. like com.apple.TextEdit. This might be a little difficult since some might be locked.

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  • I would leave com.apple.mail.plist alone - but the rest should be fairly safe to delete. Especialy if you know your wifi password and will quickly be able to re-do the things you need. – bmike Jul 22 '11 at 23:51
  • Also VxJasonxV's comment on the question is a safer and easier way to experience Lion with default settings. Just create a new user. – Steve Moser Jul 22 '11 at 23:55
  • Re: "chflags nohidden ~/Library" - This is optional, you can always get to your Library folder via 'Go to folder' in Finder (shift-command-g) and entering ~/Library. – zzz Aug 12 '11 at 3:25

The Launch{Agents,Daemons} preference files are the default, they are not written to. ( it's in /var/db/launchd.db, one per user. )

Thus you can blow that directory away, and you will be back to default plist files, unless you modified them by hand, instead of with

launchctl unload -w /System/Library/com.apple.ftpd    #a personal example.
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