I downloaded Lion OS X (an upgrade on top of Snow Leopard) but my MacBook pro is becoming quite slow now. I'd like to install a fresh new copy of Lion OS X. I know how to do that, I can just re-download Lion from the App Store and there are a ton of tutorials online on who to do a fresh install.

My question is, how would I back up my documents? Logically, I would like to keep almost all my files and apps. I do have Time Machine. Can someone suggest to me how I should back up and then restore my apps and files and all that? That also includes apps I purchased not through the App Store, like Office and Mailplane. I'd like to continue to use those..

If someone knows of a way to optimize my machine without going through all this, could you please suggest to me what to do? It's becoming really slow and I hate it.

Thank you!

  • How much RAM and spare disk space do you have - optimizing the disc is not likely to give you much speed up if any
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 9:28
  • 4GB RAM and 10GB available
    – darksky
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 9:42

2 Answers 2


The only way to do this if you really want to have a "clean state" is by manually copying your documents, music, photos, etc to an external hard drive

Personally I wouldn't do this. If you're a programmer you know that you're going to lose a lot of stuff. What I'd suggest you instead is just to try to find the cause of the slowness.

Check this:

  • If you can upgrade your RAM
  • If you have enough hard drive space available (you should leave about 5-10% hard drive sspace empty for swap)
  • Yeah I am a programmer and I am very worried about doing that because I know I will get into a lot of trouble. I will check if I can upgrade my RAM (problem is I have no Apple Store near me - any ideas how much time a RAM upgrade takes if I make an appointment?) As for hard drive space, I only have about 3% free. Could that be the cause? Are there are any tools out there that help in cleaning up your files/docs/apps?
    – darksky
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 12:15
  • I feel you. I have so many aliases and programs in my /usr/bin that I don't even know how to backup anymore. The hard drive is very possibly the culprit. What macbook pro do you have? it should be quite easy to upgrade RAM and hard drive, DIY will take around 15-30 minutes. Apple store will probably take 5-10 minute (unless you came there unprepared without backing up). You can find DIY guides in here: ifixit.com Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 12:50
  • 1
    I would read this post first and recover as much space as possible. I also think you need 8Gb RAM based on my experience. apple.stackexchange.com/questions/5353/…
    – bg2011
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 14:21
  • I have MBP 2009 2.54GHz Core 2 Duo. I will try to empty as much space as I can and I will make an appointment with Apple Store next time I am in the city. I'll be sure to run a time machine backup before going there too. Thanks!
    – darksky
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 17:09

The best way to back up your documents is to back up your entire hard drive (aka "clone").

I use SuperDuper for this (you can use it for free, although the SmartUpdate feature is worth paying for, IMO. CarbonCopyCloner is another program which many people like).

Once you have a bootable backup of your hard drive (verify this by actually booting from it!) you can make a clean installation of your computer. From there you should be able to use "Migration Assistant" (/Applications/Utilities) to copy files and applications from either Time Machine or your clone.

Ok, now, having answered the question that you asked, two comments:

  1. 10gb free isn't a whole lot of space, especially if you are on a non-SSD drive.

  2. If you are having problems with your current installation, I would highly recommend that you do not use Migration Assistant or any other method to automatically copy files from your current setup to your new one.

Instead, I would recommend that you keep the clone handy, and if/when you need files from it, then copy them. If you need an app, go make sure that you are downloading the latest version from the website, and install that version.

Most applications will run from the backup drive (some which use installers might not) so if you need quick access to some program, you can probably just run it from there in an emergency.

You can get a 500GB bus-powered USB drive for about $50 from Amazon [note: I just picked that one at random, it's not a specific recommendation] which will fit easily into your laptop bag.

  • Note that you can also use Time Machine as Migration Assistant supports transferring data from it natively.
    – user6124
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 12:41
  • Yes, I believe I mentioned that in the sentence: 'From there you should be able to use "Migration Assistant" (/Applications/Utilities) to copy files and applications from either Time Machine or your clone.' :-)
    – TJ Luoma
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 12:53
  • But wouldn't I face problems as a programmer as the other guy said in the post? Apps not working etc...?
    – darksky
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 17:10
  • @TJ: whoops, didn't see that when reading on my tiny iPhone screen
    – user6124
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 1:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .