I want to reset my (oldish) MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2011) by wiping the hard drive and re-installing OS X. Is there a way to save information on all the applications I have currently installed so as to make the re-establishing easier?

  • 2
    You do have a backup, I assume? – nohillside Oct 31 '15 at 9:26
  • Yes. Both Timemachine and Backblaze (plus Dropbox of some documents). – avriis Oct 31 '15 at 9:27
  • Unless you've configured something special, all your applications are on the TM backup then. – nohillside Oct 31 '15 at 9:30
  • 3
    You try to wipe it and then put everything back? So why do you want to wipe it in the first place? – bot47 Oct 31 '15 at 10:50
  • 3
    As @MaxRied says, what's the point? Nuke & pave demands you start from scratch, not restore from a backup. The only change you're about to make is the date modified of some of your files. – Tetsujin Oct 31 '15 at 11:46

I open Launchpad and save a screen shot of the important apps. Just back up these images or copy them to iCloud documents or a USB drive before erasing.

If you curate your screens and put the important apps on the first page or two and have less apps, this is easier to do. (And refreshes your memory of what apps you considered important)

Also, with Time Machine, you can just browse the application folder or use spotlight while in Time Machine to locate any app you had installed. Lastly, the full accurate list is saved by System Information - you can save a full report to your desktop and then open that file on any other Mac (or a new install on the same Mac) to see what you had. For the command line people, system_profiler SPApplicationsDataType and also the SPInstallHistoryDataType if you care to see what was installed when.

I love fresh installs since I get to decide which apps I really need and have an easy safety net if I cleared too much.


Seeing as you said you have Time Machine already set up then there is nothing you need to do. Go ahead and reinstall OS X and once you're finished restart and hold Command + R at the start up chime, there you will be given the option to restore from a Time Machine backup. OS X El Capitan: Recover your entire system


As another option than herculeesjr's answer, you can, instead of restoring from the Time Machine disk directly,

  1. Reinstall OS X from command+R (Recovery HD)
  2. When the Mac reboots and asks to set up, select the option to restore from a Time Machine backup. You can choose which apps, files, users, etc. you want to copy over.
  • I think you can chose whether to instal all apps or no apps, all extra files or no files. Can you update if you have a way to pick and choose some apps in the recovery? A screen shot of that in action would be excellent. – bmike Nov 5 '15 at 14:45
  • @bmike I said they can choose which files to restore, although I'm not erasing my Mac just to get screenshots (which may not even work since no-one is logged in). – At0mic Nov 5 '15 at 22:19

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