I want to reinstall OS X completely on my machine.

I have backed up all of my documents and made a list of applications that I have, so that I can install them later.

However, one thing that I do not know how to do is how to back my settings up. On a previous occasion, I tried to back the ~/Library/Preferences folder up and restored it on the clean installation, but for the most part it didn't work.

Here are some examples of the scope of what I would like to back up:

  • System settings (e.g. trackpad options, sentence highlight color, dock options, three-finger drag option, Accessibility options, etc)
  • Keyboard shortcuts (also a part of system settings)
  • Printers that I have added (important for me)
  • System app preferences (Finder, Safari, Preview, etc.)
  • Third-party app preferences (Little Snitch preferences/rules, Bartender preferences, Amphetamine, etc.)

I don't need to back things like Safari bookmarks, emails or calendars up as I use iCloud for them.

Does anyone have any good suggestions on how to do this effectively?


Alternatively if you have an external drive you can back up all of your user profile (all the drive if you want too...) and then once MacOS is reinstalled use the Migration Assistant.app to migrate all your settings using the backup as the source, easy peasy.

  • Two questions: firstly, how do I back up my drive? Using a third party solution? And secondly, which settings will Migration Assistant back up? Literally all of my settings (even the ones for apps I deleted)? Sep 3 '16 at 16:13
  • 1
    Well Time Machine will back up your Mac and it comes with the Mac or you could back up using Disk Utility. Open Disk Utility and select New -> Image From Folder from the file menu, point it to your users folder and save to an external drive. That are also 3rd party backup utilities. Migration assistant will transfer everything, all of your settings, you can't choose which ones. Sep 3 '16 at 21:13

Use Time Machine. I know it sounds a little snarky, but this is really exactly what it's for. With a current Time Machine Backup, you can install OS X and then restore from your backup... et voila!

Time Machine has crafted exclusions to not backup files that are either counterproductive or unnecessary when restoring a backup onto a clean installation.

  • Thanks for the suggestion, but I was trying to find a way to restore without Time Machine. Thank you nonetheless. Sep 3 '16 at 16:11
  • @SkeletonBow Why? knowing the reason not to use TM could help is answer
    – mmmmmm
    Sep 3 '16 at 16:25
  • @Mark it's because of this problem I'm facing: apple.stackexchange.com/q/251355/197118. I want to completely get rid of it. Sep 3 '16 at 17:54
  • Backing up preferences separately won't help more than TM
    – mmmmmm
    Sep 3 '16 at 18:06

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