My MacBook Pro with Retina Display is a year old, and I'm in the mood of a fresh install. (I've got random stuff lying around, etc.)

For compatibility with some software I'd like to run, I'm moving back one version. This means that I need to do a fresh install. In doing so, I don't want to forego all of the installed apps that I use. I've made a list of the apps I'd ideally like to keep.

The process that I have outlined now looks like this:

  1. Manually move over all of my images and documents to an external disk drive. (Music and TV shows live with iTunes in the Cloud.)

  2. Completely wipe and reinstall my OS.

  3. Install all of the apps on my list, one by one.

  4. Move my files back.

I suppose I'm looking for a shortcut, or a good way to manage this process. If it helps, I've got a white plastic MacBook from 2010 with Mac OS X 10.8 on, which I can probably use to create a fresh image.

Is it possible for me to modify an OS X installer so that it installs a set of applications for me? Alternatively, is it possible to move my files via Time machine and ignore the rest of the OS? What I'm really looking for is a tool do create some sort of starter image for me to work with, like what they do to deploy in enterprises, libraries, schools, etc.

What imaging tools do sysadmins use for this kind of thing?

  • Do you want to install 10.7 or 10.8?
    – nohillside
    Aug 19, 2013 at 6:34
  • 1
    A short answer is "Yes, Mac system administrators do just this - manage standard images and deploy them". This is likely far too broad a question for the site even if you didn't have the tidbit about "moving back a revision" which complicates the task immensely.
    – bmike
    Aug 19, 2013 at 10:08
  • I'm really looking for the tools that sysadmins use. Why is that too broad?
    – Moshe
    Aug 19, 2013 at 12:26
  • Even if you use a system imager of some sort you would need to set up the image once which will be at least as much work as reinstalling the system directly (and taking an image afterwards in case you want to keep a clean copy).
    – nohillside
    Aug 19, 2013 at 13:40
  • @patrix - Fair enough, I'm going to do that then. I'm copying the files I need to a fresh external drive, then reinstalling and then imaging.
    – Moshe
    Aug 19, 2013 at 23:01

1 Answer 1


Migration Assistant (in Applications/Utilities/ ) can restore programs and personal file data from a time machine backup. I don't know if it would handle xcode or not. Pretty much anything else in the /Applications/ folder it will re-install, though. There might be some version conflicts with software that doesn't run in 10.7, etc.

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