Just about every 3-4 months I used to reformat my computer, doing a fresh install of the entire system. It was the best way to speed up the computer and clean out a borked registry.
I am, of course, talking about when I used a PC. I could do the whole process in an evening, and thought it was just an elite skill I had.
Years later, when I switched to Macs, I no longer did this. The game now became: how many upgrades can you do before shit literally stops working. I went through a lot, and for the most part it was always flawless. To a large extent it is still flawless to keep upgrading that 12 year old system you have been using from Mac to Mac — one OS X version to the next.
What happens if you start fresh? Is that better on a Mac too?
I truly didn’t know, because I had never really done that. Or heard people talking about it for that matter. Then, as I mentioned in another post, my MacBook Pro started to have ‘issues’ and I needed to do something. So I wiped the system and started fresh.
It seemed logical and it fixed a great many issues, but not everything. Some things are just bugs — software or hardware — and thus aren’t likely to be fixed easily. This fresh start wasn’t too long ago, but still when the new MacBook came, I just started fresh again.
If nothing else it felt nice.
It actually seemed like more work to do this again so soon, but it was actually painless.
And I can tell you, other than giving you back some mysterious disk space, I haven’t really noticed too much of a difference in performance or other metrics. Certainly not enough of a difference for me to urge people to start fresh.
I did notice something else though…
It’s Really Easy
The most striking thing to me about starting with a fresh system is just how easy it is. Install one app and I get all my passwords. Install BitTorrent Sync and I get all my files. iCloud provides me with yet more files, photos, and more passwords.
In a very short amount of time I can get back almost everything that is important. And as I find I need apps that aren’t installed, they are easy installed from websites, or from the Mac App Store itself.
And once I install those apps the data I once had magically comes into the apps.
Install enough things, and all of a sudden the new Mac, the new clean OS X, doesn’t feel any different than the old one you sought to escape.
It’s uncanny how hard it is to lose data if you even take a stab at trying to save the data. iCloud, Dropbox, BitTorrent Sync, Time Machine, cloned backups — I just went back to three systems ago the other day on a cloned drive in order to dig out a folder that contained a script I wanted.
Which is insane, because I remember when it very much was not that easy.
Starting fresh doesn’t make things noticeably faster. It gives you some disk space back. It gives you a little downtime. But mostly it shows you what isn’t being backed up well.
After moving to the MacBook I made note of all the things I had to go manually restore and started to sync those items into the cloud. Keyboard Maestro macros were a pain, so I archived my library and started a new GitHub repo where I keep all the things that I cannot easily put in the cloud.
Now all I have to do is pull down that repo and double click on some stuff to get back to a working state even faster.
It’s the only way I would have known that my backups didn’t cover somethings. I sought to make sure that the next time I wanted to ‘start fresh’ I wouldn’t need to touch that backup drive — Time Machine, or cloned. That syncing would take care of everything that I need to get back up and running.
And in that sense, wiping my system clean actually made my backup strategy far better for rapid recovery. Go figure…