Prepare your Mac for OS X 10.8 “Mountain Lion”

As you all probably know, the next major version of OS X, Mountain Lion, is expected to be available on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012, one day after Apple’s third quarter conference call. This is just like how Lion was launched. In this post I will give the necessary tips to prepare your Mac for Mountain Lion. So let’s get right to it!

What You’ll Need

First, you’ll need to make sure your Mac can run Mountain Lion. Apple gave out the final list of supported Macs along with the GM (Golden Master) build of Mountain Lion on July 9th. Your Mac must be a model that’s on this list:

  • iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)

If your Mac isn’t on the list, you will not be able to run Mountain Lion. Please note that some features such as AirDrop, Power Nap, and AirPlay Mirroring do have stricter requirements.

Next, I recommend that you have at least 15GB of disk space available because of things such as temporary installer files during installation. Also, even though 2GB of RAM is enough to run Mountain Lion, if you want optimal performance you might want to have at least 4GB. If you have 2GB of RAM and are running Lion and are satisfied with performance, then 2GB should suffice.

Make sure you have the latest version of Snow Leopard or Lion. This is because there is some code that is required in your current machine in order to transition to ML. In addition, because this is a Mac App Store download, only Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later have the Mac App Store built-in.

Pre-Install Checks

While Apple says that OS X upgrades are now as simple as download and install, there is actually a lot more to do before you install Mountain Lion.

First, you’ll need to make sure your Mac’s startup drive is in good health. To do so, launch Disk Utility. Then, select your startup partition on the left sidebar and select the tab that reads “First Aid”. Click the button “Verify Disk” and Disk Utility will check to see whether your startup drive is in good shape. If it isn’t, you’ll need to boot from a different volume such as Recovery HD to click the “Repair Disk” button. Disk Utility will then repair your drive. If it still has problems, you should take your Mac down to your local Apple Retail Store to the Genius Bar to let them help you with your problems.

Next, and this step is vital, is to backup your Mac. Bootable backups work better. You can use Time Machine to only back up files (but not create a bootable volume) or you can use SuperDuper! from ShirtPocket to create a working, bootable backup of your Mac ‘s startup volume. It is essentially a clone of your Mac’s startup volume.

If you’re running Snow Leopard, you’ll want to disable FileVault or any third-party encryption apps temporarily as this may cause some problems during the transition as Mountain Lion inherits Lion’s FileVault 2 encryption system. You’ll want to play it safe so your data doesn’t get wrecked, so disable it temporarily.

Run Software Update to get the latest software for your Mac. Also, to see which apps have updates you might need to install, get the free AppFresh app, which gives you a great overview of all the apps up-to-date and ones that need updating. Don’t worry, it won’t force you to install them.

You’ll also want to check whether your essential apps are compatible with Mountain Lion. To do so, go to Roaring Apps’s compatibility table for OS X and you can check whether the apps you need are compatible.

Snow Leopard Users: You should also check to see whether you have any apps that need Rosetta to run. Rosetta is code in OS X that allows PowerPC apps to run on Intel Macs. With Lion and Mountain Lion, though, OS X removes that Rosetta code that allows you to run those PowerPC apps on your Intel Mac. To check, go to System Profiler, select Applications from the sidebar, and then look at the “Kind” column, which will say which are PowerPC, Intel, or Universal. Universal apps are fine; they run on both.

Optional: Before you install Mountain Lion, you should perhaps set up your iCloud account and transition over from MobileMe. Mountain Lion is so integrated with iCloud that almost everywhere in the OS, there is iCloud.

You’re Now Ready!

Good job! You are now ready to install Mountain Lion when it comes out!