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When updating your Mac OS X from 10.5 to 10.6 do you need to reinstall and reconfigure all of your software from 10.5?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Most likely not.

That's the best answer I can give you. Some things won't be compatible, but all of the mainstream programs have either released new versions that are fully compatible or the programs work fine anyways under Snow Leopard.

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If you talk about new versions that are fully compatible, then this essentially means reinstalling, doesn’t it? But I agree that in most cases, these are quite easy to update. – Debilski Mar 1 '10 at 0:03
99% of the Applications aren't even "installed." They are simply downloaded and copied. I ran a full install of SL over Leopard (without backups either, dear god what was I thinking) and I didn't have to touch a thing. I got another 12 GB of space out of it to boot. Even my Adobe Master Collection worked perfectly. – Josh K Mar 1 '10 at 0:26
You were lucky then, I’ve had a little bit more work to get everything running again. And some stuff is still missing or not yet the same as before. A little bit esoteric stuff it is though. – Debilski Mar 1 '10 at 0:37
(Anecdata): Mostly you won't have to. A few apps and some low-level things like prefpanes and extensions needed some tweaking, usually by upgrading to SL-compatible version. I followed for a while until I was comfortable that my gotta-have software was compatible (or there was a SL-compatible version) before I made the jump. I downloaded the 10.6.2 combo update before I did the OS update and applied it immediately after the update finished. I'm happy with the results on 2 iMacs and a Macbook. – JRobert Mar 1 '10 at 21:48

There are two major things which can go wrong and which are rather common among OS X users.

1) Some older versions of Parallels are not compatible and an upgrade to a compatible version is not included in the license. (At least that was the case some months ago.)

2) Macports and quite possibly all other ‘low level’ installation packs should be completely reinstalled.

Most other software should have already nagged you with the installation of a new version that should be compatible.

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I've been using macports since it was darwinports and I've had to re-install at every OS upgrade major upgrade and every new mac. – sal Mar 1 '10 at 18:10

Just to be clear here, your question implies that you are wiping our your old 10.5 system, reformating the drive, and then installing Snow Leopard.

That isn't necessary, but some people believe that it is safer to do that with major upgrades. I have never had to do that, and it's overkill in most cases.

With Mac OS X, there are three ways to install the OS.

  1. Wipe & Install. The drive is completely erased, and the OS is then installed. Chance of data loss from an existing system, quite high, unless you have verified backups.
  2. System upgrade // normal install. The Old OS is upgraded (if it exists), otherwise, the OS is just installed normally.
  3. Archive & Install. Typically done if you need to troubleshoot the system. The Old OS is renamed, and effectively made none useable. The system then installs a clean version of the OS, but leaves the old system software available for diagnostic purposes (eg, moving kernel extentions, host files, etc) to the new OS.

If you are concerned about an old copy of the OS fouling up the new os, just do a archive & install.

Now, overall, Snow Leopard's compatibility has been quite high. The only software that I have seen issues with is very old software.

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If you're lucky enough to be using Time Machine, doing a clean install is pretty painless. You'll be able to recover all your files and apps and have none of the cruft that builds up in the system areas.

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