Every so often I rebuild my Mac's operating from scratch, usually when it (1) seems to be getting slow or (2) I suspect I installed some really poisonous software that doesn't completely uninstall. I also do it if there is a big OS change or underlying motherboard change from Apple, as in the case with a computer upgrade.
Since I do this fairly regularly and have been burned a few times by forgetting things (e.g. my @#$! keychain certs), I use a checklist to remind me what I should do. It's never exactly complete because my work processes change from time, but it saves a LOT of time trying to remember where to find stuff.
Here's a lightly-edited version of my current checklist, last used to migrate from a 2013 Macbook Pro 15 to a 2021 Macbook Pro 16" M1 Max. I also keep tech notes about problems I encountered so I remember how I solved them the next time around. I keep the checklist in a special "IT Department" directory in my Dropbox folder so I remember where to find it.
Example Last Updated June 6 2021
note: don't reuse your current Time Machine drive...you might need it to dig up files later!
[ ] - dedicated drive for new Time Machine backup
1. BACKUP DATA
Check system locations
[ ] - check Documents [ ] - check Downloads [ ] - check Desktop RAW SOURCE NO BACKUP and OTHER BACKUPS [ ] - check Desktop other stuff to copy over [ ] - copy ~/.bash_profile, .ssh, directories [ ] - copy ~/.vs_code directories [ ] - copy ~/dev in entirety [ ] - copy ~/web in entirety
Confirm coverage of other backed-up sources
[ ] - CODE - ~/dev is on GitHub/Bitbucket [ ] - CODE - ~/web is not necessarily on Github [ ] - DSCOM - Excel Timesheets (in DROPBOX/TIMESHEETS) [ ] - DSCOM - 1Password (in DROPBOX/IT DEPARTMENT) [ ] - NOTES - Quiver (in DROPBOX/WORKING NOTES) [ ] - NOTES - Word Journals (in DROPBOX/WORKING NOTES) [ ] - NOTES - Scrivener (in DROPBOX/WORKING NOTES) [ ] - NOTES - Unclutter (in DROPBOX/WORKING NOTES) [ ] - NOTES - RocketBook (in DROPBOX/WORKING NOTES) [ ] - PHOTOS - Camera Uploads (in Media3T) [ ] - PHOTOS - DSLR (in Media3T) [ ] - PHOTOS - iPhone is syncing to iCloud so it's OK
Export data from programs to OVERFLOW_WORKING_DRIVE note: if you still have the old hardware you can just yoink it from that.You could mount the old Time Machine backup and browse it like a regular hard drive to find some of these things (e.g.
~/.ssh) if you know where to look, but it's easier to do it from the various apps
[ ] - export Alfred Prefs and Workflows [ ] - export ssh keys for github, gitlab + config (~/.ssh) [ ] - export bashrc, zshrc, etc [ ] - export Keychains with Keychain Access App note: developer IDs are tied to hardware so you need to regen...I think? [ ] - export Visual Studio Code themes, setup [ ] - export VSC extensions (~/Library/AppSupport/code/user/globalstorage) [ ] - export Audio Hijack sessions [ ] - export Streamdeck profile info [ ] - export Transmit settings [ ] - export Photoshop library symbols [ ] - export Illustrator Library symbols [ ] - export MAMP server settings [ ] - export 1Password Vault [ ] - export Lightroom Catalogs (in ~/Pictures) [ ] - export OBS Scene Collection, Profiles [ ] - export all iTunes and MP3 files ( ~/Music) [ ] - write-down favorites from Default Folder X [ ] - write-down Unclutter path to Dropbox [ ] - save custom icons from Finder [ ] - export fonts from ~/Library/Fonts [ ] - write down lists of installed extensions
Information to jot down
note: a lot of this is in 1Password, which won't be re-installed right away, but you can use the universal clipboard with another apple device to make it easier on copying pasting
[ ] - WiFi password [ ] - Dropbox password [ ] - AppleID [ ] - Microsoft Live ID [ ] - AdobeID [ ] - sshkey for github, key password, site password [ ] - sshkey for email@example.com [ ] - VPNSOFTWARE password [ ] - web browser extensions that aren't cloud synced [ ] - everything in the menubar in case I missed something? [ ] - everything in login items? [ ] - scan Activity Monitor processes for unseen utilities/drivers?
[ ] - deauthorize REASON (CodeMeter, only if not using Internet signon) [ ] - deauthorize iTUNES [ ] - deauthorize CREATIVE CLOUD
2. SET UP BASE OS
Restore Preferred Defaults
[ ] - install CursorSense NO ACCEL SENSITIVITY 1700 - require install of Logitech GHub to add driver, but then delete it by removing app and other files according to online docs [ ] - system pref keyboard[text] uncheck EVERYTHING [ ] - system pref trackpad NATURAL SCROLLING OFF [ ] - TextPad pref autocorrections OFF
3. SET UP ESSENTIALS
note: These are always installed in this order to minimize frustration
Install APPS - ESSENTIAL
[ ] - Chrome - extensions synced via Google Account [ ] - CursorSense - LIC in email [ ] - 1Password - master passwords/certs in safe [ ] - Alfred - Powerpack lic in email [ ] - Direct Folder X - LIC in email [ ] - Transmit - lic in email [ ] - VPNSOFTWARE - signin [ ] - Dropbox (selective sync business) - password [ ] - Discord - download from site
4. INSTALL WHAT I NEED RIGHT NOW
note: I don't need to install everything right away. This list is usually a bit out of date as apps drop in and out of favor, so this usually gets updated
Install APPS - PRODUCTIVITY
[ ] - Creative Cloud - login to adobe.com [ ] - Affinity Suite - lic in email [ ] - Microsoft Office - download from MS, install from key [ ] - Typora - lic in email [ ] - Unclutter - appstore [ ] - Notion - download [ ] - Magnet - mac app store
Install APPS - DEV
[ ] - Visual Studio Code - vscode website [ ] - Kaleidoscope - dl, then click activation link in email [ ] - Sourcetree - atlassian account sign-in [ ] - Github git requires use of Personal Access Token instead of password, For SourceTree, let it create it for you [ ] - Gitlab git requires SSH key access for private repos (?), requires .ssh/config to set the host correctly [ ] - MAMP Pro - lic in email
Install APPS - AUDIO/VIDEO PRODUCTION
[ ] - Reason - site account / Media3T [ ] - Elgato control software - site [ ] - ID3 Editor - lic in email, may need update submission [ ] - Loopback - lic in email [ ] - Sound Source - lic in email [ ] - Audio Hijack - lic in email [ ] - Airfoil - lic in email [ ] - Logitech Gaming Software (for cam control, but recent versions do not see both C920s [ ] - Open Broadcaster Studio - site
Install APPS - GRAPHICS PRODUCTION
[ ] - font: Iosevka (Media3T/Resources) [ ] - font: Proxima Nova Families (Media3T/Resources) [ ] - font: Charcuterie Families (Media3T/Resources) [ ] - font: Essential Pragmata Pro (Media3T/Resources) [ ] - font: Helvetica Neue Collection 2 (Media3T/Resources) [ ] - font: Bitstream Vera Sans Mono (Media3T/Resources) [ ] - EOS UTILITY - canon site
OPTIONAL APPS / NOT CURRENTLY USED
[ ] - Scrivener - lic in email [ ] - Max/MSP - Media3T/Resources [ ] - Modo - lic on site / Media3T [ ] - Screenflow - lic in email / Media3T [ ] - CopyQueue [ ] - Querious - lic in email [ ] - SublimeText 3 - lic in email [ ] - CodeKit - lic in email [ ] - QuiverApp - appstore