How do you upgrade macOS?

So when Mojave gets released, I have to upgrade no less than three computers (work laptop, home laptop and gaming hackintosh). Previously I’ve always just formatted the disk, then installed and finally imported my User from the backup drive using the migration assistant. I’ve tried just upgrading without formatting in the past, but something always went sideways for some app, so I decided many years ago just to do it this way.

Of course, the Hackintosh is a separate story, usually I wait months to upgrade it, and even then it takes me days to get it working right. Honestly, it’s not really worth keeping macOS on it now that I could just get an external GPU for the home laptop, but it’s less than two years old, so I’ll keep it for a while yet, I expect…

However, this year I’ve started keeping a dotfiles git repo (private, with certificates, keys and everything) with a Homebrew Bundle file (, which I not only use to keep settings, apps and some files on the three computers in sync, but which now seems like a cleaner way of upgrading - I could now wipe my computer and reinstall in like half an hour (not including wait times) whenever something weird happens.

Of course, I expect I have to go back to the backup several times to get files I don’t have in the dotfiles repo right now, but going forward I could just add them, so this is sort of a first iteration solution.

So how do you guys upgrade?

Edit: I feel I have to clarify. I am in no way forced into this. If I wanted to, I could just upgrade and deal with any issues. It becomes a bit of a “how clean can I get the computer and yet be up and running again in the shortest possible time if the lightning strikes” challenge after you’ve been doing this for a while :blush:

1 Like

I run my time machine backup and carbon copy cloner, download the installer, make a portable USB of it (I always end up helping someone upgrade, and you can guarantee when I get asked to there will be a network issue!), then install it. That’s it.


I just update. :smile:

TimeMachine is running + manual update of my private data.

I’ve been flirting with the whole dot files thing as well. Brew cask and the mas CLI mean that I only have about 5 apps that I would need to download manually. Also, most of my System preferences can be programmatically set by modifying this guy’s .macos file. I also have a cron job like script that writes my latest brew bundle, pip list, etc. to my dotfiles repo and commits it. I run it weekly.

I have all of this in place but I’ve never actually used it. Debating on using it in the fall with Mojave.


I use something similar to the .macos file, but I see tons of stuff I can crib from that, thanks! Also I now have a challenge - setting the computer name programmatically yet for three different computers.
Edit: Maybe based on the IP the computer has been given by the DHCP server…

  1. Ensure my Time Machine and Backblaze backups are fresh and fully up to date.
  2. Do a fresh clone to my usual external hard drive, then temporarily disconnect it.
  3. Do a clone to another external hard drive.
  4. Do a full backup to a disk image on my Drobo.
  5. Upgrade.
  6. If everything works OK after a week, plug my clone backup back in and repeat on two more computers

I used to do a nuke and pave every time I upgraded, but I’ve shifted to doing an upgrade in place.

1 Like

Generally I just do the inplace upgrade and have never had issues.

I do however keep a project in omnifocus with all the steps to get a new machine up and on the go, it probably takes about 3 hours for me to go from a clean new MacBook to full productive.

This comes with the caveat though that I store basically nothing of note on my computers, controversial I don’t back them up because there is never anything too backup, content lives in the cloud for me.

I feel like an optimal setup is one where if your computer got stolen/destroyed irrecoverably in the morning that by the afternoon you could be working again.

At the moment mas does not work on Mojave. I just tested today on the public beta.

1 Like

Good to know. Hopefully one of the contributors will have resolved that by launch.

I upgrade in place with a bit of a suck it and see approach. All my data is stored in the cloud so I’m not worried about losing it. I do make sure all my iCloud photo libraries are synced and safe before I start!

I would hope so too. I know the AppStore was redesigned, I do not know if they removed some function in the process.

Could you share your OF project steps? That sounds like a useful workflow.

1 Like

When you import your User with Migration Assistant, do you get all of the cruft that accumulates in ~/Library?