Is “Nuke & Pave” worth it for Big Sur?

I’m considering doing a complete fresh install of Big Sur. I did this some months ago because I was having technical problems. I am not having any trouble with Big Sur. Once I was able to download the OS the installation and subsequent operation have been fine.

My motivation for considering a completely fresh install is that Big Sur is a substantial change. I anticipate many updates in the coming months from Apple and developers. A clean install is not necessary but can’t hurt and may make future updates and performance a bit better. The Thanksgiving holiday gives me plenty of time.

Do you see any reason why I should not do this? It is a pain but I’m thinking in the long-run it may be worth it.

No downside really except that you have to give all of the security permissions over again.

Well, I did a nuke and pave and completed a fresh install of Big Sur and my apps. Things are flying on my computer at this point. It was a pain but worth it.

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Any lessons learned or suggestions for somebody that is looking to do the same?

what steps did you follow for the Nuke and Pave ?? Did you erase the HD with disk utility ?? I always get confused with WHAT to erase… volume ? volume group? etc… Thanks

  1. I wanted to do a complete clean install of everything so it is a pain to download and install all of your apps. I believe it is worth it but it takes a lot of time.
  2. If you have a large photo library be prepared to have your Mac run all night and then some to complete the photo curation process. I have over 63 gigs of photos/videos. It took a late afternoon and overnight to curate the photos. I decided to also nuke and pave my iPad. This took less time but it also required an all night on the curation of the photos.

I’m not going to do this in the iPhone—I’ll wait until I upgrade.

The upside for all of this is that on my main two devices I have a complete fresh install of the OS and all apps and each app must re-earn its place. That is, I reinstalled a limited number of apps. I’ll not install others until my workflow is hindered at which point I’ll download and install the needed app. I’ll work with the minimum number of apps needed to be efficient and effective.

Here is what I have re-installed (there are probably 40 apps that I have elected NOT to install at this point). Also, I’d uninstall photo booth, the stock app. chess, and a few others but these cannot be uninstalled on the Mac. I only have the MS apps installed for those rare occasions when I absolutely need them to deal with files sent to me by others.

1Password 7
App Store
Backup and Sync from Google
Brave Browser
DEVONthink 3
Find My
Font Book
Image Capture
Logos Bible
Microsoft Excel
Microsoft PowerPoint
Microsoft Word
Mission Control
Photo Booth
QuickTime Player
System Preferences
Time Machine
Voice Memos

I am also going to install a new router that I had AT&T send me and then bridge them to my eeros routers.

I should be good to go from this point forward. I’ll upgrade my MBP with the second gen. of Apple silicon Macs.


I am waiting for my M1 MBP to arrive and I will do a nuke&pave.


  • a lot of tweaks in my OS I don’t use/need any more
  • my data is set up to easily to this, so why not?
  • may applications I don’t use anymore
  • let’s see what’s universal to keep rosettaing to a minimum
  • I should set up some new workflows, so I want to scratch with some of them

So, moving to a new computer and new macOS, is a good occasion. @TimApple: where’s my MBP??!?! Hurry!


I’m not the right person to advise you on this; there are many on this forum far more knowledgeable. But, essentially, I restarted the MBP holding down the command+R keys and then proceeded to erase the hard drive and reinstall the OS. I also had a “HD-Data 2 disk” that, upon the agreement of Apple Tech. support, I erased. I have no idea why that even existed.

I did all of the above on the phone with Apple Tech. to make sure I didn’t screw anything up. My recommendation is to do the same if you are uncertain about what to do. Though I had searched online for the procedures I felt more comfortable being walked through the steps with tech. support. Here is an example why. I found multiple suggestions online to create a bootable USB drive for a fresh install. This is absolutely not necessary according to the tech support person who assisted me.

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To be honest I don’t think Big Sur is that much changed but for the visual aspect; Catalina has done most of the heavy lifting — deprecation of 32 bit support, OpenGL APIs, adoption of APFS, etc. So if you’re coming from Catalina you will find right at home in Big Sur. My MacBook Pro has an installation with data and configurations inherited from the Maverick era and works well. On the other hand, when I received my new M1-equipped MacBook Pro a couple of days ago, I decided not to use the Migration Assistant to migrate from my current Big Sur installation because the architectural change is more substantial and IMO necessitates a “nuke-and-pave” approach. (I did find it necessary to switch to cutting edge release channels of my daily drivers — Firefox Nightly, VS Code Insider — to get them work on the new hardware.)

Of course, it never hurts to start from scratch because you’ll never know which grandfathered file will be a mine waiting to frustrate you some day in the future.

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I don’t disagree at all. But I have found that my MBP runs a bit snappier and I eliminated a few minor bugs that seems to have developed overtime.

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  • I copy my user folder (including hidden files!) to an external drive (and yes, there’s other backups)
  • Boot with CMD-R
  • Start Disk Utility and just kill everything
  • Install from scratch (macOS and the applications I really use at least weekly, everything else will be installed later. I do not reinstall everything I had on the old system but re-think my usage of the applications. As in: "When whas the last time I used/needed this?)
  • I then make a temporary folder on my desktop, copy the user folder back into it and manually move the stuff back into the corresponding folders, resorting as I go, also deleting unnecessary crap
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