Backing up Apps folder - simple or difficult?


I erase and install OS X once every couple of months. It's a habit I've picked up from WinXP (i'm a bit obsessive compulsive about having a clean system).

Anyway, I don't mind doing it, but would like to not have to re-install the billions of apps/utilities everytime I do. If I were to simply drag the Applications & Library folders onto my External HD, then erase and install OS X again at a later stage, then drag the Apps folder back to the fresh install, would that work, or is it more complex than that?

I used to use Retrospect, but it really doesn't like Tiger, even with their newly released Tiger update (completely screwed everything up when I tried to recover an image last night).


Staff member
I'm similar in that aspect... It's actually quite simple, although there are two or three apps that might still need reinstalling. Most, however, can be simply copied. But: Make sure to drag the _content_ of the Applications folder to the new Applications folder - and only the apps you need, of course. I.e.: Don't replace the apps installed by Apple. Cleaner this way...

And of course: Also backup the stuff in the several Library folders. Application Support folders are important.

The best way in my opinion is this:

Whenever you want to erase your main drive, create a copy of it with CCC first. (I heard it runs in Tiger now.) I have a partition of the same size (well, a couple MB more) as my internal drive on an FW disk especially for this purpose. Once that longish process is done, I clean install the newest version of OS X onto my main drive. Then I get the important stuff back in place from the external drive, which OF COURSE was disconnected at install time for security reasons. (Never underestimate the havoc an installation can achieve with FW drives attached.)


I've reinstalled several times lately. One thing that helps me is that when I install a new application, I try to install it in "Applications (Local)". Not all apps allow this, but for the ones that do, I don't have to worry about overwriting them on a system reinstall. It doesn't solve the problem you're trying to solve, but it makes it smaller.

It's a shame that more apps don't allow installlation in a custom folder.



I have most my apps on a second partition and they work without any flaws. The beauty of Macs I guess, you can do that. I don't think Windows can, correct me if I'm wrong but I did read a review of someone who made the switch and was amazed he could do that.

I guess you could tell which apps would work on a second drive/partition by their installing destinations, or if they are dragged and dropped onto the harddrive from the disk image you should be safe in where you can place them.

I do miss the classic days when reinstalling the system left your files on the drive and it was just a matter of knowing which apps needed a reinstall or just dropping the extensions into the system folder or not needing to do anything to them. Preference was good too, just put the old preferences into the new folder and things remain how you had them originally, they even carried the software license over too, is that still done in OSX?

I was always up and running pretty fast after a System reinstall then what Windows users would be still filling in their personal details at startup etc.

I've had the eMac since May and only installed the system on day one after partitioning the drive into two. I'm hoping I won't need to for a long time and infact haven't backed up anything except what's on the second partition.

And... ah, should we start a thread where we tell of our systems times etc LOL