Why summer may be the best time to upgrade to Lion OS X for your Mac

3 more weeks until Spotlight indexing complete

With today’s release of OS X 10.7 aka “Lion,” Apple has kept their promise to release it to everyone in July. With a $29 cost, more iPad/iPhone-like features and unlimited installs on all computers using the same App Store ID, it sure sounds attractive. Furthermore, summer is a great time to do the upgrade. The reason - it pretty much renders your computer unusable for up to 5 days after the install.

After upgrading from Snow Leopard to Lion, there are two behind the scenes actions that tie up your system resources for a number of days. For starters, the improvements in Spotlight, the search mode for the OS, needs to index every file on your computer. If you have a few hundred MBs on your computer, this process can initially be reported as needing up to 6 weeks to complete. At the same time, there are system files that are being cached which also slows dow the Spotlight indexing process. Once the system files are cached, the remaining time for spotlight indexing does shorten…but this can still be 3-5 days.

Here are a few tricks to do after the install to limit your downtime:

  • exclude your Time Machine backup from being indexed (in system preferences, look for Spotlight, then the Privacy tab where you can add folders to exclude)
  • put your Time Machine back-up on hold until all the spotlight indexing is finished (again this can be done from the system preferences; just turn Time Machine off)
  • while you’re at it, this would be a good time to exclude your email messages from being backed up (unless you use only POP mail that gets removed from the server once downloaded); there is nothing worse then restoring old email from a backup when the latest versions will be downloaded, including messages you have already deleted or moved to other folder
  • don’t run your email program until everything is stabilized 3-5 days (6 weeks?!) after your install! Downloading and syncing all your email will just cause Mail or Outlook to freeze while spotlight indexing is still happening and besides, everything on your computer pretty much crawls and can’t be run until the indexing and system file caching is completed
  • after 3-5 days, you should see the little black dot in the middle of your Spotlight magnifying glass disappear then you can turn time machine back on, download your emails and use your computer again

There you have it! Installl Lion, go on a summer vacation, then when you come back you should be able to use your computer again. Enjoy all those new Lion features!

P.S. Another issue to watch out for is if you are running Lion on a computer that is authenticating to a Snow Leopard server. If this is the case, change your network settings so that you no longer authenticate to the network. I have found that attaching to my Snow Leopard network makes all applications take at least 3-5 minutes to even launch, even after the Spotlight indexing and system caching process has completed. I will keep you posted if this gets resolved by upgrading the server to Lion as well.