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Sep 26

Perfect setup for a seamless transition to FCP X and OS X Lion

Forget all the rumors and speculation about Final Cut Pro X, Creative Cow Contributing Editor David Roth Weiss delivers nothing but facts as he guides you through the steps necessary to partition your Mac system drive with a cool multi-boot setup that will allow you to easily and efficiently switch back and forth between different versions of Final Cut Pro, FCPX, between different operating systems, or all of the above.

A Seamless Transition to OS X Lion and FCP X

Back in August of 2009, I posted “Snow Leopard 101: For Smart People Only,” just in time for Apple’s planned rollout of their latest version of OS X. For those who would listen, I offered advice that would help fellow Creative Cows make a seamless transition to the Snow Leopard operating system, so they could avoid any problems running Final Cut Pro.

Unfortunately, some people either failed to get the message or chose to ignore it, opting instead to install Snow Leopard on their working system drives over the top of their existing installations of FCP and the Leopard OS. As I’d expected, many of those encountered problems and later returned to the FCP Forum for help in an effort to sort through an entire range of issues with the OS, with FCP, or with both. Too bad they didn’t get the message; it would have saved them many hours of frustration. Well, now change is upon us yet again, and the long awaited and eagerly anticipated next generations of both Final Cut Pro and OS X are going to roll out soon. OS X Lion is scheduled for release on July 9th, and FCP X is due sometime later this month, in June 2011.

Don’t be surprised to discover that transitioning to FCP X and OS X Lion will not happen overnight; the initial software releases of both will undoubtedly have at least a few bugs and kinks that will need to be ironed out. And, there’s bound to be a waiting period while new drivers are written for RAID controllers and I/O devices. Of course, since FCP X is a radical departure from the Final Cut Pro we all know, the learning curve for most editors will probably be fairly steep while we familiarize ourselves with the features and figure out how to integrate it into both new and established workflows.

For all of the reasons above, the majority of us will want to be able to quickly and easily switch back and forth between FCP X and our current working versions of Final Cut Pro. To do that efficiently, you’ll want to create at least a dual-boot system drive, and I’ll show you how to set that up simply and elegantly. Once you’ve got that up and running, you’ll be able to fearlessly run two or more versions of Final Cut on your computer, with different operating systems if needed.

Configuring your dual-boot system drive
First, you’ll need either a new or clean Firewire or SATA hard drive of at least 500-Gigabytes for this procedure, and if you’re planning to install the Adobe Creative Suite as well, it wouldn’t hurt to start with a 1-Terabyte hard drive, which will allow you to create larger partitions than the ones I show you here.

CORRECTION: I’ve now tested and confirmed that USB drives are valid boot drives under the Snow Leopard operating system, however, Firewire and SATA hard drives are still preferred for all editing applications, because of their higher sustained throughput.

Connect the Firewire drive via either FW-400 or FW-800; or in the case of a SATA hard drive, install that in one of the spare drive bays in your MacPro. (Hard drives connecting via USB ports are not bootable and thus cannot be used as system drives for any Mac operating systems.) Then, follow the simple instructions in my video brief video tutorial. You’ll learn a lot of value information, and you’ll find that cloning and partitioning your hard drives on a Mac is easier than you think.


After following the instructions in the tutorial, when you’re done cloning your current system drive to the first partition on your new hard drive, test it so you’ll feel confident that you’ve succeeded. It’ll give you a lot of confidence in your new computer skills.

To boot to the new partition #1 (Snow Leopard & FCS 3 in my example), or to boot to any bootable partition once you’ve installed an operating system there, simply restart your computer as normal, but hold down the Option key on your keyboard. When the monitor refreshes after the reboot, you’ll see that icons will appear that represent each of the available bootable drives or bootable partitions on your computer. Just double click on the one you want and your computer will boot to the operating system on that drive. It’s just that simple.

I hope you enjoy this tutorial and find it helpful in setting up your Mac to run all the newest software from Apple.

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  1. Edwards

    Hi Admin,

    Great tutorial, one question…

    Couldn’t you leave your start up dive as is and then partition another drive for Lion or Snow Leopard to run FCP X or Premiere? Do all OS’s need to be on the same drive?

    Did you trash your original start up drive that you copied from?

  2. vivian

    Thank you for the excellent tutorial. I understand it to mean that I should create a multiple partitioned external firewire hard drive and boot from it in the future. I have a firewire 3TB external drive that I have partitioned into:

    1) Lion,

    2) OS 10.5.8 and Final Cut Studio 2,

    3) Time Machine.

    Will this present a performance penalty over booting from the system drive?

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