How I setup my Mac when doing a fresh install of OS X

In this post I will show you some useful tips when installing a fresh version of OS X and get you up and running. All these tips are generic, so don't get upset if one tip isn't applicable for you.

I switched over to Mac in 2003 and, as a former Windows user, I always did a clean install on my Mac when a new version of (Mac) OS X came. Later I learned to trust the OS to be able to do a nice update and the Migration Assistant always did a good job on my Macs.

But a couple of weeks ago I started to suspect that my internal hard drive was about to give up. So after I got a new one I decided to actually do a fresh install and manually transfer the files I wanted to migrate.

#1 Don't create your own personal account as the first account on the machine

By default, the first account you create will be an administrator and have more privileges than a standard user account. I always create an admin user first.

#2 Don't name your admin user 'Administrator' or 'Admin'

You should choose a name for your admin user that is not easy to guess. Even if you name it something like 'Local administrator' it will be harder for a person to guess the name.

#3 Create a standard user account for your daily use

The main reason for using a standard user account for daily use is that if some kind of malware attacks your computer it can only damage your user area, not the system areas. (Unless you type in your administrator's account, but if a program suddenly needs to do that you should be suspicious and proceed with caution.) I always create a standard user account for me.

As a system consultant before, I often saw people have their complete name as the account's short name. You don't have to do that. If I enter 'Stefan Laketa' as my name, the OS suggests 'stefanlaketa' as the short name. You are free to edit that to 'stefan' instead. That will save you some milliseconds (and characters) in the Terminal.

#4 Disable 'Automatic login'

You don't want to have automatic login enabled, since it will be very easy for a person to just boot up your computer and access your account.

Go to System Preferences -> Accounts -> Automatic login and choose Disabled.

#5 Hide admin accounts on login screen

If you've done the steps #1 and #2, a person can still see the name of the administrator's account on the login screen. There is a command you can enter in the Terminal to hide admin user accounts from showing up on the login screen and fast user switching menu. Enter the following command in the Terminal, as an admin user:
sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow HideAdminUsers -bool YES

#6 (Optional) Only have Mac App Store apps in /Applications

This one is optional, but I've been doing it like this for a year I think. Since I am a standard user, I can't update "non-Mac App Store apps" without authenticating as an admin. Therefore I've moved all apps not downloaded through the Mac App Store (MAS) to ~/Applications (~ means your home directory). Whenever an app wants to update I can just update without typing in the admin account. And all MAS apps as usual and don't require multiple authentications for every app.

This tip is only working if you're the only active user on the computer and don't have to have apps accessible to multiple users.

That's all for now! Do you have more useful tips? Hit me on Twitter or app.net.

by Stefan Laketa