I recently acquired a new iMac at work to replace the 4yr old one I was using. The new iMac came with Lion on it, and since I had upgraded to Lion on my work machine, I went ahead and upgraded all of my home machines as well. My Macbook Air is my primary “workstation away from work”, and keeps client data. Because it does, I use FileVault on it. Under Snow Leopard, that only encrypted my home directory. Under Lion, FileVault now encrypts the entire drive, not just $HOME. However, if you upgrade, you have to explicitly convert your machine to use the new FileVault. And you need a lot of disk space to do it…

I have a 250 GB SSD drive – not exactly the biggest drive – and I have 11GB of that left. I wasn’t able to upgrade my machine to the new FileVault – until I moved the majority of my data to another computer and practically wiped my drive. I’m sure I’m not the only one in this situation – and generally, backups are not encrypted – Time Machine under Snow Leopard wasn’t, and most other backup options for home use are not either. So you have sensitive data backed up off an encrypted drive, just to “upgrade” to a different disk encryption technology. If I hadn’t upgraded, it wouldn’t have been a problem. If I was content to just leave $HOME encrypted, it wouldn’t have been a problem. But I wanted “bleeding edge”. Luckily, I have an iMac at work to off-load all of the files to – encrypted with Lion’s FileVault from the start.

One thought on “Snow Leopard to Lion upgrade and Filevault

  1. Mike Myers says:

    It was a lot of trouble for me too. I was in the same situation you were. It is possible though, to format a new external disk as HFS+ Encrypted (basically the same FileVault 2 technology as in Lion). Then you can move your files to that disk via Time Machine or any other method, and proceed to do a wipe/upgrade from FileVault 1 to FileVault 2 on the other disk, then move the files back. That’s what I had to do.

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