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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Upgrading Mac OS X

The terms upgrade and update are often used synonymously. In the context of Mac OS X, however, they carry important distinctions: An upgrade refers to moving from one major version of Mac OS X to another—such as upgrading from Mac OS X 10.3 Panther to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. An update, in contrast, refers to moving from one minor version to another—such as updating from Mac OS X 10.4.1 to Mac OS X 10.4.2. For upgrades, the number after the first period changes; for updates, the number after the second period changes. As you might expect, updates represent mostly minor changes (such as bug fixes), whereas upgrades typically introduce dozens of major new features.

Another important distinction is that upgrades are rarely free (unless you qualify for a free upgrade because you purchased your Mac a few weeks before the upgrade was released; check with Apple to see if this is the case). For example, the upgrade to Tiger cost $129 even if you purchased Panther just a couple of months before.

Updates, on the other hand, are typically free.

Upgrading to a new version of Mac OS X always requires installing Mac OS X from a new Mac OS X Install DVD (or set of CDs). Thus, the procedure for doing so is exactly as described earlier in this chapter for installing Mac OS X the first time. Updates are usually handled via a single update .pkg file.

This section discusses upgrading; the next section covers updating.

Upgrade oddities

If you have an earlier version of Mac OS X installed, you may decide to use the Installer's Archive and Install feature; however, if you have not been too aggressive in customizing your Mac OS X environment and if you follow the procedures covered in the next section, the standard upgrade, as opposed to the Archive and Install, is likely to work well.

There are, however, a few odd glitches that may occur when doing a standard upgrade—and even when doing an Archive and Install in some cases. This is because each major upgrade may change a few default system settings and/or software. For example, as discussed in other chapters, Panther changed the default shell in Terminal from tcsh (its Jaguar default) to bash. Panther also changed the default group for files you create from "staff" to a new group with the same name as your user account, and changed your personal keychain file name from {your username}.keychain in Jaguar to login.keychain in Panther. However, when you upgrade—or do an Archive and Install where users are preserved—from Jaguar to Panther, these settings may retain their Jaguar status for existing accounts. On the other hand, new users that you create will follow the Panther rules instead. This can get confusing. If you want your account to use the new Panther settings, you can do an Archive and Install without selecting the Preserve User option (and then copy any needed files from the Previous Systems folder to your newly created account folder in the /Users folder). Otherwise, you can do a standard upgrade and change the default settings in the relevant config/preferences files (seek additional advice from Web sites, books, or knowledgeable users, as to what files to change, if needed).

Before you upgrade

Before you insert the Mac OS X Install disc and begin the installation process, you should make sure you're prepared for any problems that may result. Here are the main things you should do before upgrading:

Back up

In the event that something goes wrong, you can still return to your pre-upgrade state using your backup copy.

Remove or update software that's likely to be incompatible with the upgrade

Once you've upgraded, you may find that software that worked perfectly previously no longer works. Although any third-party software on your drive could turn out to be a problem here, be especially wary of third-party System Preferences as well as items in your Login Items list.

Ideally, you want to take care of these software conflict issues before you upgrade (rather than discover the problem afterward). The best and most common fix for such problems is for the third-party developer to release an upgrade that addresses the conflict. If an update that fixes the problem is already available, install the update before upgrading the OS. Otherwise, you may have to disable, remove, and/or uninstall the problem software until an update gets released.

How do you find out which software needs to be updated? To some extent, you can self-diagnose. That is, items that modify the system (such as WindowShade X, which changes how the Finder minimizes windows) are those that are most likely to need an update. Check with the developer's Web site for confirmation regarding these likely candidates. In most cases, the developer will have information about compatibility within a day or so of a new OS's release. Otherwise, check various Web sites (such as Apple's own Web site and MacFixIt [www.macfixit.com]) for news of compatibility problems.

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