Everything You Need to Know to Install Tiger

by FJ de Kermadec

Editor's note: There are two basic ways to install Mac OS X 10.4. One, you can insert the DVD into your optical drive and follow the prompts. Nothing wrong with this approach at all. Apple engineers have gone to great lengths to make the Tiger installation as easy as possible.

The second method, which is the subject of this tutorial, involves a little preparation, some specific choices during the install, and a bit of testing afterward. As I've discussed in an earlier article, an OS upgrade is a great time to tidy up your Mac and optimize its performance. If you're thinking along those lines too, this piece covers just about everything you'd need to know. In fact, you may want to print it out and have by your side as you tune up your machine for maximum Tiger performance.

Oh, and by the way, it you've already installed Tiger and are ready to start playing, then come back to Mac DevCenter on Tuesday afternoon. We'll start our series of tutorials that cover Dashboard, Automator, and all of the other goodies from this exciting new release. Plus, don't forget to read our Mac weblogs that explore all the intricacies of Tiger technology.

More Than Just an Upgrade--A Performance Boost!

Every year it is the same: you rush to the Apple Store, grab a shiny box with a big "X" on it, zoom back home, crack it open, inhale the sweet silicon smell that seems to ooze from about any Apple product you buy (seriously, this stuff is addictive), and, blissfully, pop in that tempting DVD into your reader to install the latest version of your favorite operating system.

Well, let's make this year different, shall we? Let's make it better. With just a little bit of organization and some light thinking, we can turn this relatively mundane step (installing an operating system) into a pure moment of machine-tweaking, Mac-optimizing hypomania.

Simply put, my goal today is to give you pointers on how to best install Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, Apple's latest release, so that you will be able to enjoy it for the months to come, without ever needing to play around with disk utilities or swap kernel extensions, and generally speaking, without pulling out your hair.

Erase and Install

In today's article, I'm going to discuss Erase and Install (most commonly called "clean install"). This choice is different than the Upgrade and Install that many Mac users select at installation. Since our whole process will be shaped around this decision, I thought it was worth mentioning right up front.

Why choose clean install? Well, for many reasons, the first being that, after nearly a year and a half of tweaking and playing around, your system probably isn't in as good a shape as you'd like. Sure, Mac OS X is an extremely stable operating system, but over the course of Panther, you've probably accumulated hundreds of unused preference files, a few dozen cache folders, and a gazillion "dot" files in your home directory--these invisible configuration files favored by UNIX command-line utilities and many X11 applications.

Related Reading

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While these elements are unlikely to cause trouble, they are guaranteed to slow you down, make scanning for viruses or optimizing a nightmare, and immediately nuke any chance to do any effective troubleshooting. Also, if you have for any reason installed more serious applications, you might have a few plugins (come on, think about that download manager) or Kernel extensions (you a Virex user?) lying around that, if forgotten and not disposed of properly, are almost guaranteed to cause trouble. Since the arrival of a new operating system is a chance to start fresh, why not grab it?

But there are other reasons why I favor clean installs! For one, clean installing an operating system is so much faster than upgrading--we're talking 15 minutes versus two hours sometimes--and it will more or less ensure that your system's state is as close to what is described in the user manual as possible. Other installation methods sometimes introduce discrepancies that, although minor and good in a way (the engineers try to preserve as many of your existing settings as possible) might confuse you at times.

By the way, Archive and Install does share some common traits with Upgrade and Install in that it keeps many, many potentially cluttered folders in place. I know it's become increasingly trendy over the past year but it still isn't my method of choice.

Getting Ready

The first step when clean-installing Tiger is to ensure that your Panther installation is in good shape, as strange as it may seem. Indeed, in the very unlikely event that something goes wrong with your Tiger installation, it will be a comforting thought to know that your Panther setup is there, waiting for you, ready to be installed again while you research what might have gone wrong.

For this reason, I recommend you start by performing a few maintenance steps and take a few minutes to organize your files and folders--make sure that what you have on your Mac opens and displays properly, that there isn't any leftover clutter that you don't need and that would only slow down backups.

Once you are satisfied that the software side of your Mac is in good shape, have a look at the hardware side. Have you experienced any kernel panics lately? Is your fan spinning up and down all the time like crazy, potentially hinting at an overheating or firmware issue? Is your hard drive's S.M.A.R.T. status in the green? Should you notice anything unusual, be sure to write it down and, if applicable, to have it checked before you install Tiger.

Your Apple Hardware Test CD--the one that came with your Mac--can help you answer some common hardware-related questions. Why do all this? Because installing a new operating system is very demanding on your hardware. It implies intensive disk spinning and optical drive usage for a long time, followed by processor-intensive tasks with very little opportunity to cool down. This is why, by the way, it sometimes looks as if an operating system "killed" your hardware. In all of the cases I have seen so far, the computer simply wasn't in good shape and didn't respond well to the spike in usage intensity.

Now that you're pretty sure that your Mac is in good shape, inside and out, let's take the time to check your surroundings. Make sure that you have all the hardware you need, namely a known-good FireWire cable, an external FireWire drive (with or without a separate power supply) and your Tiger installation discs. If you are using an iBook or a PowerBook, ensure that it is connected to a (working, please) power outlet and that the battery is either charged or charging. Indeed, there is nothing worse than launching an installer you cannot stop and seeing your Mac go into sleep to preserve your data, ruining at the same time any hope of a quiet evening.

Also, turn your TV on and check the weather forecast. No, no, it's not stupid: in case there is a thunderstorm coming, you don't want to leave your Mac plugged into an outlet that doesn't have a very good UPS--and even then you might want to just unplug it and postpone the whole thing altogether.

One Last Thing

Security-conscious users who have turned on firmware protection on their Macs might want to disable it temporarily, as the following steps are going to involve many, many restarts. While having a firmware password interfering with these restarts is not likely to cause any issues, it can be annoying. Plus, it's not possible to boot from an optical disc when Open Firmware protection is turned on--at least easily.

In order to do so, follow these steps:

To reactivate the protection once you will be done installing Mac OS X, simply replace "none" in "setenv security-mode none" by the appropriate level ("command" or "full") and repeat these steps. Open Firmware will have kept your password in mind, so you won't be asked to enter a new one.

Note that Open Firmware systematically assumes that you are using a U.S. keyboard--it does not have the necessary information at hand to customize your experience--so you might have to do some remapping in your head.

Get Serious About Your Backups

If there ever is a time to perform a complete backup, it is without doubt when performing such a major upgrade as this one. So let's get backing up--you have already cleaned up your files, right?

The first step is to make a simple copy of your most important files, including (but not limited to) the contents of your Documents folder, your Address Book database (the application now features a great "Back up database" menu), your Mail folder, your iTunes and iPhoto libraries. In other words, all of the documents you cannot live without.

I would recommend burning them to a CD-R or DVD-R, as these backups have the advantage of being "set" in plastic once and for all. Should these documents contain any sensitive information of any kind, you can put them into an encrypted disk image--use Disk Utility, located in your Utilities folder to do that--and then burn the file to the disk.

This first backup will be used in case something goes horribly wrong--you really shouldn't need it, but who knows. As it is relatively complete, it might also be a good idea to store it somewhere safe and keep it for the coming weeks.

Here is a tip for FileVault users: you can use the excellent Carbon Copy Cloner to back up your home folder directly to an encrypted disk image.

Now is the time to use your external FireWire hard drive to make a complete bootable clone of your current hard drive. The easiest and, in my experience, most reliable way to do so is to use good old Carbon Copy Cloner once again. The default settings should be fine--make sure that the "Make bootable" checkbox is ticked in the Preferences sheet, though.

Having a bootable clone of your installation will allow you to fully and painlessly revert to your Panther setup in the unlikely even of a catastrophe--short of aliens invading the planet and forcing us to use a DOS flavor of some kind. Once the clone has completed, try to boot from your FireWire drive and make sure that your system works--you don't have to test it for hours, just boot it up, log into your account, launch a couple of applications and try to open a few files.

You can now safely unmount the drive, disconnect it physically from your computer and move on to the next step knowing that almost nothing can happen--and who can say as much often in the computing world?

A Word About Applications

A commonly overlooked--but very unfortunate fact--is that most applications rely on copyright protection systems that require you to enter codes, or serial numbers. Before wiping your hard drive, make sure that you have all the codes for all of the shareware and others you use and rely on for your work--BBEdit, Transmit, LittleSnitch, Photoshop anyone?

Should you have lost one of these codes, most authors now have quick-retrieval forms that should allow you to get these back in the blink of an eye. Be careful about codes, as some are based on the name of your home folder or computer, making upgrading and tweaking your installation very difficult. These are relatively uncommon, but they unfortunately do exist.

Also, keep in mind that migrating an application's cache and preferences files to a new installation is extremely unlikely to work, as most DRM systems work with hidden files spread across your entire system.

You might also want to call up the developers of your most mission-critical applications and enquire whether they have been tested with Tiger or not. Should there be some known issues with some of your essential software, you might want to look into alternatives first.

Also, keep in mind that any disk-optimization utilities will most probably have to be updated and therefore will probably not be of much use for a little while. Developers of these applications are unfortunately usually a little late to release updates and it is better not to use any outdated third-party disk utility on a computer, as this is a recipe for disaster, even with the best applications.

Check that Firmware

As with any operating system upgrade, now would be the perfect time to make sure that your firmwares are up to date--and by firmwares, I mean all of them. Indeed, when the Mac OS X engineers develop the upgrades, they expect you to be running on current, up-to-date hardware. While the installer is usually able to figure out by itself whether you need a firmware upgrade, it cannot scan every component of your computer that might potentially be in need of attention and, in some rare instances, might perform the checks too late, leading to some scary (but luckily not hurtful) symptoms like flickery screens or strange sounds.

Where will you find all these firmwares? Well, they are usually available through Software Update, although you might also want to perform a quick search through the AppleCare Knowledge Base, for additional peace of mind.

The firmware that you will want to upgrade first is your computer's. Indeed, it is the one that will allow Mac OS X to interact with your hardware at a low level and, therefore, is the most important piece of the puzzle. Once this is done, keep in mind that Apple sometimes releases firmware updaters for optical drives, Bluetooth modules and, more rarely, hard drives. As these might be needed for smooth operation of your computer later on, now is a good time to install them.

We have luckily evolved past the scary firmware updaters that required to boot into native Mac OS 9 and stare at a jittery progress indicator hoping for the best (although these were extremely reliable too, just less pretty). The modern firmware updaters look increasingly like regular Mac OS X installers. It is nevertheless important that you read the "Read me" files that comes with them and follow the instructions to the letter--trust me, shutting your PowerMac down while you upgrade it ain't a good idea. It would leave you with a pile of components that don't even know how to start up or talk to the machine, thereby negating all of your chances or upgrading them again.

Often overlooked but equally important firmwares are the ones that power your peripherals and external drives. Do you remember the FireWire events that scared the Mac community when Mac OS X 10.3 was released? Well, the truth is that many of them could have been avoided by upgrading the drives' firmwares beforehand! The big problem is that there usually isn't one central source listing all of these updaters, so finding them might require a bit of browsing--but hey, we already spend most of our time doing that anyway, don't we?

Get Rid of the Trouble Makers

Now that everything is backed up and all of the software is taken care of, you'll want to disable or remove any potential components that could interfere with your brand-new operating system. What are they? Well, it's difficult to precisely put a finger on them, but hacked video cards are the first to come to mind. Should you have installed additional, non-Apple memory as well, be ready to take it out later on should you notice any issues with your Tiger installation, as Mac OS X is sometimes picky about the specifications of the modules it relies upon--don't do it right now, though, as it might well not be needed.

Now would also be the time to disconnect any peripherals from your computer, with the exception of your Apple keyboard and mouse. This includes disconnecting any hubs, iPods, external drives, and so on, even if they have theoretically been approved to stay connected to your machine through restarts. This will avoid confusing the installer, will probably make your installation faster (fewer volumes to scan and chose from) and will, generally speaking, avoid any corruption issues. Should you encounter an issue with the installation, not having any connected peripherals will also help you narrow the problem down. For example, you'll be sure that a kernel panic isn't caused by a faulty hub, as these are likely candidates.

Starting the Installation Itself

Now that we have discussed for hours how you should prepare yourself to install Tiger, you might want to start the actual process. Just make sure that you have all the discs you need and that these are clean, free of scratches, dust, and fingerprints; and then insert your installation disc into your optical drive.

From here, you can proceed in two ways. The first one, favored by long-time Mac users, is to restart their computer while holding down the C key, which will force the computer to boot from the disc. The second one, favored by AppleCare agents, is to double-click on the Installer icon, prominently featured in the install disc window, to authenticate and to restart your Mac. The goal of this little application is, among others, to restart your Mac properly, pointing it directly at the installation disc so that you can avoid finger cramps. It is also the first occasion for our dear design teams to showcase the new cool Tiger graphics they came up with. So it's worth opening!

I would also advise you to have a look at the "Read Before You Install" file but ...

The First Stages of the Installation Process

Whenever you boot your Mac from the installation disc, you might notice that your computer takes a longer time to start up. This is normal, as it needs to load the necessary components from a much slower drive than if it were booting from a hard drive.

Should you see a prohibitory sign at this point, or should your computer keep booting from the hard drive despite your attempts at using the disc, you might want to check that your firmware is up to date, that all your peripherals are disconnected, and that the disc is squeaky clean. You can wash it with warm water and mild soap in extreme cases, but make sure you don't damage it and dry it thoroughly before even thinking of putting it back into your computer. Bad installation discs are very uncommon but do exist. Before asking for a replacement and crying over a lost day, you might want to try booting up another Mac from them and see whether it all goes well.

Should you try to use the Mac OS X Installation disc that came with another, recent Mac, that someone around you purchased, do yourself a favor and get yourself a real Tiger installation set. Indeed, these discs can contain some device-specific files (it's not always the case, but it can be) that can lead to glitches with your installation.

The First Boot into Tiger

Your computer should now be booting into Tiger for the first time. You should see a rather mundane progress bar for a little while, followed by a new, spiffier language selection screen. In the rest of the article, we are going to assume that you pick English, but this actually doesn't really matter. Simply select your language of choice and continue.

Note that the language you pick here will not affect your ability to use your Mac in another language later on. However, it will determine how the installation procedure and the first boot will happen, so it is a good idea to chose a language you are comfortable with.

Should you make a mistake and pick one you do not understand a word of (like, for me, Chinese), notice that the fist "back" button after this window is actually a little backwards-facing arrow, allowing you to go back easily--a nice touch we can only thank the Mac OS X engineers for.

Once you are past this window, you will be thrown into a very familiar Installer setup. Like any good tour guide, let me point out three things to you: the first is the cool, glossy menu bar, entirely stripe-less; the second is the new Apple menu design that looks definitely more in line with the current Apple logos; and the third is the new energetic blue that highlights the menus--whether one likes it all or not is a matter of taste, but I must say that I welcome this change as it wakes up my computer screen a bit.

As always with the Mac OS X installer, menus are of little use--the whole Apple menu is grayed out, for example. However, you will notice that the new Utilities menu uses an icon-powered interface, probably in the interests of accessibility or language independence--which one, we will never know.

Note the very welcome adjunction of a Terminal that opens up a world of pre-installing possibilities for system administrators who might want to execute a script instead of taking care of partitioning, naming, and formatting by hand every time. It is also a good way for us, mere mortals, to remember which partition is the one we want to install Mac OS X on with a couple of cd and ls commands if we need to.

Also note that the set of commands available is limited, though so don't expect to be reading man pages and interacting with the GUI like you can do with the regular Terminal. We also now have a copy of System Profiler at hand that facilitates last-minute lookups and could actually turn out to be very useful if you are troubleshooting an issue with an AppleCare agent on the phone and need to answer one of these tricky questions they need to ask--quick, off the top of your head, how much VRAM is there in your Mac?

For now, select Disk Utility, as we will need it to initialize our drive and perform a clean install--sorry, Erase and Install. While the Mac OS X installer allows you to erase a drive on the fly while you make your way through the screens, I actually like to use Disk Utility instead, because it provides me with a better view of my drive structure and a couple of nice options like secure formatting and partitioning.

One thing to note is that the installer might not be able to know your keyboard's localization, especially if you pick another language--I, for example, use my Macs in English, even though I always order a French keyboard with them. This could prove tricky if you need to enter partition names or key combinations, as you might have to guess where a key would be on your keyboard if it were a U.S. one. Usually, not much typing is required at this stage, so this isn't too tricky--and the Tiger installer immediately recognized that I was using a French keyboard so you might not even run into the issue.

Initializing Your Drive

Users who are new to the Mac might be surprised by Disk Utility, so let me say quickly that, unlike most PC manufacturers that install Windows on a partition of the drive they "lock," Apple actually gives you full control over your hard drive and allows you to initialize it fully before applying a perfectly fresh copy of the operating system, directly from the CD.

Disk Utility lists all the available drives and volumes in a column, on the left-hand side of the window. The drives usually have cryptic names (like "ST380020A") while your volumes are indented and reflect the names you are familiar with and you see in the Finder's Computer window. Initializing a drive initializes all of the volumes it contains and resets the partition map to one single volume per drive. Alternatively, if you already rely on a partitioned setup, you can select a volume and initialize it without wiping the whole drive.

The settings in Disk Utility are relatively self-explanatory. The basic gesture would be to select your drive in the left hand side, switch to the Erase tab and to click on Erase to wipe all of your data on it and restore the drive to a factory default. There are, however, a few points you will want to keep in mind:

  1. Unless you have very good reasons not to do so, format the drive as "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" and nothing else. If you are switching from a UNIX platform, do not worry, this will not (in the vast majority of cases, at least) impair your ability to use your favorite UNIX utilities and will allow your Mac OS X installation to work as expected. Formatting your drive as anything else could lead to issues--from unstable behavior to temporarily turning your computer into a posh paperweight.

  2. You need to decide now whether you want to install the Mac OS 9 drivers on this drive or not, as doing so requires you to initialize it. Not installing them will make the drive invisible to Mac OS 9, which, in a way, is a security bonus, should someone try to use Mac OS 9 to work around the Mac OS X security systems. The counterpart is that, should your computer be one of the few Mac-OS-9-bootable machines left, you lose this option, that can, in some rare occasions, be useful--for example, to upgrade the firmware of older peripherals and devices. As stated directly in the utility's window, this does not affect your ability to use Classic.

  3. The Security Options button allows you to select a hard drive "scrubbing" method that will make your previous data harder to retrieve from your disk. Should you be in the process of "sanitizing" your computer, for example, after having worked on some confidential documents, you might want to have a look into them. Otherwise, feel free to skip these as they will mostly make the initialization process a lot longer--and by longer, we mean up to dozens of hours, depending on the security level you pick and the size of your drive--without making your installation more stable. Some people are in favor of zeroing drives when they first initialize them out of the factory and have experienced good results with it. If you are so inclined, it cannot hurt to try, but be ready to wait for a bit--and keep in mind that this is a bit of a stress test for your drive, too.

  4. Selecting a volume instead of a drive will reveal a new button, Erase Free Space, that also provides security options. This is probably a welcome addition for security-conscious users, although is it not very useful for us right now.

Note that the Help buttons, although present, do not lead anywhere, as the "Help viewer" application is not part of the set of programs that is installed on the DVD.

Once you are ready to initialize the drive or the volume, click on Erase. The process is quick and shouldn't take more than a couple of seconds. Once this is done, you can quit Disk Utility, which will bring you back to the installer.

Important note: Users with upgrade-only discs should not erase their drives now, as the installer may check for a valid copy of Panther later on during the process! Instead, skip this step and continue. You will be given another chance to initialize your drive later on.

Using the Installer

The first couple of screens are the usual mundane "Read me" and "License agreement" ones, that I strongly recommend that you read--yes, they are utterly boring, but it is always a good thing to know what one is getting into before agreeing to it. Luckily, Apple, true to itself, hasn't put any licensing checks in the Installer and the Mac OS X installing experience remains what it is: pure joy.

Once you are past these screens, you'll be presented with a list of drives available on your system. Selecting the drive on which you wish to install Mac OS X (the one you just initialized) should be as easy as clicking it, which will circle it in gray and add a little arrow on top of it.

As simple as it may be, this step is sometimes the cause of major headaches, when hard drives are unselectable--the symptom of which is a scary red warning sign on the drive icon. Should you encounter such an issue, restart your Mac, make sure that your firmware is up to date, that enough space is available on the drive, that it is properly formatted and, most of all, that all your peripherals are disconnected. Yes, peripherals can actually interfere with the drive selection process, as silly as it might seem.

Once the drive is selected, an Options button becomes available at the bottom left of the window, allowing you to decide whether you wish to preserve the settings already on that drive or not and whether you want to initialize the drive first. Since we just did that, the preservation settings will be grayed out for you. Here you can select "Erase and Install" again and "Mac OS X Extended (Journaled)"--notice the narrower selection. Sure, this is redundant, but this is a little idiosyncrasy of mine.

Once you have dismissed the sheet, a last look at the Installer window will convince you that everything is in order--it will write out in plain English what you have set up so that you can make sure that it is right.

Package Selection

You have now reached the trickiest section of the installation process, the package selection. If you are new to Mac OS X or do not wish to perform some UNIX magic on your Mac, feel free to skip this section.

Otherwise, you might want to hand-pick which packages you wish to install on your Mac. This might take a few seconds, but can make for a lighter installation and will avoid having to reuse the installer later on, should you discover that you wish to use some advanced feature, the supporting files for which you forgot to install.

In order to access the package selection window, simply click on Customize. You will notice that the number of packages to be selected has greatly diminished, a move I can only applaud, as the new choices are a lot more logical and straightforward.

Describing every sub-package, one by one, here would be impossible, so pay close attention to the description pane (located in the lower half of the window) that will give you detailed information on what every specific set of files does.

As a general rule, you will not want to install fonts for languages you do not speak or translations for languages you know nothing of, so these selections are relatively easy to make.

Selecting printer drivers is another story, and requires some more careful planning. As a ground rule, I would recommend installing the GIMP package and your own printer's drivers no matter what, even if you do not plan on using this specific Mac for printing. This can come in handy in the future, and these GIMP drivers are simply too good to pass up. This being said, if you use an iBook or a PowerBook and plan on traveling, I would recommend that you install every printer driver: this will be useful if you travel to offices, hotels, or airports whose equipment you do not know and need to print documents out of the blue.

Installing Tiger

Once you have selected the packages you wanted, now is time to click on the Install button to launch the process. Beforehand, though, you might want to use the Window menu to display the Installer log and to set the pop-up menu located at the bottom of the window to "Show everything." This will give you a step-by-step description of what the Installer does and is sure to provide good entertainment while you stare at the Installer window, nibbling on some sugary treat of your choice. Just don't be too worried if you see mention of errors in this log; this, to a certain extent, is normal and should not be cause for concern, as your installer is merely trying to figure out on which machine it is.

Oh, by the way, you will be able to go back to this log to extract any tasty tidbits once your Mac has restarted and the installation completed by simply using the Console utility, located in your Utilities folder.

The first step of the installation process is a "media verification;" one that will ensure that your disc is in good shape. This might seem superfluous, but is actually a great way to test it and ensure that it is good to go. Should you need to install Tiger on many computers with the same disc (you got a family pack, right?), feel free to skip it. I would, however, recommend that you let it run fully at least once to ensure that your discs are, in technical terms, "known good."

Once the media verification step has completed, and hopefully, succeeded, your Mac will engage in some heavy optical drive activity and will calmly, methodically install Tiger as you requested. The log will provide you with some more detailed information about what is happening than the progress indicator (although it has been improved and is much more detailed and clearer than the one you have met in the Panther installer) if you want to see it, but there otherwise isn't much to do during this step.

In my experience, the new "Time remaining" indicator is quite reliable--although it has been so since the Jaguar days at least--and didn't display any silly indications like the "98 days" or "-600 hours" that I have seen with third-party installers.

As usual, the "optimizing" task does take a while, although this is largely dependent on the overall speed of your machine. On a flat-panel iMac, Installer blazed through it in a couple of minutes while an older iBook required a good 15 minutes. Contrary to popular belief, this step isn't the symptom of an Installer bug or issue or lack of intelligence; on the contrary. Although the "optimizing" description indeed makes it sound like the installer made a mess that it tries to correct at the end, what actually happens behind the scenes is a system-wide "update prebinding." This process, typical of UNIX machines, consists of finding the links that exist between all the components that make up an application and on which it relies so that they can launch faster and in a more reliable way once it is done.

As usual, your Mac will invite you to click on Restart once the process has completed and will do it for you after 30 seconds. This step actually improves accessibility for users with special needs and, let's face it, just looks plain cool.

Your First Steps into Tiger

Your first restart once Tiger has been installed is likely to be slightly slower than the next ones, as your Mac needs to build up cache files that it hasn't built yet. Once you are at it, you can admire the new, sleeker, startup message.

As usual, the Tiger setup assistant will automatically launch once the initial restart is completed. Notice the gorgeous new introduction movie that welcomes you into Tiger and the music that continues playing as you glide through the assistant slides. Are these really "panes" or "windows?" A nice touch for VoiceOver users, the assistant will detect that you haven't pressed a key in a little while and will play a nice sounding recording inviting you to turn VoiceOver on by entering a key combination if you wish to do so.

If you are not familiar with VoiceOver and wish to use it, you can immediately press the Esc key to start a tutorial. The tutorial is entirely read by the same voice, allowing visually impaired users to get to know their Mac without looking at the screen.

Using VoiceOver is obviously beyond the scope of this article, so we are not going to look continue down this branch of the assistant. But it is most certainly interesting for you to see it if you work in an institution or are setting up the Mac for users who might need it, in which case you might want to call them and have them take the training right away. Simply click on the Skip button located at the bottom left of the screen to go back to the traditional Assistant window.

Fun with Setup Assistant

Navigating through Setup Assistant is a straightforward process. Given the number of screens you might encounter depending on the language you chose, the country you selected, or your willingness to open an Apple ID or .Mac account, it is impossible to outline them all in this article. By answering the questions that are asked and proceeding step by step, you should be able to make your way through it without problem.

Here are, however, a few tips that might help you:

  1. The registration process is by no means obligatory, especially if you are re-installing Tiger on this machine and have already completed this step. Even though no menu bar is present and there is no Quit button, entering Command-Q will bring up a window that will allow you to skip these steps. Clicking on Skip will fast forward to the account creation and computer setup process. Even though you might not want to register every time, I would still suggest that you register your copy of Tiger once, as this will facilitate your discussing potential issues with AppleCare, should you need to call in the future. If you have any questions regarding Apple's privacy policy, you can read it at the press of a button, which will most certainly please users who do not have an internet connection immediately available.

  2. The Date and Time selection slide has been greatly improved, and now features an easier-to-navigate calendar for these rare occasions where the installer cannot figure out what the correct date and time are.

Once you have navigated through the assistant, you will be presented with a nice reminder to register and some additional information regarding where you can find support resources and about your warranty.

Clicking on this Done button will release you from the claws of Setup Assistant and log you into your account automatically.

The Tiger setup assistant does feature a very handy "Migration assistant" that we will cover in another article, as it has multiple tricks up its sleeve. For now, we will assume that you will transfer your data manually later on. If you feel confident using the assistant, please do, though.

Updating Your Mac

The first step after having installed Tiger is to use the Apple menu to launch Software Update and install any update that might have been released by the Mac OS X engineers since the discs you have in hand made it to press. Note that, depending on how far along we are in the Tiger upgrade cycle, you might need to install multiple updates, restart, and repeat this process until Software Update states that no more updates are available.

This process will ensure that you immediately start with the latest technologies, and updating a perfectly clean, fresh installation is almost guaranteed to be a trouble-free process.

As usual, note that you can mark some updates that you do not wish to install or that are not applicable to you--like an iPod or an iSight firmware updater--as "ignored," which will prevent Software Update from reminding you to install them.

While you are at it, now might be a good time to play a bit with your new environment and set it up--turn on the firewall or punch in your QuickTime 7 Pro serial number, for example. That way, you will be able to install your applications and transfer your data back into an environment that is familiar to you and in which you will already feel comfortable. The notion of feeling "comfortable" might sound silly but is actually very important, as it will allow you to better focus on what you do and avoid glitches as you go forward.

Help, My Computer Does This and That and This, Too!

Just a side note: don't panic if you Mac feels a bit hot, if the fans spin up more often, if the screen dims quickly, or if you do not find a checkbox somewhere. Before panicking, take deep breaths and remind yourself that you are working into a new environment. Some options might have been shuffled around, but this does not mean that they have been removed. Also, the past hour or so has been an intense time for your Mac and it is probably a bit hot and tired. So give it some rest time before starting any heavy-duty troubleshooting. Actually, if you are new to the platform, this is the perfect time to read a good introductory book or article to Mac OS X or--gasp!--even the online help!

The Tiger help center is a little jewel: it is fast and beautiful. In other words, everything you can expect from a Mac. Continuing Apple's efforts to write the best possible, most accessible help files that started with Panther, the Tiger help is well organized and "task-oriented," as one says nowadays.

Tips on Installing Your Applications

Now that you are logged into Tiger, you might be tempted to actually transfer the contents of your Library folder into your existing one, copy your data and get to work.

However, I would strongly advise you to proceed differently and, instead, to take the time to install your applications one by one. Why? Because the Tiger Library folder contains lots of new files and folders, arranged in a different way, that determine how all these new applications and system services should behave. Therefore, simply putting back an older Library folder is guaranteed to cause issues and interfere with a new, fast, and trouble-free installation.

Should you rely on any downloadable applications, try to grab fresh new copies of their respective installers first, as this will give you an occasion to ensure that you are using the latest, Tiger-approved versions. Install every application carefully and set it up, one by one.

Once your applications have been installed, it is time to launch an upgrade campaign again, both by using Software Update and any vendor-specific upgrade mechanisms that come with these applications. That way, you will ensure that everything is up to date.

This second round of upgrades is not as redundant as it might seem at first sight, as applications almost always expect to be installed on the latest system version available and can, in turn, add functionality to your computer that will cause new upgrades to appear for you.

Should you encounter any issues with your applications, you might want to contact their authors, as they will be able to provide you with the best upgrading and installation advice. While calling Apple will help you troubleshoot Mac OS X issues, keep in mind that Apple cannot help you with products they didn't develop!

Transferring Your Data

Transferring your files back to your Mac is a simple drag-and-drop affair. Simply drag the files one by one from your backup drive and drop them into their new locations on your Mac. Again, while you can move folders and subfolders, I wouldn't recommend that you move the Documents, Movies, or Pictures folders as a whole, as this could damage permissions and lead to more issues than it spared time. Take your time and everything will go well.

Restoring your iPhoto and iTunes libraries should generally be as easy as putting your libraries folders back in place, even if the applications aren't set up--actually, in this case, it is better to put the library back in place before you launch the application.

Should you use IMAP mail accounts, finding your email should be as easy as launching your email client and setting it up: your email will then be downloaded from the server where they were kept warm and comfy. Should you use POP mail instead, you can simply re-import the mailboxes you created to archive your previous messages into the new application.

Finding your contact and bookmarks again is as easy as using iSync, which will take care of putting everything back in place for you. In order to avoid issues, though, do not "sync" your data but instead, "reset your computer" with the data from .Mac or the device of your choice. By using a one-way link instead of a syncing process, you limit the chances of encountering issues or data corruption.

Pat Yourself on the Back

Now that you have set up your Mac, installed all of your applications, and transferred your data, you should be ready to resume work, on a virtually brand new Mac. This most certainly deserves a big pat on the back.

While you can theoretically stop reading, I have assembled below some answers to the most commonly asked questions related to operating system upgrades that I hope you will find useful.

Answers to Questions You Didn't Ask

Q. Can I install Mac OS X through FireWire target disk mode?

A. This is theoretically possible and hackable, although, in my experience, this can lead to an unstable installation. If you decide to do so, make sure that the Mac on which you are installing Tiger still meets all of the minimum requirements and look out for potential issues. (They do not have to happen, but they well could.)

Q. Can I install Mac OS X through an external optical drive?

A. Yes and no, much like the above. It might work, depending on your drive, but it's definitely not recommended.

Q. Can missing a firmware upgrade physically damage my Mac?

A. There were a few reports in the past of a very unfortunate operating-system/firmware-version conflict that, in some cases, required owners of this specific model to have their computers reset by an Apple Authorized Service Provider. This, however, is in the past and generally speaking, failure to upgrade your firmware is more likely to lead to catastrophic-looking symptoms rather than any real catastrophe. Nevertheless, don't take any chances; do upgrade your firmware first!

Q. Can I share a single Home between my Panther and Tiger partitions during the transition process?

A. While this hack has been cherished by advanced users since the initial release of Mac OS X, the Tiger release actually introduces major difference that cause it to lead to more trouble than anything else. Use the Migration Assistant instead for a smooth upgrade.

Q. I scanned, repaired, or optimized my hard drive with disk utility Foo, and now my computer acts funky. What did Apple get wrong this time?

A. Well, chances are that it is the disk utility that did something wrong. Indeed, using disk utilities on installations for which they weren't developed can easily lead to issues. Before using any third-party optimization tool, do call the authors and ensure that it is fully Tiger-compliant--don't accept "try and see" for an answer.

Q. I'm in love with Automator guy. Can you help me?

A. I'm afraid not, he is cute! Just don't anger him; he could hurt you with the metal pipe he is holding.

FJ de Kermadec is an author, stylist and entrepreneur in Paris, France.

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