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The Disaster-Free Upgrade to Mac OS X -- Part 2
Pages: 1, 2, 3

Installing the operating systems

By the time you're finished, you'll have installed three operating systems on your internal drive: OS X and OS 9.1 on one partition, and your old OS 9 environment on the other. If that sounds excessive, understand that this is where the "disaster-free" guarantee comes into play. The redundancy allows you to play with the new OS as time allows while still being able to perform your daily tasks as before.

First you're going to install the version of Mac OS 9.1 that came with your Mac OS X upgrade. This will be your Classic environment that resides on your Mac OS X partition.

After Classic is installed, switch to the Mac OS X CD (reboot with it) and install that operating system on your OS X partition. I like to use the Custom Install option so I can see everything that's included. Be sure to choose the BSD goodies (BSD subsystem and additional print drivers).

Also, I highly recommend installing the Developer Tools as part of your package. If for no other reason, do it to get WorldText and Sketch. They are both terrific applications that anyone would want. You can find them in:

Developer --> Applications --> Extras

You're two thirds of the way home now. Reboot your Mac off the internal hard drive. The easiest way to do this is to hold down the Option key during restart. You'll get to choose which OS you want to boot with.

Now you're ready to add your old operating system and applications to your laptop. In my case, I plugged in the FireWire drive and my PowerBook recognized it immediately in Mac OS X. I copied the entire contents of the old drive to my Mac OS 9 partition on the laptop

Talk about made in the shade. Your Mac now has OS X, Classic, and your old environment all loaded and ready to go. So how do you choose between them?

Simply go to System Preferences (it's on the dock) and choose Startup Disk. Your Mac will scan your hard drive for viable startup folders and present them to you in a dialogue box. You simply click on the one you want, then restart.

Screen shot of Startup Disk system preferences.
You can simply choose your startup environment in the Startup Disk system preference.

Just so you'll have complete confidence that you haven't lost anything, go ahead and choose your old system on the Mac OS 9 partition and restart. Viola! It's just like your old baby. The only downside for me was that I had to reestablish all of my alias connections and tidy up the desktop a bit.

To return to Mac OS X, go to the Startup Disk control panel, select Mac OS X, and restart. Boom! You're back in Mac OS X.

What I've learned since upgrading

I have just a few personal comments resulting from my life after the upgrade.

First, I'm really glad I have my entire "old computer" on the other partition. I've gone back to it many times to search for an old e-mail or find a stray graphic. I highly recommend that you give up the disk space and save your old environment -- especially if this is your main computer.

Second, the Carbon version of IE 5.1 that comes with the upgrade isn't very good. I recommend that you download OmniWeb 4.0 which is a beautiful, full-featured browser written in native Mac OS X. You can try it out, and if you like it, the license is $29.

Also, if you're in an 802.11b networking environment that isn't from an Airport Base Station, you may not be able to connect using your regular password. If you enter the Hex version, however, it works. I don't know why. To get the Hex conversion, you can download BBEdit which handles those conversions for you.

If you use QuickTime, Mac OS X provides you with version 5. Pro users will be disappointed to learn that their registration number for Pro version 3 and 4 doesn't work with version 5. You have to pony-up the $29 for a new registration number for version 5, or use your old version of QuickTime in the Classic environment.

A final word of caution: the Aqua interface is addicting. I've found that if I can accomplish a task in Mac OS X, that's what I use because I love the dock, graphics, and the overall feel of the environment.

Beware of false economy

This approach to upgrading to Mac OS X is a conservative one. There are lots of corners you could cut, but is the money you save worth more than your data or the time that you waste trying to figure out work-arounds?.

What I've tried to create is a very safe environment for migration so you can begin learning about Apple's new operating system without worrying about losing valuable data or functionality. I hope you have the opportunity to give it a try.

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit

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