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The Disaster-Free Upgrade to Mac OS 10.1

by Derrick Story

The question I hear over and over again about Mac OS X is, "When should I make the jump?"

If you've read earlier installments from the Disaster-Free Upgrade series, you know that I've limited my recommendation of Mac OS 10.0.4 to advanced users with modern PowerBooks. And even for those users, I suggest they partition their hard drive and use one of those partitions to house their existing OS 9 environment. (If you're new to Mac OS X, you might want to read the previous Disaster-Free Upgrade articles before proceeding with this feature on 10.1.)

Now that 10.1 is ready for primetime, I think more Mac users can consider making the jump to Apple's innovative operating system. If your primary Mac setup includes:

  • A USB/Firewire PowerBook with at least 256MB RAM and 10GB hard drive or bigger, or ...

  • A G4 Tower with at least 256MB RAM and 10GB hard drive or bigger ...

and you don't need on a daily basis...

  • Photoshop or other yet-to-be-Carbonized apps.

Two new additions to Mac OS 10.1 are the menu bar icons at the top and the ability to connect via AppleTalk. The icons from left to right are adjustments for AirPort, monitor, sound, battery, and time. The mounted volume, "Dex's iMac" on the lower right, is connected via AppleTalk on a home AirPort network.

Then I would seriously consider upgrading to OS 10.1. If you're "on the bubble" with older G3 PowerBooks (except for the first one, which won't run Mac OS X at all) or with Blue and White G3 towers, then it may or may not be time to upgrade depending on your particular situation.

To help you decide, I'm going to walk you through an upgrade from OS 10.0.4 to 10.1 on a PowerBook G3 (Pismo) running at 400MHz and with 384MB RAM. I'm using this configuration because Mac OS X isn't really optimized for this machine, and how the OS behaves on a Pismo might help you visualize how it will work for you on your machine.

But before we walk through the upgrade to 10.1, I want to list some of the new features that I've come to appreciate during the short time I've been using this OS. Features are an important consideration for deciding whether to upgrade or not. In my opinion, Apple has done a good job of listening to customers and adding the functionality they really want. Does that mean everything is included in this upgrade? No. But I will say that I've been working happily in Mac OS 10.1 for the past few days, and haven't even had to launch Classic mode to get my work done. Here are a few reasons why.

Some of my favorite enhancements in 10.1

The more I use the operating system, the longer my list of cool features gets. But at some point I had to stop and publish this article, so here are some of my favorites to this point.

The improved Show Info box is outstanding. Here I've changed the application association for a JPEG file to IE, even though I originally created it with Graphic Converter.

  • The Custom Dock can now be positioned on the left, bottom, or right of the screen.

  • The Scale Effect, for minimizing windows, is much less processor-intensive than the Genie Effect.

  • The new login screen looks great and is more user friendly.

  • The menu bar at the top of the screen is convenient for AirPort, monitor, volume, and battery controls.

  • Regular ASCII password entry for AirPort networks is much easier to use than the Hex equivalent.

  • Enhanced Dock controls, such as those introduced with iTunes, are truly useful.

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  • Better Classic performance is greatly appreciated.

  • Onscreen controls for volume and monitor brightness that actually work from the function buttons on my PowerBook. Yay!

  • AppleTalk file-sharing puts my PowerBook back in touch with my older machines on the network. And it's very easy to use via the "Connect to Server ..." command.

  • Even though I still don't have PC Card support for transferring my digital images, the new Image Capture application is very slick and makes USB uploading a pleasure.

  • The beefed-up Show Info box is outstanding and gives me great control over file-mapping to applications, extension options, share privileges, and more.

  • The Mail application is much smoother and faster. Its performance now matches its appearance.

  • Data CD burning from desktop is handy and easy.

  • Overall performance improvement is real and noticeable.

If some of these features are enticing to you, then read on and I'll show you what's involved with the upgrade.

What's included in the 10.1 upgrade package

The packaging of the 10.1 upgrade is terrific. The Mac OS X disc is snugly secured in a sturdy folder that also includes full-color, 34-page manual, the License Agreement, and a Mac OS 9.2.1 update CD.

So you want to connect to an AppleTalk server? No problem in 10.1. Just use the handy "Connect to Server ..." command.

If you live within driving distance of a authorized Mac dealer, you should be able to pick up the 10.1 upgrade package for free during the month of October (according to Steve Jobs at the Seybold keynote address). You can also order the upgrade through the Apple Store for USD$19.99. I was fortunate to secure my copy for free at Seybold, and after putting it to use, I feel it's worth every penny.

The System 10.1 upgrade will only install if you already have a version of Mac OS X on your hard drive. If you haven't installed OS X yet, then you need to buy the full version of 10.1 for $129 from the Apple Store or authorized dealer.

Performing the 10.1 install

Comment on this articleIf you've upgraded to Mac OS 10.1, let's hear your comments about its performance. Make sure you include some information about the hardware you have. Also, if you have questions about the upgrade, post them here.
Post your comments

Previously in this series:

The Disaster-Free Upgrade to Mac OS X -- You're tempted to upgrade to Mac OS X, but you need all the existing functionality of your laptop. Here's how to upgrade your laptop to OS X safely and still run your existing tools.

The Disaster-Free Upgrade to Mac OS X -- Part 2 -- In the second part of this two-part series, Derrick Story describes a safe migration to Mac OS X for laptop users.

Right off the bat, I noticed that Apple engineers have gone to great lengths to take the pain out of the software installation. I fired up Mac OS 10.0.4 on my Pismo, inserted the 10.1 upgrade CD, read the "Read Before You Install" PDF file, then double-clicked the "Install Mac OS X" installer icon.

As a side note: If you haven't updated your firmware for a while, I'd take a look at the information in the Firmware Updates folder located inside of the Utilities folder on the Mac OS X disc. For my Pismo, the 4.1.8 firmware update improves Firewire target disc mode, network booting, and overall system stability.

When you're ready to run the actual 10.1 installer, make sure you have your system administrator password handy, because you'll need it to proceed. Soon you'll be offered the "Easy" or the "Custom" install options. Unless you have some particular configuration in mind, I recommend the "Easy" option.

At this point, the computer goes on upgrade auto-pilot. It restarts and boots from the 10.1 upgrade disc, then begins the installation process. You might want to have a book on hand or consider catching up on television news, because the upgrade took about 25 minutes to complete on my Pismo.

Once the installer has finished, your Mac will automatically restart again, and you'll be greeted with a brand new OS 10.1 login screen. At this point, you can celebrate knowing that the upgrade was a success.

Next page: Updating Classic to 9.2.1

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