The wait in line at the local Apple Store was about 15 minutes to pick up the Family Pack version of Mac OS X Leopard.
Over the following 48 hours I tried every Leopard installation process available on new and old Macs. There’s good, there’s bad, some ugly, and, of course, YMMV—your mileage may vary.
Despite the standard Apple iCandy, OS X Leopard is a major release for the Mac maker as it sets the stage for a universal operating system that may end up running everywhere. It’s like an anti-Windows Everywhere OS. Easy to use, 64-bit all over, geeky goodness inside, with Apple’s noted lickability on everything outside.
While I was upgrading all the family Macs the past two days, I was also reading everything I could about the problems and reports from other Mac users. What is striking about the first reports of Leopard is the amount of disparity in the initial responses.
Some Mac users upgrading to Leopard have problems here, others have problems there, and they’re not universal problems for everyone.
At a high level, Leopard is the most fun Mac OS X upgrade to date, though I’ve encountered a few more problems than the early updates to OS X Tiger just over two years ago. Leopard looks better, more polished, more tuned, sharper, crisper, and actually runs faster on older Macs than did Jaguar, Panther, or Tiger.
Leopard truly is a new Mac for your Mac. You wouldn’t expect too many problems or flaws with a new BMW or Lexus, right? Unfortunately, Leopard has some flaws, but no deal breakers.
I prepped for Leopard’s installation by using SuperDuper! to back up each Mac to a second, sometimes a third, hard drive. In each case, I rebooted the Mac from the second hard drive, and checked files and bootability—just to be sure.
My first Leopard installation was on a nearly five year old 1 ghz 17-inch aluminum PowerBook workhorse that stays on all the time. I did a clean installation, wiping the internal hard drive clean, installing Leopard, then installing a few applications and utilities.
All went perfectly well, except the installation took almost two hours from beginning to end. A very slow SuperDrive and slow CPU is likely the problem.
There were zero problems with Leopard on the clean installation, and zero problems installing iLife ‘08, and iWork ‘08. The only other applications and utilities installed were those with updates from the past week, all considered Leopard Safe. I did not set up Time Machine to run with an external hard drive. The old PowerBook runs Leopard better than Tiger, which was better than Panther, which was better than Jaguar which was the machine’s original OS.
On to machine #2, an aging PowerMac G5 with dual internal hard drives and a matching external hard drive. This machine is used mostly for Mail, Safari, Microsoft Office, some older applications, and odds and ends utilities. It has a fast SuperDrive, dual CPU’s and a few gigs of RAM. Installation was a breeze, fast, and with no problems.
I did the Archive and Install of Leopard to preserve access to applications, users, and utilities. Installation went very fast. However, after riding around with Leopard on the G5, I noticed a few issues here and there. Time Machine, set up to use the external Firewire drive, doesn’t work well, crapping out half the time, possibly because of the screen saver. I’ve erased the hard drive a few times and started over, using a few of the online suggestions in Apple’s discussion boards. Time Machine is still waiting.
Alex, that fabulous voice in the Speech pane of System Preferences, is nowhere to be found. Every time I press the Play button, System Prefs crashes. Otherwise, iLife ‘08, iWork ‘08, and my basic set of applications and utilities work fine.
Notable exceptions included Macromedia Fireworks and Dreamweaver which required a new installation. Those are older versions which ran fine on Tiger, but not so on Leopard. Older versions of Adobe Photoshop CS and Illustrator (not the newer CS3 version) ran with no hiccups.
My third installation a Leopard upgrade on one of the original PowerPC Mac mini’s from a few years ago. The mini is used to test applications and utilities for our reviews on Mac360, so is crammed with a hundred or so extra software installations, a dozen different users. I cannot recommend an Upgrade of Leopard, even though that’s the default setting from Apple.
Every “upgrade” I’ve done of Mac OS X has been wrought with problems. Panther to Tiger. Tiger to Leopard. So it was with the Mac mini. Granted, the mini still has a mere 512 megs of RAM vs. the full 1 gig on new Intel-based Mac mini’s. After repeated attempts to get older applications running, I gave up, wiped the hard drive, and did a clean installation. No problems after that.
Installation of OS X Leopard on Mac #4 was less problematic than the Mac mini. This machine is a blazing fast PowerMac G5 loaded to the gills with RAM and every Firewire and USB connection you can think of. This machine runs very well under Tiger.
After the problems with the Mac mini, I hesitated to install Leopard on the G5, but gained enough confidence to make the attempt about 48 hours after Leopard launched.
Again, the back up of the G5 went to both an internal and external hard drive, and the Leopard installation was an Archive and Install but preserving the users. This Mac has plenty of 3rd party applications and utilities and I expected some problems with Leopard compatibility. I was rewarded, but not severely so.
Installation took about 45 minutes get to the About One Minute Remaining&trade’ mark, where Leopard stalled for another 15 minutes before rebooting. After that, no problems. Some utilities that did not work on the older 1.8 ghz PowerMac worked fine on the Quad G5. Go figure. Alex would speak to me and read almost anything. iGTD, which would not open on the older G5, worked fine on the newer model.
Overall, first impressions have been good. In some onscreen actions, such as launching, Leopard is faster than Tiger. The unified look is better than the mish mash from Tiger. I’ve also noticed some oddities. For example, some Mac users report that folders placed in the Dock (to the right of the Dock applications) display a folder icon. Both PowerMacs, the PowerBook, and the Mac mini display the first icon of what’s inside the folder.
Choose your desktop photo carefully as transparency rules in Leopard and sometimes it’s hard to see exactly what’s on your screen. I like the Dock’s new ledge but don’t like the subtle blue light in the image which indicates an application is open. The Menu Bar is hard to read with some desktop background images.
Time Machine’s buttons look like they were stolen from an iPhone utility. Leopard’s front most window is a much darker gray than in Tiger, and even more so compared with windows behind. It looks too dark in Safari. Other inconsistencies include those strange embossed buttons in Mail vs. the standard buttons in Safari. If you like 3D shadows and plenty of gloss, you’ll love Leopard.
There’s only one machine left to upgrade, and that’s the prized Intel Mac which holds all our digital goodies—music, photos, files, and more. I’ve decided I’ll wait until OS X Leopard 10.5.1 before making that leap. Mac360 is working of a list of the features we like best about OS X Leopard, and a list of the problem areas encountered to date.
We recommend either a Clean installation of Leopard; erase the hard drive and install everything, or the Archive and Install, which segregates OS X Tiger, while preserving users and your applications. We do not recommend the standard Upgrade option.
How was your installation of Mac OS X Leopard? Any problems? Any bugs? Any highlights? What do you like and what do you hate? Talk Back to Mac360 in the Comments section below.