Every couple of months Apple releases a new version of Mac OS X. As with Jaguar, Panther, and Tiger, the updates come five or six times a year.
Most of the updates or upgrades (pretty much the same thing for most Mac users) are mostly painless improvements to the latest OS X. Mostly. A new update is coming for OS X Leopard. Are you ready?
Since Jaguar’s arrival a little over five years ago, I’ve experienced one bad upgrade for each new release of OS X. One each in Jaguar, Panther, and Tiger. In each case my Mac was grounded and would not run properly.
In each case I had just completed a cloned backup to another hard drive, so recovery was simple and quick, and, with one exception, only a minor inconvenience. The subsequent reinstallation of the update went fine. In other words, things happen. Be prepared.
Apple is preparing Mac users for another Leopard update, the second since the initial release last year. This one will be Mac OS X 10.5.2 and many developers working on beta copies say it will be the largest, most expansive minor version update ever for OS X.
Generally speaking, my routine for handling OS X updates, Security Updates, and so on, has been the same through the years. Backup first to another hard drive using SuperDuper! or another clone utility, then update. I don’t worry about repairing permissions unless my Mac was experiencing flakey behavior.
The clone backup takes about 15 minutes, and the update installation takes another five to 10 minutes, depending on the updates size. It’s a very simple procedure repeated by many Mac users, newbies or experienced pros, many times each year.
One check of the Apple discussion boards on the day of a new update to OS X is revealing. Many Mac users have problems with updates, though the process is as automated and straightforward as possible.
Since it’s difficult to tell what some Mac users have done to their Macs before an update, I won’t go into all the possible problems with an update. Suffice it to say that Apple’s update process works well for most of us.
Still, there are times when an update goes bad. At any given time, I’m running three to five Macs at home, and a couple of OS X Servers, all of which get updated, one after the other. If the first update goes well, I proceed with the others, and stop only when all are done, or something goes wonky.
Again, the process is the same. Backup first. A cloned Mac is much easier to recover from an update gone bad, than using Time Machine and your OS X installation DVDs.
Some experienced Mac users argue that it’s better to update using the Combo update, rather than the individual update. All of the OS X updates that have failed or become problematic were caused by individual updates, rather than the Combo update.
For example, let’s say you were running Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.5, and Apple released a newer version, 10.4.6. Two updates are made available to Mac users. The individual update that takes your Mac from 10.4.5 to 10.4.6.
The Combo update would be much larger and include all updates from 10.4.1 through 10.4.6. Your mileage may vary, but Combo updates have caused far fewer issues on my Macs than individual updates.
The one exception was a version of Mac OS X Tiger Server which was released with a number of problems that went unresolved for a week or so.
The Postfix mail system was broken, some web server functions were disabled, along with a few other Server problems which Apple did not correct for nearly a week.
It was not a fun week. The next full update brought the Server version back to normal.
By most accounts, Mac OS X Leopard was not quite ready for prime time, but we dedicated Macophiles bought anyway. Even a boatload of unripe Apples is easier to digest than a basket of Windows viruses, spyware, bad drivers, and overall incompatibilities in Vista.
The next version of Mac OS X Leopard will prove to be a big one, with extensive bug fixes, and a few extra By Popular Demand features. I suspect we’ll have an option to turn on or off the translucent menu bar, and Stacks will begin to behave normally (meaning, even more options to display files inside a folder with a simple click).
With such a large and important update coming for Leopard users, preparation is important. Backup your Mac. Give yourself time to complete the backup, check out your system, without the process interfering with your work.
Update – Can we predict the future? Six hours after we published this article, Apple released Leopard 10.5.2, weighing in at a whopping 180 megs for the individual update, and over 300 megs for the Combo update. Also available is a Leopard-only Graphic update, and some recent Security Updates have been integrated into a single installer.
From what we can see, Apple implemented changes to Stacks. Click and hold an icon in Stacks (Document side of the Dock) to see the new features.