Tech Tips
My Mac Magazine #25, May ’97

In this installment I discuss normal routines for installing software, including new programs, extensions and upgrades. Normally software installations on the Mac are a breeze, but there are a few tricks that can be incredibly useful.

Let’s start with the basic new program installation from a floppy disk, such as ClarisWorks®. It is best to start by inserting the Install 1 diskette and then reading the “Read Me” file. Yes, that can be very boring, but also very important. For example, the Read Me with ClarisWorks has two points of interest:

  • Version 4 has a different format for documents than version 3. This means you cannot use a document that was created at home with version 4 on your Mac at work that still has version 3.
  • Lines may not print correctly to LaserWriter IIf/IIg printers. An appropriate fix is listed in the Read Me.Now, I’ll admit most of the information contained within the document is useless to the average user, but at least skimming through it will allow you to catch names of programs or extensions that you may have previously loaded on your Mac. Skimming the Read Me’s has almost become mandatory when doing a system software update – I’ve fielded many calls for users after they upgraded their system software and couldn’t get WhizBang Word Processor to work.

    Check to make sure you have adequate hard disk space for the installer. Open your hard drive and select view by Icon from the View menu. Along the title bar of the window will be some numbers, on the left is what is used in the disk, on the right is what is left free. Remember that it takes 1024K to equal 1 megabyte. Don’t try to skimp by with the minimum the software requests. In other words, if the installer wants 5 Megs of free disk space, don’t make 5 megs of space available (by copying to disk/Zip or just deleting), make 7 megs of space available. I’ve run into a few instances of people having just enough space available and wind up having their hard drive accidentally erased by the installer.

    Most programs ask that you restart with the extensions off prior to installing. Do this. If you are loading from a CD-ROM, then you can’t (more on this later). As a reminder, you disable extensions by restarting your Mac and immediately depressing the Shift key (and hold it down until you see the “Welcome to Macintosh – Extensions Off” message on screen. I’ve also found that by disabling extensions, it actually takes less time to perform the installation. After the machine has completely booted up, plop the disk in and run the install utility.

    If you are installing from a CD-ROM, as I mentioned above, you can’t disable the extensions. Why? Well, the CD driver is software-based and is itself an extension. If you disable it, the CD can’t be loaded, obviously preventing you from installing the software. In instances of CDs, you could use your Extensions Manager to disable everything but the CD drivers, however, most people prefer not to mess with it. I recommend at least temporarily disabling any virus protection and screen savers. Usually, these control panels have an on/off switch or a “bypass for X minutes” setting.

    Once you finally start installing the software there are a couple of other things to watch for. If the Installer gives the option to choose the location for the program, use it. If you know where the program is installed (your applications folder for example) it will be that much easier to access any templates or adjust memory settings down the road. Considering the capacity of modern systems, it’s very easy to lose track of an application among a sea of other folders and programs.

    Also take note, if possible, on which files the program intends to install on the machine. Many installers don’t let you do this, but some do. If you’ve already installed or have QuickTime 2.5 and the program wants to install 2.0, then it’s best to choose the “Custom” option and not install the older QuickTime. Of course, there are cases that no matter how loudly you scream at the Installer, it still puts older junk on your drive. The only recourse is to reinstall the newer stuff after this one is done.

    Another option in many installers is to place a 680×0, PowerPC or Universal copy of the program on your drive. Choosing the appropriate version can save disk space. If you have a PowerMac, and don’t plan on copying this program to an 68K based machine, selecting the PowerPC version can save up to a meg of space (usually less, sometimes more). If you will be using the same copy on another flavor of Mac, then selecting the Universal copy will let it work on any Mac.

    One final note on software installations: Rebuild your Desktop! After the installation is complete, restart your Mac. Once it has rebooted completely, restart again – this time holding down the Command and Option keys after the extensions start to load at the bottom of the screen. Keep holding them down until you get a message to the effect “Are you sure you want to rebuild the desktop…” and click OK. This will help to make sure your Mac is aware of the new programs and its documents. Why the double restart? Many Installers will move System files around and install a “Installer Cleanup” extension that deletes the unnecessary stuff the next time the computer boots. Although Command-Option shouldn’t bypass that extension, it could; or worse yet, it will interfere with the deletion process.

    Real World Experience

    The system: PowerMacintosh LC5200
    The problem: Microsoft Works 3.0 won’t install from diskettes.
    The solution: Used updated installer from MS, copied from hard drive.
    The explanation: Trying to install Works 3.0 on this Mac would give an error when running the Installer. Extension on/off had no effect. Digging through MS’s site revealed an updated installer that worked around a bug in the Installer. I verified this worked, but had already copied the application over from my hard disk – what I normally do. I wouldn’t have even encountered the bug, but a client had tried to install the program from her diskettes and didn’t want to pay for a service call.

    Jeramey R. Valley (

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