Tech Tips
My Mac Magazine #29, Sept. ’97

This month Tech Tips covers an apparently hot topic (for at least 1.2 million of us according to Apple) which is Mac OS 8. I won’t delve into extension conflicts and what version of what program you may or may not need, but I do hope to provide several basic tips and suggestion to make your upgrade as smooth as possible. Also, thanks to reader John Kessler for acknowledging I was not the only one to come across psychotic mice (see Real World Experience, issue 28).

If you have read much on the Internet on how people are installing the new System, you’ve probably seen that many are performing a “clean install” and that may be your first question (what is a clean install?). To sum it up, a clean install will leave your existing System Folder where it is and create a new system folder.

Is this good or bad? Well, the bad part is that you must now move all of your old preferences, fonts, non-Apple control panels and extensions to this new system folder. Don’t forget about other items in the old system folder like:

  • The note pad file
  • Scrapbook file
  • Stickies file/prefs
  • Other folders (such as the Claris, Eudora and Aldus folders)Part 2 of the “bad part” of a clean install is that you will need much more available disk space to complete the installation. On the other side of the coin, performing a clean install will almost guarantee you a completely functional computer when you restart after the upgrade.

    When I’m installing the new OS, I have opted for a standard install 99% of the time and only perform a clean install as a last resort. The time it takes to move all the above mentioned items is much too time consuming, especially if the client is paying me by the hour.

    OK, now that we’ve straightened that little bit of info out, let’s move on to several other helpful suggestions. Before you upgrade, back up your computer. If you can’t back everything up, at the very least, back up the most important files. (For info on backing up your computer, see My Mac #22.)

    If you follow the new Installer instructions, everything should go fairly smoothly, but since I don’t use the new Installer (I like using the old way) let’s detail a few of the steps.

    1. Run Disk First Aid on your hard drive, and perform any of the fixes it suggests. This can save a lot of headaches! You will have to boot from a different drive or CD to do any repair work, but you can at least verify that the drive is OK by running DFA without booting off another drive.

    2. Update your hard disk driver. If you have an original Apple drive, you will be just fine using Drive Setup (comes with OS 8), but if your drive is not an original Apple, or if you have used a third party formatter (such as Hard Disk Toolkit by FWB) you will need to get the latest version from the vendor. If you aren’t sure what was used to originally format your hard drive, just click once on the hard drive’s icon, then pull the File menu down and choose Get Info. The following window will tell you. In the example below, the left info window shows basically what an Apple formatted drive will look like, and the window on the right shows what a third party info window will show. Notice the one on the right lists the name of the vendor (in this case it’s FWB).


    Tech Tips Picture 1Updating the drive’s driver consists of opening the formatting program, selecting the drive in question and then choosing the “update driver” from either a menu or clicking on an update button. After you have run Disk First Aid and updated the driver, the next step is to read the “Read Me” or “Important Information” files that come with OS 8. Believe it or not, this is very important. (For more info as to why, see My Mac #25.) I must stress the incompatibility section. Scan that area to see if any software that you have installed is listed. If it is, read further to see what will be affected and if Apple knew of any work-arounds or updates for the afflicted software.

    Finally, with the above steps out of the way you can finally install the upgrade. Just a couple quick notes to help the transition: If your machine crashes after you restart, hold the shift key down, then open the Extension Manager to disable anything that is non-Apple (or select Mac OS 8 from the pop up menu in EM) and restart. Worst case after that unfortunate incident is to enable non-Apple extensions until you can duplicate the crash and determine which critter is causing the problem. Oh, and by the way, even if this sounds like a hassle, it is nothing compared to the general process of upgrading to Windows 95 from 3.1 🙂

    Real World Experience

    The system: PowerBook 5300c.
    The problem: Random freezes when using the Internet..
    The solution: Replaced logic board.
    The explanation: Upon first getting the complaint from the user, it sounded like a good old fashioned Netscape bug. Especially since the crashes always occurred in that program. After I finally received the unit, a little troubleshooting verified that the unit was freezing anytime the PC card modem was used. With a known good modem, the unit would still fail, and even though the serial number indicated the unit had undergone Apple’s repair for that issue, it had to be the logic board. Two days at Apple’s repair center and all was well (these particular models don’t have logic boards available for Service Providers).

    Jeramey R. Valley (

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