Tech Tips
My Mac Magazine #35, March ’98

This month I want to bring to light a few things of importance to those of you upgrading to Mac OS 8.1. It is a worthwhile upgrade and if your machine supports it, I certainly would recommend it… in most cases. I’ve not hit too many problems with this revision, but there are a number of incompatibilities that deserve attention.

A lot of what I will discuss here is, actually, in most of the Read Me files that come with the update. From the service calls of late I’m betting that a lot of you aren’t reading them, although I can’t blame you as they are rather dry. Many of the issues are resolvable by obtaining an update from the manufacturer.

Let’s look at the list of prominent software that I know doesn’t work well with OS 8.1. Most of these are extensions and we all know how irritable a Mac can get with the wrong set of critters installed.

  • Stuffit Deluxe 4.0 extension set doesn’t work well with OS 8 or above – mainly the True Finder Integration. Version 4.5 does work in my tests (and claims from the company indicate the same). This is an upgrade which you have to purchase.
  • Norton Utilities 3.5.x does not work with 8.1, if you have formatted your drive with Mac OS Extended format (more on this later). Version 3.5.2 (an update from their Web site) was issued, which primarily disables the product from working on Extended volumes.
  • Conflict Catcher 4.0.x can cause boot issues if you don’t update it to 4.1.x. I’ve pulled this update down from their Web site and it seems to work well.Although there are other software issues, these are common on the machines I work with.

    OS 8.1 brings with it a new hard drive formatting scheme which is very beneficial if you have a large number of small files on a volume larger than 1 gigabyte. In Tech Tips, July 1997 (# 27), we discussed file block allocation, and why a file that is only 6K takes up 32K or greater on a large drive partition. Formatting your drive with Mac OS Extended format will allow your files to take up only a few bytes more than the space they actually require, greatly increasing capacity left for other data.
    There are several important issues with using this new format.

    First: make absolutely sure that you have backed up your drive before attempting to apply the new format – remember formatting means everything gets erased.
    Second: some applications may not like the new block size, but I’ve only encountered utility programs that were problematic (Norton, for example).
    Third: If you don’t have a PowerMac and use Virtual Memory, you have to set VM to use a drive other than the boot drive. Although I’m not sure, this may also apply to products such as RAM Doubler.
    Finally: If you format your boot drive with Extended Format, make sure you have a disk with 8.1 on it in case you need to boot from a drive other than your normal hard drive. Without 8.1 installed, you will not be able to access any of your drive’s data.

    Real World Experience

    The system: Performa 6320.
    The problem: Type 11 Error on boot.
    The solution: Replaced Open Transport and corrected directory damage.
    The explanation:
    This was an interesting issue. I replaced the battery, and (not thinking) turned AppleTalk off and reselected the printer. When I went to perform a test print, the system had not saved the port selection for the printer and at the same time corrupted the AppleTalk control panel. I should have restarted immediately after resetting the printer selection. Although the drive had directory damage (corrected by Norton Utilities), Open Transport required a reinstallation. The interesting part of this repair was that the system error was erratic; you could disable a number of extensions and the error would go away, re-enable them and it would appear that another extension was the culprit.

    Jeramey R. Valley (

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