Beware the Tiger

In two-weeks time, a large segment of you will be running Tiger, OS X 10.4. While there are a ton of cool new features in it, please keep in mind that there is a very good chance that Tiger will break some of the software on your machine. It simply goes with the territory. Tiger is Mac OS X, yes, but it is not Mac OS X 10.3. By that, I mean most new software released over the last year has been compatible with Panther, but very few of those programs have been tested with Tiger. So when you upgrade to Mac OS X 10.4, and you suddenly find out your favorite game, utility, or other program no longer runs correctly, don’t panic. Chances are, if the program developer is worth his salt, he/she/they will be updating that program quickly.

It is always great to be the first on your block with the new toy. We call these people in the computer world Early Adopters. If this is you, and you plan on running 10.4 on your Mac the day it comes out, you will be taking your chances. You should seriously consider backing up your important data before upgrading to the new OS. I know, I know, you feel nothing will go wrong, that you have never had a problem in the past upgrading to a new version of OS X, and that you are confident nothing will go wrong this time as well. And you may be right. Perhaps nothing bad will happen. I hope it doesn’t. Because if it does, and you loose important files, email, photos, MP3s, or the like, and it all goes bye-bye after you install Tiger, don’t blame Apple.

Watch the various Macintosh message boards around the Internet the first week after Tiger is released. You will read a lot of users who complain that Tiger ate their files. That it cause their five-year-old external Firewire drive to stop working. That their favorite P2P program no longer runs any longer. And they will all blame Apple.

It is easy to blame faceless Apple when this happens. People think that after all the time it took them to create a test the new OS, it should be perfect. That it should play nice with every piece of hardware and software ever made. As if Apple has a copy of every software or hardware to test compatibility before they release the software. In a perfect world, that would be true. But in the real world, the one you and I live in, that is simply impossibility. Apple, nor any company, can test their software under every single configuration users may have.

So before you fall victim to this, and burn up a lot of energy cursing the Mac Gods for whatever problem you have, you may want to do two things. As I wrote above, back up your important data. Blank CD’s are cheap, and most of your files will easily fit on a CD. If it is a large file, such as an iMovie or GarageBand file, use a program such as Stuffit Deluxe to segment (break it into smaller pieces) to back it up. Or copy it to an external hard drive, such as a Firewire drive. And secondly, if you can, wait a week after it is released. Wait and let others find the problems so that you can avoid them yourself. Wait for others to find the solutions as well, so that if/when you do upgrade, you will know how to fix the problem without spending days beating yourself up trying to cure the problem.

If you can wait, I would suggest waiting a few weeks, or at least days, after Tiger is released before installing it on your Mac. If you can’t wait, please back up your data.

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