Upgrading a neglected Mac computer.
June 17, 2009 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Upgrading Mac OS X 10.2 to at least 10.3 on a dual boot machine.

I bought a dual boot mac (os 9.2 and os x 10.2) in the earlier part of this decade, and never bothered to do any upgrades as the years went on.

Now I'm finding reasons to restart my previous graphic design career but 10.2 is so out of date that I'm having trouble using some websites (netflix streaming requires at least 10.3) or playing games (WoW requires at least 10.3), or even upgrading to the latest version of Firefox (!!?).

I have little experience with upgrading computers, so I have a couple questions about upgrading:

1. How do I upgrade JUST the 10.2 "section" (sorry, I don't know the technical term) of my mac? I'm imagining that I'll plop a 10.3 disc in and it'll install over both OS's.

2. Will 10.3 still work with 9.2 (classic mode)? I'd like to keep 9.2 due to some ancient software that works only in 9.2.

Also, could I upgrade to an OS higher than 10.3 or would I need at least 10.3 to move to 10.4 to move to 10.5 etc?
posted by wiretap to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Best answer: Netflix streaming will only work on Intel Macs.

Classic goes away with Tiger (10.4) I think. Definitely it isn't in Leopard (10.5). And the upcoming Snow Leopard is only for Intel Macs.
posted by birdherder at 1:08 PM on June 17, 2009

Classic does work with Tiger, but you'll need your OS9 disc (or .pkg file thereof) to reinstall Classic support, so make sure you have that before you install 10.4

That said, you have a pretty ancient computer there that won't run WoW or any modern game, won't run any modern version of any graphic design software, and will struggle with all but the most basic websurfing tasks.

You need a new computer.
posted by Oktober at 1:16 PM on June 17, 2009

Best answer: How do I upgrade JUST the 10.2 "section" (sorry, I don't know the technical term) of my mac?

Just pop the CD in, at least up to 10.4 and it won't touch or destroy the 9.2 installation that's already on the macine. I'm not sure about 10.5.

Will 10.3 still work with 9.2 (classic mode)?


I'd like to keep 9.2 due to some ancient software that works only in 9.2.

What software is that? There's probably an OS X version.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:16 PM on June 17, 2009

won't run any modern version of any graphic design software,

You don't need modern graphic design software, most of it is overbloated crap (Yeah, i'm looking at you Quark and Adobe)

and will struggle with all but the most basic websurfing tasks.

Bullshit, I got a 400mhz G4, upgraded to 1ghz and running 10.4.11 and it runs fine. No speed demon of course, but it handles Flash and YouTube video and multiple tabs in browsers just fine when compared to the 2008 Mac laptop. Yeah it's slower, but it is nowhere near as bad as you make it sound.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:23 PM on June 17, 2009

So you don't have a 400mhz G4, you have a 1ghz G4 that you've put some money into.

My point is that any money she could put into upgrading her current mac would be better spent on getting a "new" machine, for a few hundred bucks she could pick up a used Mac Mini that would be vastly more powerful that what she has now.
posted by Oktober at 1:30 PM on June 17, 2009

Response by poster: What software is that? There's probably an OS X version.

It's actually the driver for a very powerful scanner I bought years ago. They never updated the drivers past os 9.2 (or windows 98 for pc. Ancient!). I've never found a better scanner that doesn't cost hundreds more. That's the payoff for being stuck in an older OS.

Also, I am able to run all my Adobe programs without any problems, so it is sufficiently powerful for my needs. Had not thought about getting a Mac mini but I love to use everything until it's completely unusable or breaks beyond repair, so I would much prefer to do some small upgrades for my current computer.

My primary concerns were keeping classic and being able to upgrade to the latest Firefox. Thanks all for your answers!
posted by wiretap at 3:27 PM on June 17, 2009

Best answer: You should also be aware that Firefox 3 requires at least version 10.4 (Tiger).
posted by macrone at 3:49 PM on June 17, 2009

If you just upgrade to 10.3 you'll be limited to Firefox 2 or Safari 1. If you want to run the latest version of Firefox 3 you'll need at least 10.4.
posted by Amaterasu at 3:49 PM on June 17, 2009

Best answer: VueScan may support your scanner. It's worth taking a look.

And seconding the move to Tiger. It's a much better OS than Panther (10.3) and will allow for compatibility with many of the software on the market today.

And if you're really set on keeping this machine and now replacing it with a cheap Mac mini, then you should consider maxing out the RAM and putting in a decent video card like the ATI Radeon 9200. Your performance will increase manyfold with a better graphics card.

You might also streamline the OS for the older hardware. A few options: disable Dashboard, Spotlight, and Expose. Set your screen resolution to thousands instead of millions of colors. Use Xslimmer to clean out the unused Intel code in the Universal applications. Turn off any fonts you are not using--invest in a decent and inexpensive font management tool like Linotype FontExplorer. Uninstall non-English languages (assuming that you're not using them) with Monolingual. All these programs are available for download (mostly shareware) at: http://www.macupdate.com
posted by mrbarrett.com at 4:10 PM on June 17, 2009

Response by poster: macrone: Thanks for pointing that out. Avoided a huge mistake there!

mrbarett.com: Thank you so much for this information also. Do you think this type of upgrade (video card, ram, and I'll probably need another HD) should be left to the professionals?
posted by wiretap at 11:37 PM on June 17, 2009

Swapping the HD is also a very easy upgrade. This tower even has multiple IDE and power cables so you can plug in two HDs simultaneously and clone your data from one to other, or simply use the 2nd HD as expanded storage.

Now, depending on the tower (you haven't told us the model yet; give us the processor speed), it may not have support for "large HDs". The IDE bus on some of the earlier towers only supports HDs up to 128GB in size. In 2002, Apple started shipping towers with an ATA bus that does support large HDs. So what does this mean?

- If you actually have a machine old enough to not have "large HD" support, then trying to use a HD larger than 128GB on the "on-board" IDE bus will mean that it'll only see the first 128GB of any large HD you plug into it. Nowadays, you can't even *find* IDE HDs under 200GB in size, so this could be an issue for you.
- Sonnet makes a PCI card with a chipset on it that allows you to use HDs larger than 128GB.
- Some people like to boot from a software RAID stripe, which does allow for some nominal speed increases in I/O when moving data around on the IDE bus. However, unless you're doing video processing, I doubt that it's worth spending the time to build an internal RAID stripe in this tower.

Also, this tower almost certainly doesn't have USB 2.0, so any USB peripherals you plug into the onboard USB will be stuck at USB 1.1 (11MBps). Sonnet offers an inexpensive PCI USB 2.0 card for this also.

It's worth repeating: Unless this PowerMac is at the tail end of the G4 line, it may not be worth spending money on upgrading. My general rule of thumb (currently) is that anything slower than a dual 1.25GHz G4 isn't worth putting money into. This rule changes, of course, as technology and Mac OS X advances. You'll just have to do the math.

Is (new HDs) + (better video card) + (more RAM) less expensive than buying (a new Mac mini)?

And then try to determine how much longer this machine will be in service. It will barely run Leopard, even with the upgrades, and it definitely won't run Snow Leopard, which is being released in September. The truth of the matter is that computers (even Macs which have longer lifespans) become obsolete fairly quickly. They've come down in price enough now to make replacing them a feasible option, and so there's less incentive now to "upgrade" an older computer than to simply buy a new one which will certainly have the newer technologies and be able to run the newer operating systems.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 5:12 AM on June 18, 2009

This probably isn't the advice you want but: don't touch it. It's a really good time to pick up a Mini or MacBook. Leave it alone and let it drive your scanner but it's time to move ahead. It'll be easier and save you a lot of time futzing with old drivers.
posted by chairface at 4:07 PM on June 18, 2009

Response by poster: It is a dual 1ghz, and I have no idea how to install new HDs myself so maybe a Mac mini is the way to go. The romantic side of me is saddened by the accelerated rate of planned obsolescence these days but that's just how it is now. Thanks all for your help!
posted by wiretap at 4:13 PM on June 18, 2009

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