Should I put Leopard on my G4s?
November 5, 2007 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm concerned about making my computers sluggish by "upgrading" them. Should I install Leopard on older G4 Macs?

I understand that Leopard runs faster than previous versions of OS X on the newer Intel Macs, but my family has three G4s and I'm wondering if I should upgrade them. This question is purely about performance--we already bought the disc for another computer--so it's not a question of price. I've seen the system requirements and I'm nervous about the transition because these computers fall on the low end of the scale. Here are the setups for the G4 computers:

Dual 867 MHz Power Mac with 2 GB of RAM
1.33 GHz Powerbook with 512 MB of RAM
1 GHz iBook with 1 GB of RAM

We don't really tax the first two with heavy gaming or graphic editing, though I use Photoshop occasionally on the iBook. I know that new programs often come out that aren't compatible with older versions of OS X and I'd like to avoid that happening. Complicating the situation is that I'll be doing this over one week while I visit home; long-term observation of the systems' performance isn't an option. What do you think? Should I upgrade?
posted by Phatty Lumpkin to Technology (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I tried the beta on a dual 1.25 GHz G4 PPC and it seemed fine.
posted by unSane at 12:15 PM on November 5, 2007

Yeah, it's a tricky question especially because Apple also typically speeds up various parts of the system. So, the system requirements tend to grow but the code is better optimized.

A calculus is probably impossible for now. I'd play it safe and not upgrade unless you have a really compelling reason to.
posted by cmiller at 12:17 PM on November 5, 2007

I recently upgraded my 800 HMz iBook G4 with 640 MB of ram from Tiger to Leopard. To do so I had to hack the installer because my machine is actually underspeced for Tiger. Leopard seems to me to run as fast as Tiger did once the first run stuff (like Spotlight indexing the whole drive) was done.

I did do a clean install after making a DMG of my entire system so I could revert if I wanted to. Before this I hadn't re-installed OSX since I got the machine (used) two years ago.
posted by mge at 12:27 PM on November 5, 2007

I'm running it on a 1.33ghz/512mb iBook right now. Some things seem slightly less responsive, but overall it feels, if anything, subjectively a little peppier - Finder's a bit snappier overall. It's certainly not a matter of making anything grind to a halt; I'd wait, but if you wanted to go ahead and do it, I'd say "Go right on."
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:59 PM on November 5, 2007

Leo Laporte claims that if you have a G4 with at least 1 GHz, you should be fine.

You should not upgrade any production machines to Leopard until you know for certain that your core apps are supported in Leopard by the developer.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:05 PM on November 5, 2007

Your RAM is the real limiting factor. I have a 1.33ghz with 1.25gb RAM and Leopard does OK, but I couldn't imagine doing it with much less...
posted by bumper314 at 1:21 PM on November 5, 2007

Just to nth the above: OS X upgrades really do tend to bring small-but-noticeable speed improvements on older Macs, as long as you meet the basic hardware requirements. A clean install (or Archive and Install) can also get rid of some of the crud in your /Library/ folder.

My G4 iBook (1GHz / 1.25GB RAM) is feeling a bit perkier on basic stuff, and no creakier than it was beforehand on high-intensity tasks. Of your three G4s, the Powerbook sticks out, but if you're already running Tiger on 512Mb RAM without beachballs, then see if you can tweak the installer and give it a go. (I can't imagine running OS X with under a gig these days.)

The big problem is third-party compatibility. There's a kind of feast-and-famine with an early upgrade: you dive into the new OS features, then realise that the add-on and app developers will need a little time to catch up. Also, Classic's dead in Leopard, so if you're still using any retro apps, it might be worth keeping a Tiger machine around.
posted by holgate at 1:34 PM on November 5, 2007

Re: we already bought the disc for another computer--so it's not a question of price

You do know you're legally obligated to purchase one copy per computer or the family pack (good for 5 computers), right?

I agree with the previous poster that you should wait. I upgraded my G5 tower at home. Though I didn't have data loss, man apps would not launch after the upgrade. I had to create a new user and transfer my documents over from the previous account. It was a pain in the ass. The only reason I installed it is because I'm the mac admin at work and I want/need to surround myself with Leopard.
posted by pmbuko at 2:49 PM on November 5, 2007

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