OS X: Where to Get It, How to Install It

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With the OS X release date just days away, you'll find Mac users debating everything from the safety of the built-in Apache Web server to how to compile Unix applications in the new operating system's command line. But for a lot of Mac users, all the hubbub surrounding OS X boils down to just two questions: Where can I get it? And what do I need to install it?

First things first -- you can get OS X just about anywhere. The operating system is scheduled to go on sale this Saturday, March 24, with a list price of $129. Some stores aren't waiting any longer than they're required to before they start selling OS X -- they'll open their doors at midnight to commemorate the launch. If you want to wait until a more reasonable hour to buy your new operating system, a slew of stores have announced in-store events for Saturday to celebrate OS X's launch -- and, not coincidentally, sell some product.

Can't wait until the weekend? Apple is taking preorders of OS X now at its online store.

But as it is with books and bread-machines, so it is with operating systems: many of the best deals can be found online. Outpost.com, for example, is offering free delivery. The online retailer also lets you buy OS X at a reduced price if you purchase hardware or software bundled with the operating system.

Other Web retailers, such as MacMall, are offering rebates that will bring down the cost of OS X to less than $100. So shop around.

Before you run out and buy OS X, though, you need to make sure that it will work on your Mac. OS X's system requirements dictate that users have a fairly modern setup -- a G3 machine or better with 128MB of RAM and 1.5GB of hard disk space. iMacs, iBooks, or G4s of any type will do. As for G3 PowerBooks, unless yours was made prior to September 1998, it will run OS X, as well. If you have a G3 tower, chances are it will support OS X, but you should check Apple's OS X Web page before making any purchases.

As for older Macs with G3 upgrade cards, Apple says those won't support OS X. It's worth noting, however, that upgrade card makers like Newer Technologies released drivers that allowed their G3 cards to support the OS X beta. If you own an older Mac, it may be worth waiting a few months to see if the same thing happens with OS X.

Just because a machine meets the minimum requirements doesn't mean it will be an optimal system for OS X. Apple recommends systems with a 400MHz processor or faster with 192MB of memory for peak performance.

If you're not sure what's under the hood of that Mac on your desk, you can find your processor speed and system RAM in the Apple Menu by selecting About This Computer. To determine how much hard disk space you have, click once on your hard drive and select Get Info from the File menu.

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