OS X Beta: Install with Care

Think very different. From the Roman numeral in its name to its Aqua interface, that's what Mac OS X is. If you're just catching on to this phenomenon, see " Mac OS X: The Inside Story " for an overview. If you're ready to order the $30 beta CD-ROM, go to store.apple.com.

Before you reach for your credit card, make sure your hardware is up to the job. Here's what you'll need to run OS X:

  • An iMac, or any Power Macintosh or PowerBook with a G3 or G4 processor, except for the original PowerBook G3 (the limited-release model before Wallstreet). Apple hasn't committed to supporting other PowerPC-based Macs, including those with third-party G3 or G4 processor cards. By the way, you can't install the OS X beta on a FireWire drive, but you can store OS X files on it.
  • Internal video or an Apple-supplied video card from ixMicro or ATI. If you have more than one monitor connected to your Mac, disconnect the second one before you install.
  • At least 64MB of memory to run OS X. You'll need even more memory -- Apple recommends 128MB -- if you also want to run OS 9 applications under OS X.
  • 1.5GB of free disk space. If you can spare the room, it's a good idea to set aside another gigabyte or two for applications and documents.
  • Firmware updates for your Mac and other hardware. Look for the latest installers and instructions on Apple's support site. Updates may cause their own problems, so give yourself time to recover before you go to the next step in the installation process.
  • Apple is taking a huge gamble by releasing Mac OS X before it's done. If the beta's a bug-ridden turkey, Apple could lose the confidence it has recaptured since Steve Jobs's return to the helm. So it's a safe bet that Apple's software engineers have been working overtime to make the OS X beta as stable and reliable as possible. Still, you should take these simple steps to forestall problems:

  • Don't install the OS X beta on any Mac that you can't afford to live without. Even if you have backups of your applications and data, it can take hours to reformat and restore a hard drive.
  • Back up your disk before you install, and then do it again frequently after that. Don't assume your existing backups are intact -- test them to make sure the files weren't corrupted during backup. If you use Dantz Development Corporation's Retrospect (925/253-3000, www.dantz.com ), you can use the Verify function to check the integrity of your backups.
  • Although you can install the OS X beta on the same volume as Mac OS 9, instead, shield your files by installing it on its own hard drive. (OS X beta can't boot from an external FireWire drive, however.) That way, you'll be less likely to lose valuable data if your computer goes south. If you don't have an extra drive and must run the beta, use Apple's Drive Setup to create a separate partition for OS X on your disk. Note that you can't partition an active drive -- you must reinitialize it.
  • Keep your existing OS 9 System folder, preferably on a separate partition or volume, so you can still use your present applications in Classic mode and, when you want, use the System Disk control panel to switch back to Mac OS 9.
  • You've backed up and prepared your hard drive, you've loaded the latest firmware updates, and you're holding the OS X beta CD in your hand. It's time to install. Either stick the CD in your drive as it turns on and hold down the "C" key, or do the following:

  • Insert the OS X CD in your Mac and double-click on the Install Mac OS X beta icon.
  • Click on Continue. Your Mac will restart from the CD, and the installer will run automatically. (The spinning, colored CD cursor shows you that OS X is loading.)
  • Choose a destination volume or partition for OS X. You have the option of reformatting the OS X disk in Mac OS Extended (HFS+) or Unix File System (UFS) format. The beta works with either one, but only Mac OS Extended drives show up on a Mac OS 9 desktop, so that's the best option for most users.
  • When the installation finishes, the installer will restart your Mac.
  • The first thing you'll notice when OS X boots is the revamped Setup Assistant. Although it resembles its Mac OS 9 counterpart, the OS X version lets you configure more settings. It offers mostly straightforward options but adds a few new wrinkles:

  • Configure Your Network: a series of screens in the Setup Assistant lets you configure your Mac's Ethernet port to handle TCP/IP, enter a static IP address, or specify whether your computer will use a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) or BootP (the default) server for Internet access. (It might be a good idea to open your Mac OS 9 TCP/IP control panel before rebooting into Mac OS X and writing down all the settings therein, so you've got them handy when you get to this screen.)
  • User Accounts: Unlike OS 9's optional Multiple Users, Mac OS X requires that you specify at least one password-protected user account.
  • Once the Setup Assistant applies your settings and you restart, you're ready to begin exploring the OS X beta.

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