Reinstalling OS X applications

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In what some might term throwing the infant out with the water in which it was steeping, reader J.S. did something that he now regrets. He writes:

Last year I had significant problems with my iCal application. I was so dissatisfied, I deleted the application entirely and installed Sunbird. I’m wondering if it’s possible to download a new, hopefully improved, version of iCal?

Before we start, I should mention that tossing out applications—particularly those that are bundled with the Mac OS—is not a good idea. If you don’t like a particular application, simply ignore it and, chances are, it won’t bother you. Now, to your particular problem.

iCal is an application bundled with Mac OS X and the only way to obtain a new version is to upgrade your version of the Mac OS—move from Tiger to Leopard, for example. However, you can reinstall the version of iCal you once had. Why do so when you were unhappy with it in the past? It’s possible that something else running on your Mac was causing iCal to misbehave and a subsequent OS update—a point update such as 10.5.2, for example—addressed that issue, allowing iCal to run as Jobs intended.

Fortunately, you needn’t reinstall the entire operating system to get a single application back. Both the Tiger and Leopard Installer discs include an Optional Installs installer. Launch this installer (found in the Optional Installs folder on the Leopard disc) and at the root level the Tiger Installer disc.

Just launch the installer and click the Continue buttons until you reach the Custom Install screen. Click the triangle next to Applications, tick the box next to iCal, and click the Install button to install iCal. With both the Tiger and Leopard Installer discs the Applications area of the Custom Install screen includes options for installing Address Book, iCal, iChat, iTunes, Mail, Oxford Dictionaries, Safari, and X11. Other options include Additional Fonts, Language Translations, and Printer Drivers.

If you’d like to reinstall applications that aren’t offered in the Custom Install screen—applications in the Utilities folder, for example—you can use Charles Srstka’s $20 Pacifist. It works this way:

Insert your Mac OS X Installer disc. Download Pacifist and launch it. In the window that appears click the Open Apple Install Discs button. A window will appear offering you the single choice to look at the OSInstall package. Click OK.

Pacifist will churn away for a bit and then you’ll see a window titled OSInstall.mpkg. In this window you can dig down through the hierarchy of folders to find what you seek or you can enter the name of what you’re after in the Find field and press Return. A drawer appears that lists the names of matching files.

To install an item click the Install button in the upper-left corner of the window. You’ll be prompted for your administrator’s password. Enter it, click OK, and the item will be installed into its proper location on your Mac’s hard drive.

Updated to correct information about the installer discs’ Custom Install option.

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