4 reasons NOT to upgrade to Snow Leopard today

Upgrading to a new dot release of Mac OS X is almost a no-brainer. They typically offer better security, more stability and - maybe - new features. But Snow Leopard is a very different beast than Leopard. If you make money with your Mac, make haste slowly.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

Upgrading to a new dot release of Mac OS X is almost a no-brainer. The dot releases typically offer better security, more stability and -- maybe -- a few new features. Apple's record of high quality dot releases means that for most users when Software Update says there are updates, you do.

But Snow Leopard isn't like that. Under the hood it is a very different beast than the Leopard version of Mac OS 10. If you make money with your Mac, make haste slowly.

4 reasons not to upgrade to Snow Leopard today:

1. You have a PowerPC Mac. Snow Leopard won't run on PowerPC-based Macs. Apple claims 80% of Mac users are running on Intel today. If true most of the remaining 20% live in my town.

Two friends, a filmmaker and a photographer, make their living off their PowerPC based Macs -- one of which is 8 years old -- and they don't see a reason to change. And I don't blame them.

2. You are in the middle of the project. Why tempt fate? While Snow Leopard has great technology under the hood and some nifty interface tweaks it isn't a game changer for day-to-day work.

Chances are good you won't have any problems updating the Snow Leopard. But if you make money on your Mac wait until you have some free time to upgrade and check out Snow Leopards new capabilities.

3. You run your office on the Mac. I love my Fujitsu ScanSnap S510M scanner but the scanner driver doesn't love Snow Leopard. I could probably get along with the manual workaround outlined on the Fujitsu website, but Snow Leopard isn't compelling enough to make it worth the trouble.

The ScanSnap is just one piece of equipment. I haven't had any problems with my Wacom tablet or my HD camcorder. But if you use low-volume USB accessories - or an old printer - go to the vendor's website and check driver compatibility.

4. You use RAID storage. I've been testing the Apricorn PCIe raid array. When I installed Snow Leopard the OS noted that that driver for the array was not compatible and put it in a special folder. Fine.

But there were two problems with that. First, and most obvious, the array was no longer available. I'd guessed that and wasn't concerned. But the second problem was more serious. The array driver kept causing kernel panics.

A kernel panic on a Mac causes a gray window shade to descend on your display with a note in 5 languages that says reboot your system. Everything stops.

It isn't pretty.

Take precautions. That last problem FUBAR'd my system. So I decided to reinstall Leopard.

It wasn't simple. I did a clean system install and used Migration Assistant to migrate my data back from my daily bootable disk clone - which saved my bacon.

One key problem: Snow Leopard's Mail updates your mail folders to a new format. It isn't backward compatible with Leopard Mail. If you don't have a 10.5 copy you are hosed.

Protect your data. If you earn your living on a Mac there are 2 precautions to take before upgrading to Snow Leopard. True, 99% of the time you won't have a problem. But if you do you'll be glad you did these two things. I was.

Time Machine should be enabled. Time Machine is Apple's cool backup tool that snapshots your system every hour to an external disk. Best to have at several days of snapshots on your Time machine backup disk.

Make a clone of your system disk just prior to the upgrade. Either Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper will do it and both are free for casual use.

If the upgrade burps you'll be able to do a clean install of Leopard and use Migration Assistant to restore files, folders, network settings and other preferences.

The Storage Bits take Apple has compiled an enviable record of trouble-free operating system updates, especially in the dot releases. While the huge majority of Leopard users have encountered no problems upgrading to Snow Leopard, if you rely on your Mac to make your living you should take precautions before the upgrade.

My data protection plan includes three backup systems: hourly Time Machine snapshots; a daily disc clone: and remote online backup. I used 2 of them to recover from the failed upgrade.

I almost never use them but this weekend I needed both to finish a project. Most of Snow Leopard's enhancements are keyed to developers not end-users. There is no reason to rush to upgrade.

And every reason to protect your data.

Comments welcome, of course.

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