Mac Upgrade Circus

I was called in at 9 this morning for some routine maintenance and an upgrade or two of the computer that Just Works.

Mac Don’t Always Just Work

I started at 9:20am – faced with the 2-year-or-so old Intel Mac Book Pro that was still running OS X Common House Cat Tiger and in desperate need of an upgrade.

The machine was previously used as a photo bank / work horse and was now relegated to the serene pastures of office admin.  The 120GiB harddrive was 100GiB full, and would therefore need a good vacuuming.

Still littering the office from previous Mac upgrades, which didn’t go smoothly at all, I had my 2-step upgrade discs handy.  I’ve read several posts where people have said upgrading from Tiger straight to OS X Snow Leopard was possible, but my mileage varied quite considerably.

So with all 5 or 6 of the various ages of Mac I had to upgrade in the office about 3 months ago, I had to go from Tiger to Leopard to Snow Leopard every time. Not. Fun. At. All.

Bring in the Leopards

Anyhow, the files on this computer had all been backed up, so I could just fire away. I duly slipped the OS X Leopard 10.5 disc into the drive.  The Mac recognised the disc easily enough and a couple of clicks later the disc was humming along nicely and Leopard was being installed.

About 25 minutes later as the progress bar neared 100%, I was thinking to myself how smoothly it was all going. Of course, thoughts like this generates a ridiculously strong electro magnetic pulse, and mere moments after forming this thought in my head, the Mac threw up a non-helpful message to the tune of “Leopard could not be installed on this system. Please restart and try again”.

Luckily the message said please, otherwise I would have been seriously pissed off at just having wasted 30 minutes.

But the fun was just starting. Restarting the iMac it then told me that OS X 10.4 was required for this installation and that OS X 10.4 was not detected on this system. I chose the main drive as the startup disc and restarted the Mac again.

This time it try to boot, but just shut down. I tried a couple of times, but it did the same thing and eventually I realised the harddrive must have gotten wrecked.

How to the get CD out of a Mac that doesn’t boot up

Hit the power button and immediately hold down the mouse button (on the trackpad). After a while the disc will eject.

How to then boot again from the CD of a Mac that doesn’t boot up

Power up the Mac, slip in the CD, hold down the C key.

Eventually I used a retail disc of OS X Leopard to go into Disc Utilities and check the harddrive for errors.

“Oh”, said the Mac, “the disc needs to be repaired”. Wow really? That just works.

I clicked on the Repair button and several more wasted minutes later it apparently didn’t just work as I was told “your disc can’t be repaired. Save as much info as you can and reformat.” Nice one, Apple.

So that’s what I did. I reformatted and started from scratch by running the OS X Leopard 10.5 retail install.  After about 30 minutes of that, I treated myself to an immediate additional 25 minutes by upgrading straight to OS X Snow Leopard 10.6. I was up for even more and thought about immediately installing the patches to bring it up to 10.6.4, but the 900MiB download and a slow Internet connection in the office quickly killed off that idea.

Apple Macs Just Work – Eventually

So at 13:00, the Apple Mac finally just worked.

And the crash, which resulted in the loss of all the installed applications with their files, means that the office is now a superbly uncluttered admin workhorse richer.

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