Know when to fold 'em!

Running a consulting business with my friend, Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus, can lead to a few strange nights! Since I live in the eastern time zone, our friends in the Pacific time zone are just getting to their personal computers about the time that I am getting ready for bed! Of course, since our Skype telephone number has a 408 area code, it can really confuse everyone!

The truth is that I may head up the stairs around 10 in the evening, but that does not mean that I put away my computer till a few hours later. I just love the convenience of a MacBook Pro, a good wireless network and Skype! I do some of my best reading and writing curled up in my bed. Of course, my husband is totally tied to paper, but who needs to hold paper to read and write these days!
Running a consulting business with my friend, Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus, can lead to a few strange nights! Since I live in the eastern time zone, our friends in the Pacific time zone are just getting to their personal computers about the time that I am getting ready for bed! Of course, since our Skype telephone number has a 408 area code, it can really confuse everyone!

The truth is that I may head up the stairs around 10 in the evening, but that does not mean that I put away my computer till a few hours later. I just love the convenience of a MacBook Pro, a good wireless network and Skype! I do some of my best reading and writing curled up in my bed. Of course, my husband is totally tied to paper, but who needs to hold paper to read and write these days!

Last night my computer began ringing (via Skype) at about 11:30. I had been playing telephone tag with a client all day, and we finally got a chance to connect. Our client had recently moved from a Power Mac G4 as his "main" computer to a Power Mac G5. He began the process by doing an "Archive and Install" to upgrade to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard on the G5. There had been a few problems, but he thought he had corrected them. Then he used the Migration Assistant to move his files to the G5. One thing led to another and it was time to call for help!

The point of this blog post is to help you determine when it is all right to simply install a new operating system right over the old one, when an "Archive and Install" is a better plan, and when it is time to do the "dirty deed," or as Macintosh consultants often call it, a "nuke and pave." (In Apple, Inc. terms, when it is time erase the hard drive and install a new operating system.)

Back in October, when Leopard was released, Bob and I tried all three of the different methods, and our results were surprising!

My computer was fairly new and I don't run a lot of third party software that "enhances" the Mac experience, so I repaired permissions with Disk Utility while still in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Then I started my computer up off the the new Leopard DVD, ran the First Aid part of Disk Utility to make sure there were no hidden directory problems and then installed Leopard right on top of my old version of Tiger.

Now, for any of you who are Mac geeks, I can just see you shaking your heads and thinking that Pat is such a fool, but I did it this way since I knew that many Mac users would do exactly the same thing. (I do hope they repaired permissions and ran First Aid!) It worked out just fine! I had NO problems and went right to work learning about this new big cat, Leopard. So, yes, in the right circumstances, you can perform what is commonly called a "dirty install."

Bob did basically the same preparation with Disk Utility, and then he used the "Archive and Install" installation procedure. He was not so lucky! Although he thought that all of those third-party start-up items were up-to-date and okay, they caused him nothing but trouble! Probably, the moral of that story is that disabling start-up items is not a bad idea when your are going to do an archive and install. Then introduce them slowly so that you can make sure there are no conflicts with the new operating system.

My husband's computer, a PowerBook G4, was the third candidate for the upgrade. It was turning 4 years old, and it had been my computer until I had upgraded about a year and a half ago to my MacBook Pro. It has been quite some time since I had done any real maintenance work on it, the hard drive was pretty full, and there had been lots of software upgrades since it had last had the drive reformatted. It was also having a few problems that I was not sure were really gone.

Even though it would require much more work, that computer deserved – no, NEEDED a fresh start! I knew Ron would appreciate all the cruft being removed so that its 80 GB hard drive was as empty as possible and all the programs would be registered to him, and it would finally really be HIS computer instead of a hand-me-down with my name lurking in odd places. I installed all the applications from the CDs or disk images and I made sure to apply all the updates. Then I brought only his photos, music, documents, calendar, address book, and email back onto the computer.

It's now been a few months. I am not sure how Bob's computer has fared, but around here, Ron's computer is the most organized and has the fewest little issues cropping up. I know he appreciates having just the things he uses installed instead of all the programs that I have on my computer. And because everything was fresh and up-to-date, his small hard drive seems larger and he spends less time asking me to fix problems.

As for my computer, it could stand a good housecleaning! There a programs that I am no longer actively using. I really should archive some of my older documents and email, and I need to pare down my music and photo libraries. When did Steve say that Mac OS X 10.6 would be out?

As for the title of this blog post, do you remember the chorus from Kenny Rogers's song, The Gambler?

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when youre sittin at the table.
Therell be time enough for countin when the dealins done.

Those words come to me sometimes when am trying to decide the best course of action in upgrading a computer!

Pat

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