by Claire J Rottenberg (Jul 7, 2008)
Now that Apple has released its fourth update to Mac OS X 10.5, I thought I'd share my early reactions to the update and some tips for successfully installing it. Apple's information sheet on the update is slim on details. Except for mentioning a few bug fixes, mostly to iCal, the sheet states that the 10.5.4 update plugs some security leaks in the operating system. This might be reason enough to upgrade, but I found a few bug fixes that may also make upgrading worthwhile.
My Reactions to the Update
The first thing I did after updating was to repair disk permissions with Disk Utility. It is still a slow process, but repairing disk permissions did not initially result in any errors. However, after updating to QuickTime 7.5, the "cups" permission error returned, and, even after repairing permissions, it keeps returning, so, apparently, this bug has not been fixed.
After I repaired disk permissions, I checked a Mail bug that has been annoying me since switching to Mac OS X 10.5. Unfortunately, Apple has not fixed the "signature with hyperlink" bug that makes it complicated to create a Mail signature that contains a word with a hyperlink attached to it. If you create a signature that contains an email address or a recognizable URL, Mail automatically turns it into a hyperlink, but only in the sent message (i.e., it appears as regular text in the Signatures preferences pane and in your composed message, but the receiver may see it as a hyperlink). You cannot, however, create a signature that contains a word with a hyperlink. For example, I cannot create a signature with "Mac ebooks" and add a link to my website to the two words. In other words, the "Add a link" command does not work with signatures.
The only consistent improvement I noticed with 10.5.4 is that I can now sync my Desktop iDisk with my virtual iDisk without getting sync errors. Of course, it is possible that this is due to changes to the .Mac server and not due to the operating system update. Although physical iDisk syncing seems to be improved, syncing contacts and Mail accounts still does not seem to be working correctly. Syncing my calendars and Safari bookmarks worked as it should. I was given the option of merging the files on my computer and on my iDisk or selecting either one of the files as the correct one, but with Mail accounts and my Address Book contacts, my only option was to merge both files. Hopefully, syncing errors will be eradicated when Apple switches to MobileMe.
In summary, I don't see any significant improvements with Mac OS X 10.5.4, but I also don't see any downsides to the update, so it's probably worth updating for the security fixes.
Tips for Updating
If the security and small bug fixes have convinced you to update, here are a few tips for having a successful update.
- Use the combo update instead of the single update or the automatic Software Update option. The combo update is a huge file (561 MB), so this tip is not necessarily advisable if you only have a slow modem Internet connection and you can't get someone to download the update for you. In that case, download the single update (88 MB) and install that one. For everyone else, I recommend downloading the combo update for two main reasons. First, most people who have experienced problems with Mac OS X updates have used either the single update or the Software Update option, so the combo update is the safest, most stable update to use. Second, if you ever need to reinstall Mac OS X 10.5 from your original Install disk, updating to the latest version will be much easier if you have a copy of the 10.5.4 combo update (i.e., you'll only have to use one update file instead of three or four). After you download the update, be certain and copy it to a CD for safe keeping and future use.
- Repair disk permissions with Disk Utility before and after installing the update.
- If your system has been sluggish, use Onyx to run the maintenance routines and clean out caches. Be certain, however, to use the correct version of Onyx - it comes in several versions, so download and use only the stable (not beta) Leopard version. You can skip this tip if your system is running well.
- Clone your boot drive and test the cloned drive. This is probably the most important tip - if anything goes wrong with the update, you want to be sure that you can quickly revert back to a good, working clone of your drive. I recommend using SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner, and not Time Machine. If you've never created a clone, see my video tutorial for using Carbon Copy Cloner.
- Remove unnecessary external devices, especially hard drives.
- Remove any plug-ins you might have added to your system or to Mail or Safari. Also, remove login items that aren't absolutely necessary.
- Install the update and take a break. Your computer will do a double restart after the installation is completed and the boot time will be significantly longer than usual. Be patient.
- Once Mac OS X 10.5.4 is up and running, test your most important applications and use the update for a few days before cloning it to your backup drive.
I hope you find these tips useful. If you find any improvements, or bugs, with Mac OS X 10.5.4 that you would like to share, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Good luck with the update.
Claire J Rottenberg is the author of Easy Guides to Mac OS X software (Safari, Mail, System Preferences, TextEdit) and Course Books on Mac OS X 10.5, iPhoto ’08, iTunes, and Mac OS X 10.4. More information on her books is available on the CJRTOOLS ebooks website.