How To Set Up A Mac

I realize that 99.9% of you don’t come to my site seeking advice on Macs, but the thing is, I not only use Macs, but I also service, maintain, and set them up for a living…or rather, I try and make a living of it. Most of my clients are graphic designers, though I’ve also worked with regular users that don’t need anything fancy except for a helping hand. I was recently reading of some bad experiences people were having installing OS X, namely Toke from and Jeffrey Zeldman. Seeing as how I’m a fan of both sites, I figured I would send them some advice. The response from K10k was a bit overwhelming, but it was cool that I was able to help so many people out. I figured I would post it on my own site as well, with a few links that I find to be totally indispensable.

I’m not going to tell you that OS X is perfect, that font management kicks ass, that it never ever crashes, that some programs simply do not work as well as they did in OS 9. I’d be lying. Apple’s marketing is ahead of the truth, and that’s really the tip of the iceberg. I set my clients’ Macs up a certain way that works best for their needs. The following instructions assume that you have basic knowledge of Macs. It’s also geared towards designers. I’m a designer only by hobby, but I set up my Mac the very same way. I rarely get a call from a client saying that OS X is acting up or isn’t working at all. I want to share with you how I set my machines up in hopes that you will benefit from it and will give OS X a chance, even if you have not had a positive initial experience. Forgive me in advance if you already know some of this stuff. I’m just trying to help you out, not be a condescending OS X zealot. I think there’s a lot wrong with it, but there are many more reasons to switch from OS 9 for most people, especially everyday regular Mac users that just use it for word processing, emailing, etc.

Please read this entirely before you do anything. There’s an important hint at the end for people who own the new dual processor G4s.

01) By all means, do not, under any circumstances, install software or use a machine out of the box. Apple’s default setup, partitioning, etc are screwy and almost always do more harm than good.

02) Backup all of your data with Retrospect (to a file on a FireWire drive is the best way to go).

03) Backup all of your data with Retrospect again (if possible). If you don’t have enough extra drive space for a second backup, make sure you verify your backup in Retrospect).

04) Start up from the OS X disc and run Disk Utility.

05) Depending on the size of your hard drive, you’ll want to partition your drive into at least 5 partitions. Sound excessive? It’s not. Trust me. You’ll thank me later. If you aren’t a designer, 3 or 4 partitions will do just fine. If you don’t use programs that utilize scratch discs (i.e. Photoshop or Illustrator), you don’t need that partition.

Partition 1 = 10 GB (OS X will go here)

Partition 2 = 3 GB (OS 9 will go here. You can make it smaller or larger, depending on your OS 9 dependency. FWIW, I just did a clean install with a 1GB OS 9 partition)

Partition 3 = 2 GB (You should name this ‘Fonts HD’ or something like it. This will serve as your font repository for use with Suitcase or Font Reserve. I suggest Font Reserve, simply because OS X is sensitive to corrupt fonts and Suitcase does not check integrity.)

Partition 4 = 1 GB (You should name this ‘Scratch HD’ or something like it. You can make it larger if you feel the need, but 1 GB should be just fine.)

Partition 5 = Whatever is left over (Use this as a storage partition)

06) Install OS X on the first partition.

07) Install OS 9 on the second partition and configure it to run as slim as possible. If you need to, make a separate startup set for OS X in Extensions Manager that just has the bare essentials.

08) Make sure your startup disc is set to the OS X partition and then restart.

09) Install all of your applications fresh. It’s a pain, but it’s essential.

10) Install any new applications onto your OS X partition (unless they are classic applications).

11) Make sure any applications that utilize scratch discs, are using your Scratch HD.

12) Put Your fonts on the Fonts HD.

13) Restore anything you need to from your Retrospect backup.

14) Enjoy OS X

NOTE (updated): For those who are trying to install OS 9.2.2 on their new G4 Tower Macs (Dual Optical Drive macs), or doing a restore of any sort, boot off the install disk, use the Disk Utitity to reformat and/or partition the drive. Install OSX on partition 1, use “Software Restore” to install OS 9.2.2 on the OS X partition and copy the OS 9.2.2 folders from partition 1 to partition 2 Now you have a bootable OS 9.2.2 partition. Delete the OS folders from partition 1 and make sure you tell Classic (in System Preferences) where to find OS 9. Much easier than the earlier method. [Hint courtesy of Macintouch.

Take a look in any of the Software Restore CDs.

There is an invisible directory called ‘.images’ which contains the replacement images for all sorts of things, including the OEM OS 9.2.2 required for booting the new mac properly.

Copy the files to the appropriate location and you’re good to go.

Other Places To Go and Things To Read

Subscribe to the Dr. Mac email list. It’s one email a day with great hints and software tips. The site is also searchable and has a wealth on info. The guys that run the site are the old pros that have published a number of great books on Macs.

Apple Knowledge Base – You’ll find all of the official Mac stuff here.

Apple Discussions – Apple’s discussion boards are a great resource. You’ll find a lot of people with the same problems you’re having and a community of people willing to help.

MacFixIt – THE place to go to find about the problems and the solutions. It’s worth paying the yearly subscription if you think you will use this site. I use this site more than any other.

Macintouch – This site has been around almost as long as people have been using the web. While it’s not as comprehensive as MacFixIt, it’s a daily visit for me.

MacNN – Up-to-the-minute Mac news. They also have an extensive bulletin board with a very supportive community of people. What you don’t find on the Apple Discussion Boards, you will likely find here.

Mac OS X Hints – This site can be a little more technical than the other sites, but is a great place to go, especially if you like getting under the hood and poking around a bit.

VersionTracker – Hands-down, the best place to find every bit of software you are looking for. It’s updated throughout the day and also has user reviews for each program. Is there something you want your Mac to do, but don’t know where to look for the program that will do it? This is the place to look. There is a subscription service available here as well that you can bundle with a MacFixIt subscription. They’ve got my money. I visit this site multiple times a day.

I hope you find this little tutorial helpful. If you have questions, please just leave it in the comments and I will do my best to answer. You can also hire me if you require more in-depth consulting.

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  1. joel Avatar

    do your tips apply to Jaguar also?

    what is your rate?

  2. shruti Avatar

    just show me a variety of jeans