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Margin Note: Software Update and Installation Warnings

Margin Note: Software Update and Installation Warnings

Originally posted December 23rd, 2004

Mac OS X 10.3.7 is one of the only Apple-released updates in recent memory to be accompanied by a stern warning: "If you have a third-party FireWire hard drive connected, disconnect it before installing this update. Reconnect it and turn it back on after installation is complete and you've restarted."

As evidenced by reports appearing here on MacFixIt, in Apple's Discussion boards, and other outlets, the consequences of ignoring this warning can, in some cases, be serious. They include loss of data, problems with mounting, and more.

Apple's attempt to warn users is commendable, though its dispersal of the warning itself leaves something to be desired.

For instance, if you follow Apple's "preferred" procedure of applying incremental Mac OS X updates -- using the automatic Software Update function to download and install the new release -- you will be presented with a list of key enhancements, as well as a note that you should be using the latest firmware on FireWire drives with the Oxford 922 chip-set. Nowhere in the description, however, is any instruction or advisory regarding the disconnection of FireWire drives during the update process.

In fact, even if you abstain from Software Update and choose to download Mac OS X 10.3.7 from the "Downloads" section of Apple's support Web site, no warning is presented.

The only place the warning appears is in an Apple Knowledge Base article.

The unfortunate results, for a number of upgraders, are ambiguity and unawareness. Is the FireWire drive warning a casual precaution, or a serious safety measure? If it is the latter, as a number of reader reports would suggest, why is it buried under a heading that reads "detailed information?"

Until Apple changes its process to provide important warnings through Software Update or its standalone download page, users should take extra time to peruse update-pertinent information in Apple's Knowledge Base. As noted above, links to these documents are usually contained under a "Detailed Information" on standalone download pages, and can also be accessed via a list of recently added/modified Knowledge Base articles. Of course, we will continue to pass along any and all such warnings here on MacFixIt upon the release of important updates.

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