Wondering about upgrade to OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard?

If you have an Intel Mac that is running OS X 10.5 or earlier, you may wonder about upgrading to OS X 10.6 or even 10.7 when it comes out. Here are some things to consider.

Topher Kessler MacFixIt Editor
Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.
Topher Kessler
3 min read

While OS X 10.7 Lion is just around the corner, a number of people running older Intel Macs that came with OS X 10.5 Leopard or even 10.4 Tiger installed have written in wondering whether they should upgrade to the latest current release of OS X, version 10.6 Snow Leopard. Apple offers Snow Leopard upgrade DVDs for $29, but despite this relatively cheap price the decision to upgrade will depend on your uses. Here are some things to think about to help make the decision.

  1. Upgrading from Snow Leopard to Lion will likely be easier
    This is just speculation on my part since Apple has not released any specific system and OS requirements for upgrading to OS X 10.7, but if you are planning on upgrading to OS X 10.7 when it is released, you might consider upgrading your current installation to OS X 10.6. Though it is likely Apple will support upgrading from OS X 10.5, there is better chance that Apple will not support an upgrade from OS X 10.4.

    At the very least we know Apple will support upgrading from OS X 10.6, and since currently you can upgrade from OS X 10.4 to OS X 10.6, doing so will better prepare your system for an upgrade to OS X 10.7. Again, this is merely speculation for now. One option is if you have an available OS X 10.6 installation DVD, then you can just keep it around, and if OS X 10.7 will not directly upgrade an OS X 10.4 installation, you can then use the Snow Leopard upgrade DVD to bridge the upgrade to 10.7.

  2. You may not install Lion right away
    While you might be considering bypassing Snow Leopard for Lion, keep in mind that the initial release of OS X 10.7 may have a few bugs to iron out. A good recommendation is to allow others to test the features of the new OS out first before upgrading. This means that if you upgrade to OS X 10.6 now, then you may still use it for a good six months or so before finally upgrading to OS X 10.7.

  3. Snow Leopard is the same as Leopard
    In terms of user experience, Snow Leopard is virtually the same as Leopard. The interface and OS features are very similar, with much of the difference being under the hood to keep things stable and optimized. As a result, if you just need things like Time Machine or Expose/Spaces, then a current installation of OS X 10.5 should work just fine. Upgrading to Snow Leopard will offer optimized implementations of these features, but not much new to them. If you have OS X 10.4 installed, then you will definitely benefit from new features by upgrading to OS X 10.6, even with OS X 10.7 just around the corner.

  4. Are you a MobileMe user? Upgrade!
    The OS features in OS X 10.6 may not be of much use to some people, but if you use MobileMe services then even if you are running OS X 10.5 you will benefit from upgrading to OS X 10.6. Apple is migrating away from supporting older OS X versions with its online services, and if you regularly use these services then upgrading your OS to the latest version will help. On May 5, Apple will be upgrading its MobileMe calendar, which will not be fully supported on OS X 10.5 and earlier.

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