10 Upgrade Problems Of Mac OS X Mountain Lion

Taming Mountain Lion

For those who have been keeping their Macs up to date with Apple's pantheon of exotic felines, upgrading to Mountain Lion should be fairly straightforward, require less than an hour (not including download time) and cost about $20. But, for Macs still running Leopard, the upgrade might cost ten times that amount and take several days to complete.

Here are some of the pitfalls that might await unsuspecting service technicians as they attempt to move to Mac OS X 10.8, aka Mountain Lion. For machines that already have Mac OS X Lion, skip to slide 3.

Snow Leopard First

First of all, Mountain Lion is only available through Apple's Mac App Store. And, Apple's Mac App Store can only be accessed on systems running Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Why? Because that's the version of the OS that includes the App Store app, and the App Store app can't be installed otherwise.

So, if you're running Leopard (10.5) or something older, an upgrade to Snow Leopard is required, as are an Intel processor and 1 GB of memory. Simple enough. Just download and install it, and we're off to the races. Right? Wrong. Snow Leopard can only be installed from a disc, a disc that Apple no longer offers. "It has to be obtained from a third party," said the Apple Genius. Apple recommended obtaining the disc from Amazon or CDW, which we did. Two days later, a box with a smile on it was at our door. Following a Time Machine session, Snow Leopard installed without a hitch.

Memory Is Crucial

While Snow Leopard is content running with 1 GB, Mountain Lion needs at least 4 GB. So for older machines, a memory upgrade will probably be required. Memory specs vary a lot, and machines manufactured prior to 2007 might not support 4 GB. Memory supplier Crucial.com offers a free tool for determining which type of memory is needed and how much a particular machine will support. We recommend taking a trip there to see what's needed; you can use the tool even if you're not ordering.

Mac App Store

As of April, Apple's Mac App Store was in existence for about a year, and it was already boasting 10,000 apps. In late July, Mountain Lion was among them, with eyes staring sharply as if to ask: "Did you order a memory upgrade?" ... because you're going to need at least 4 GB to run it.

By the way, most estimates that we came across of the total time required to install Mountain Lion topped out at about an hour. Clearly, that didn't include the download, which alone took about an hour. We suppose one could download the 4.3 GB file once and move it from machine to machine, but that runs afoul of Apple's single-use licensing agreement. Allow an extra hour of download time for each machine.

AirPort Can't Connect To Hotspot

The Mac App Store might be out of reach if AirPort has trouble connecting. After installing Snow Leopard, the AirPort wasn't taking off, even though all of our usual Wi-Fi hotspots were visible and Snow Leopard appeared to be connecting.

If this happens with Snow Leopard or Mountain Lion, the fix is easy. First, go into the Network System Preferences panel and write down settings for any wired or wireless networks that you might have trouble remembering later. Next, use Spotlight to find the three preferences files called "preferences.plist," "networkinterfaces.plist" and "com.apple.airport.preferences.plist." Drag each to the trash and restart. After rebooting and re-entering the network settings, all systems should be working normally.

What Is LaunchPad?

Introduced with Lion, the LaunchPad automatically scans a system's apps and puts their icons into this great looking iPad-like array. This isn't really a pitfall, per se, but it could throw users a curve if they're not expecting it. Arranging apps into folders works the same as on iPad and iPhone; just drag one app icon onto another, and a folder is created containing both. To remove an app from a folder, drag it out. To remove an app from the LaunchPad, long-click it until it jiggles and click delete. An app can be quickly located by typing the first few letters of its name.

Application Not Supported

Versions of VMware Fusion prior to 4.1.3 are not compatible with Gatekeeper, a new security function in Mountain Lion that protects systems from downloaded apps by identifying the developer. In fact, it's likely that some Macs will display some form of the "...application 'X' is not supported on this type of Mac" message for at least one or two of its apps.

While Gatekeeper can be disabled (by choosing "Anywhere" under "software sources allowed" in the Security and Privacy preferences panel), this will probably not solve the problem. We recommend checking all mission critical apps and updating as necessary.

Missing Browser Plug-In

It's possible that certain drivers and browser plug-ins might have to be reinstalled or refreshed. This will vary tremendously from one machine to the next and often doesn't crop up until a particular missing or outdated plug-in is needed. The good way to address this is to check all browsers after Mountain Lion is installed and make sure they're set to automatically receive updates.

Where Are My Folders?

This radical change is likely to throw some people for a loop. Mountain Lion's default file listing in Finder windows lumps all files together into a single pane and sorts them by type. This gives the appearance that any former folder structure had been wiped away. It hadn't, of course, and folders can still be accessed by opening the hard drive directly.

Once the initial shock wore off that "MyHardDrive" was replaced with "All My Files," it seemed more natural to look for files not by folder but by type and date, for when users ask, for instance, "Where's that spreadsheet from last fall?" Of course, the default sorting can be changed to creator-app, name, size, label, date created, date last modified or date last opened.

How Does This Grab You?

First the bad news: For resizing windows, the lower-right hand corner grabber has been moved to the upper right corner. The good news is that Mountain Lion windows can be resized from anywhere, from any edge or any corner. So, while this might initially confuse people looking for the little skid-strip corner of old, we think that more freedom and more choice is a very good thing.

iCloud Security

Apple's free iCloud service is an easy and seamless way to store data on systems running Mac OS X, keeping users in sync with iPad, iPhone and other devices running iOS and vice versa. But for corporations, free cloud accounts present some challenges to data security, management and backup, to name just a few.

More Mountain Lion Coverage From CRN

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Apple: Mountain Lion Hits A Record 3 Million Downloads
Mountain Lion: Macs Work Better With iPads, iPhones
New Line Of Macs, Mountain Lion, And iOS 6 Unveiled