Walt Mossberg

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Upgrading Macs

Thanks for your columns about the difficulties of upgrading to Windows 7 from Windows XP. But I am a Mac owner with an iMac I bought new last year that currently runs Mac OS X Leopard. Will there be obstacles to upgrading my Mac to the new Snow Leopard?

Owners of any Mac with an Intel processor—about 80% of all Macs in use, including yours—will be able to do simple, direct in-place upgrades to the new Snow Leopard edition of the Mac operating system, due out soon. This method will preserve all programs, files and settings without requiring any of the hard-disk wiping, temporary offloading of files and re-installing of programs that Microsoft is requiring to move to Windows 7 from its most popular current version, Windows XP.

Not only that, but Snow Leopard will cost you and other Leopard users just $29, which is $90 less than the Home Premium version of Windows 7. Apple also is claiming that the upgrade will be up to 45% faster than in the past and that it will actually free up an additional 6 gigabytes of hard disk space.

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be obstacles or issues for some Mac users. Most important, owners of the other 20% of Macs, those whose models use older PowerPC processors—like the G4 and G5—won’t be able to use Snow Leopard at all. It’s the first Mac OS version that runs only on Intel-based Macs. So, if these folks want Snow Leopard, they’ll have to buy new machines, even though some of them bought their Macs as recently as 2006.

Also, although Intel-based Macs running the older Tiger version of the operating system can be directly and simply upgraded to Snow Leopard, Apple is officially requiring their owners to spend more for it. They have to buy Snow Leopard as part of a $169 boxed set that includes other Apple software they may not want.

Given the manual process of moving from Windows XP to Windows 7, isn’t it likely that there’ll be some third-party utility to handle it?

Yes. Seattle-based Laplink Software has announced that it will issue a new version of its PCmover utility—mainly sold for transferring data to new PCs—that will be able perform automated in-place upgrades to Windows 7 on an existing Windows XP machine, including the preservation of programs. I haven’t tested it yet, and can’t swear that it will work properly. More information is at laplink.com under “Latest News.”

Can you recommend software to remove trial/craplet programs? Something suitable for average users?

The one I have used with success is called “The PC Decrapifier,” which removes unneeded trial programs, add-on programs and advertising come-ons known as “craplets.” The software is free at pcdecrapifier.com. Note that it works only on PCs running Windows XP and Windows Vista. Before you use it, make sure to read the list of exactly what it removes, which is on the Web site.

You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns, online for free at the new All Things Digital Web site, http://walt.allthingsd.com.

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