Sweeping Up after Snow Leopard

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) is out. The initial reviews and feature summary articles are in. Like the person that sweeps up debris after a party is over, it's time for someone to come along and clean up the Snow Leopard litter — to clarify some points of confusion and offer a bit of troubleshooting advice. It's not a glorious job — but someone's gotta do it. I volunteered.

I'm about to install Snow Leopard. What's essential for me to know about the installation process?

The good news is that the odds of a successful install on your first try are quite high, probably better than for any previous OS X version. And if something does go wrong, just try again. The install should pick up where you left off, without any hassles. I've done four installs now and have not had even one hiccup.

The install sequence may seem a bit unfamiliar, particularly the first step, where it transfers software before asking you to restart. But the end result is the same. 

If you want to revert to the old-style install sequence, including having access to the utilities available from the OS X Install disc, click the Utilities button on the initial Install screen and then click to Restart. Even after doing this, you won't find the option to Archive & Install. It's completely gone. Apple claims it's not needed anymore because of their improvements in how the installer works. We'll see.

Finally, despite what you may have heard, you can install Snow Leopard on any compatible drive, even a completely empty drive. The installer does not enforce any requirement that Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5) be on the drive.

What's all this business about 64-bit code?

The subject of 64-bit code in Snow Leopard can quickly devolve into complex technical details that will leave most users with eyes glazed over. Here is what you absolutely need to know:

Mac OS X includes something called a kernel. It's a key part of the core OS that loads each startup. Prior to Snow Leopard, the kernel was 32-bit. Starting with Snow Leopard, the kernel can be 32-bit or  64-bit. The older 32-bit kernel loads by default. Not to worry. You're better off not using the 64-bit kernel anyway, at least for now. When you have superior hardware combined with yet-to-be-released software, the 64-bit kernel promises faster and more reliable performance. For now, all it will likely do is unnecessarily increase RAM usage and the odds of compatibility problems. In any case, only the most recent Mac hardware supports booting the 64-bit kernel. If you truly want to startup with the 64-bit kernel, or check whether your Mac is even capable of doing so, there are various solutions — such as using the SixtyFourSwitcher System Preferences pane.

That said — and this is the critical point — individual applications can run in 64-bit mode on most recent Mac models even without the 64-bit kernel loading at startup. Software updated to contain 64-bit code runs that code by default in Snow Leopard. This includes almost all of the application software installed as part of Snow Leopard.

If, perhaps to resolve a compatibility conflict, you want to run one of these programs in 32-bit mode instead, you can. To do so, select Get Info for the application; in the General section, you'll find an option to "Open in 32-bit mode." Enable it.

For more background on 64-bit code, check out the Mac Observer articles on kernel boot modes and 64-bit mode requirements.

What are the most common problems I should watch out for after installing Snow Leopard?

The good news here is that, perhaps because Snow Leopard introduces only a minimum of new user interface features, much less is likely to go wrong with the OS than with prior major Mac OS X upgrades.

The most likely problems involve incompatible third-party "accessory" software, such as third-party System Preferences panes and various plug-ins. The cause behind most of these conflicts is the 64-bit code I just described.

System Preferences panes. Let's start with System Preferences. It is almost certain that all your third-party system preferences panes only run in 32-bit mode. As the System Preferences app itself runs in 64-bit mode, this presents a problem. When you select an incompatible third-party pane, you'll see the following message: "To use 'name of pane' preferences pane, System Preferences must quit and reopen."

If you click OK, System Preferences relaunches in 32-bit mode, allowing the pane to work. Alternatively, you can side-step the need to relaunch by selecting "Open in 32-bit mode" from System Preferences Info window.

Unfortunately, some preferences panes don't work in Snow Leopard even when System Preferences is in 32-bit mode. One example is WindowShade X, which causes System Preferences to crash whenever I select it. Unsanity has told me that they are working on an update to fix this, but have no announced time-frame for its release.

Screen Savers. For essentially the same 64-bit reason, current versions of third-party screen savers no longer work in Snow Leopard. There is no work-around to fix this; you'll have to wait for compatible updates to get released.

Extensions. If you have third-party software that installed a kernel extension (into the /System/Library/Extensions folder), a message may pop-up informing you that the extension is not working. Again, an update from the developer will be needed to address this.

Contextual menu plug-ins. Snow Leopard changes the way contextual menus work. As a result, third-party plug-ins, typically located in Library/Contextual Menu Items folders, no longer appear in contextual menus for 64-bit applications. The third-party program, Shortcuts, offers a potential work-around here.

AppleTalk printing. Snow Leopard no longer supports AppleTalk connected printers. As far as I know, this has nothing to do with 64-bit software. It does mean that if you have a old networked printer (such as HP laser printers from years ago), your Mac may no longer communicate with your printer after updating to Snow Leopard. The solution is to set up your printer to connect via an IP protocol instead. See my latest Bugs & Fixes column for all the details on this matter.

Otherwise, almost all printers that ran in Leopard should run just fine in Snow Leopard, as long as the updated drivers were installed as part of the Snow Leopard installation (which is typically what happens by default). In any case, if needed drivers are missing, Snow Leopard should offer to download and install them when needed.

QuickTime Player. The Snow Leopard version of QuickTime Player does not support custom export options or most other QuickTime plug-ins. This means, for example, that Elgato's Turbo.264 won't work with QuickTime Player. The only solution, at least for now, is to use the old QuickTime Player 7 instead. If you have a Pro version of QuickTime Player on your drive when you install Snow Leopard, the older version gets installed by default. Otherwise, select QuickTime 7 from the Customize… window in Snow Leopard's Installer.

As a related oddity, I found that I could not always use QuickTime Player's built-in export options. For example, if you go to Share > iTunes, you'll find options to save a movie in iPhone/iPod, Apple TV, or Computer formats. When I tried to do this with a .avi movie (taken with my digital camera), QuickTime Player refused to do the Apple TV or Computer conversion, claiming that the resulting file would be "larger than the original movie without improving quality." This misses the point of the conversion, which is that the .avi file will not install on an Apple TV or even in iTunes. I did find a work-around here: If I selected HD 480p as the format in QuickTime Player's Save As dialog, I could get the movie to install in iTunes.

In general, you'll find that the new QuickTime Player is far less capable than the Pro version of the old QuickTime Player. Sadly, there is no Pro equivalent of the new QuickTime Player, at least not yet.

PowerPC software. If you have any legacy PowerPC-based software, it won't run in Snow Leopard unless you install the Rosetta software. Apple chose not to have Rosetta installed by default. If you need it, ideally select Rosetta from the Installer's Customize window. If you forgot to do this, don't fret. When you attempt to launch a PowerPC app, you'll likely be given the option to download and install the needed Rosetta software from Apple's Web site.

To force an an application to run using Rosetta, assuming it is able to do so, select "Open using Rosetta" from the application's Get Info window. If it's a 64-bit program, you'll first have to select "Open in 32-bit mode." As an example, you can see this in action if you go to the Info window for Safari.

Applications in general. Most applications that worked fine in Leopard will work equally well in Snow Leopard. Occasionally, you may find that an individual feature within an application doesn't work. Eventually, upgrades to problem software will work out all of these wrinkles. For most people, this will not be a reason to delay upgrading to Snow Leopard.

You may trip over a few Snow Leopard oddities even in applications installed by Apple. For example, when checking spelling in TextEdit, I could not get the Ignore selection to work. That is, after I clicked it, the next instance of the word still showed up; it was not ignored. TidBITS has reported a problem with clicking two-line URLs in Preview. Apple confirms a problem with (and solution for) sending messages in Mail, if you get an "Error 54: Connection Reset By Peer." And so on.

Completely incompatible applications are rare, but they exist. Incompatible software that has already been identified by Apple is relegated to an Incompatible Software folder at the root level of your drive, placed there by the Snow Leopard installer. Apple maintains a list of programs that fall into this category. Not surprisingly, users have reported problems with additional programs not on this list, as indicated here. If you ignore the warnings and try to open incompatible software, Apple warns that it is likely to crash on launch.

Are there any troubleshooting-related improvements in Snow Leopard?

Yes, several. This article is already too long for me to cite and describe them all. Here is a brief description of my four favorites:

New Search Preferences. When using Command-F in the Finder, you can now have the Current Folder be the default choice for a search. To do so, go to Finder > Preferences > Advanced and make your selection.

Smarter disk ejecting. If you've ever had problems ejecting disks in Leopard (typically involving errors about the disk being "in use"), Snow Leopard will bring a smile to your face. The error message now tells you what application you need to quit in order to get the eject to work.

Screen recordings. Despite my overall misgivings about QuickTime Player, it has one great new feature: you can record a movie of the Mac's screen. To do so, select New Screen Recording from the File menu.

Wake on Demand. With this new option, together with a compatible AirPort Base Station or Time Machine, your Mac will wake from sleep when requested, such as for access to a shared printer or iTunes Library. This eliminates the need to keep your computer always awake to maintain the desired access. See this Apple article for details.

More generally, and this is probably the main point of Snow Leopard, features just work better. They work more smoothly or faster or with less hassle. The more you play around with the OS, the more you'll discover that little things that irritated you in Leopard, sometimes so little that you figured Apple didn't even give them any thought, have been improved in Snow Leopard. It turns out that Apple thought about these things after all.

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19 Comments Leave Your Own


What about scanners and related software? I’ve not been able to confirm that my Epson Expression 1600, ScanSnap 300M, or HP OfficeJet J6480 will work properly. I’ve also read user reports of Airport Express not working.

I’m already dealing with a problematic MacBook Pro running Leopard. I recently had a second visit to an Apple Genius, who performed an Archive and Install to try and fix system bugs/crashes, but they still prevail. I’m skeptical Snow Leopard will solve these.

As it is, I will probably need to do a clean install, thus requiring I install all my software and system preferences anew. I’m not looking forward to that.

I think someone needs a snow shovel to clean up after Snow Leopard!


I’ve been using Snow Leopard for a couple of days now and here’s what I’ve found

System Late 2008 Macbook (silver), 2Ghz 4Gb RAM, Lots of free space on the drive. Mostly use Mail.app, Safari, plus a few outside tools to watch downloaded videos, and play games.

The upgrade went seamlessly. I started it, went off to make dimmer, swung by a couple of times to check on it and click OK if needed, after dinner it was setting there all ready to go.
No Incompatible Software folder was created so I guess I didn’t have any.
I have not found any noticeable speed improvement. I didn’t notice any when I upgraded to Safari 4 when it came out a couple months ago either. Boot time is faster but that’s about it. As you might expect with a Macbook I don’t push the system that hard so that’s probably why I’m not seeing much speed boost.
Safari seems to be more stable under 10.6 than 10.5.
One strange thing was that I had the icon for Safari in my Dock. After the upgrade SL wouldn’t let me use it. It kept saying that this was Safari 4.0.3 and I needed to upgrade it to the latest version; 4.0.3. I removed the icon from the dock, started Safari from the app itself and told it to keep the icon in the dock. After that it’s been fine. Weird.
I needed to download a new printer driver from Epson for my NX400. After a bit of a struggle with it (Epson’s issues not SL) the printer works fine.
Windows Media Player doesn’t work (which I need for particular sites)
One annoyance, While you can quit an application from the Dock you can’t close a window. You can do this in Windows but not on a Mac. This had been a burr under my saddle forever with OS-X and I was hoping they would fix it, but no joy.
The new Quicktime player is probably fine but I haven’t used it. Quicktime Player is not compatible with Perian nor can it play MKV, OGM files or any of the other obscure formats I’ve tried. So I’m still using QT7 and Perian or third party players.

So my system is running. The update was smooth. There are some under the hood improvements but so far I have not really gotten much value out of it. My wife has a late 2008 Macbook (white) that is running just fine on 10.5.8. I don’t think I’ll be upgrading her system anytime soon.

Michael Cohen

Here are two more trouble-shooting related improvements in Snow Leopard, both having to do with syncing, and both accessed by Option-selecting the syncing status menu in the menu bar:
Open Sync Diagnostics: With this command you can run a complete sync that creates detailed information logs (just about every sync transaction is recorded). You can save these logs and forward them to Apple, or just open them and try to spot the offending transactions and their synced sources.
Reset Sync Services: You used to have to open iSync’s preferences to get at this command, which deletes the sync history. If the sync history is corrupted, it can lead the sync engine to do strange things: resetting the sync history can fix such problems. Doing so does not delete your synced data but it does reset your various sync settings to their default settings.

Ted Landau

Here are two more trouble-shooting related improvements in Snow Leopard, both having to do with syncing

True enough. In fact, I am considering writing an entire article on the sync-related improvements. It is a pretty big deal.


@mjkphoto, have you tried using Apple’s Image Capture app instead of the OEM software for your scanners? With my Epson scanners (a 1650 and a 3170), Image Capture works much better than the clunkware that Epson provides. A colleague uses it for her Canon scanner as well.


As it is, I will probably need to do a clean install, thus requiring I install all my software and system preferences anew. I?m not looking forward to that.

Better idea:
1) Using Disk utility, copy an image of your current drive onto a Firewire or USB drive.
2) Format your current drive and install a clean copy of Leopard or Snow Leopard.
3) Use Migration Assistant to migrate those of your existing apps that are critical, and maybe your user accounts, onto the newly installed OS.

It would be best to migrate over just the really important apps, and nothing else (not even accounts) to avoid bringing along the cause of your current problem(s). Also, if you migrate over just those apps, and you still have the same problems, at least that’s a pretty good clue that the problem is in one (or more) of those apps. At that point, I would go for a complete re-install from scratch, to really kill the problem.

Ted Landau

One more compatibility issue: My son reminds me that most Safari plug-ins won’t work unless Safari is run in 32-bit mode. This is generally true for plug-ins, as well as input managers, that work with any other Mac 64-bit software.


I have not found any noticeable speed improvement…Boot time is faster

So you did see a speed improvement!

I needed to download a new printer driver from Epson for my NX400. After a bit of a struggle with it (Epson?s issues not SL) the printer works fine.

It’s best to let your system do the driver download via System Preferences. I wouldn’t bother with (or trust) a download via the manufacturer’s downloads site.

Windows Media Player doesn?t work (which I need for particular sites)

No, you just need the ability to decode WMV. I just recommend installing the flip4mac plug-in for QuickTime, but be sure to get the latest beta ( for Snow Leopard/QuickTime X compatibility.


most Safari plug-ins won?t work unless Safari is run in 32-bit mode.

I’d rather forego the plug-ins than Safari’s 64-bit mode. The latter provides noticeable speed improvements.


I miss FinderPop.  I miss it dreadfully.


geoduck said: I have not found any noticeable speed improvement?Boot time is faster
So you did see a speed improvement!

Because I boot the system maybe once every few weeks this doesn’t impact my day to day activities. Game load times, web speeds, video loading, etc are unchanged. Not that I used a stopwatch on them. The system just doesn’t ‘feel’ any faster.

geoduck said: I needed to download a new printer driver from Epson for my NX400. After a bit of a struggle with it (Epson?s issues not SL) the printer works fine.
It?s best to let your system do the driver download via System Preferences.

I’m not sure what you mean. System Update found nothing. Is there another way to update drivers that I’ve missed?

geoduck said: Windows Media Player doesn?t work (which I need for particular sites)
No, you just need the ability to decode WMV. I just recommend installing the flip4mac plug-in for QuickTime, but be sure to get the latest beta ( for Snow Leopard/QuickTime X compatibility.

I use flip4mac for downloaded media. But there are a couple of particular sties that require WMP be installed for streaming media, (something that really p*****s me off. It’s just sloppy programming.)


I?m not sure what you mean. System Update found nothing. Is there another way to update drivers that I?ve missed?

You had it right the first time.  Go to the company website and download.  What I think desys referred to was not Software (not System) Update, but by going to the System Preferences > Print & Fax to update to the latest driver.  I have only a single Canon printer, and that option does not appear to be available to me.

Anyway, if you scroll down some in this article from Apple, you will see a list of all the latest drivers, and whether they work with Snow Leopard.



I stand corrected.

When I went out to the page a couple days ago I misread it and thought it was saying these drivers were available FOR Snow Leopard. When I went back to the page just now I realized that it actually said those were drivers available IN snow Leopard. I went to System Preferences>Printers & Faxes>Options and Supplies>Driver>Select Printer Software and the Epson NX400 was included with the OS.



Good deal, Lucille.


All went well on my iMac.  Only VMware’s Fusion needs reloading.  iStat Menu is already up to speed as well as Menu Meter.(beta)  Just waiting for MenuShade and Cleardoc.  Unsanity’s Application Enhancer is ready.

Having upgraded from Tiger I find speedier response times in launching apps and Safari is muchly faster!

Definitely worth the cost and effort.


Flip4mac beta driver for Snow Leopard



When I did my initial testing I was doing the normal things, surfing, watching A video, playing music, playing games, that sort of thing. Not pushing the system too hard. and I did not see any speed boost with 10.6. If an App opened in 2 seconds in 10.5 I really didn’t notice if it opened in 1.7 in 10.6. Today I repeated an experiment I first did in June; seeing how many videos I could run at the same time.

(Including screen shots)

At that time I was able to run 6 MKS videos simultaneously before I ran into noticeable stuttering. Now with 10.6 I can run 8. So there is a speed boost. However it is only apparent when you are pushing your system really hard.


Snow Leopard has screwed up Adobe 9. It keeps requesting a password to update it and then won’t take my pw. Anyone learned a fix for this?


Could someone post a solution to make the old quicktime player the default for all applications system wide? the new one is just pathetic. thx!!!

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