May 10th, 1999

MacOS 8.6

MacOS 8.6
Contact and Other Information
Manufacturer: Apple Computer, Inc.
Description: Kick Ass Operating System
Address: Apple Computer, Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
Price: Free Update
Phone: 408-996-1010
System Requirements
Power Mac or 100% Compatible
MacOS 8.5 or MacOS 8.5.1
24 MB of application RAM (32 MB recommended)
CD-ROM (for installation)
190 MB to 250 MB free disk space (full install of Mac OS 8.5 and Mac OS 8.6 Update), or 50 MB free disk space when only updating with Mac OS 8.6 Update.

By Dave Hamilton

Through no fault of our own, we were able to get a look at MacOS 8.6 a little earlier than the rest of the world. We've installed it on 4 machines, ranging from a Power Computing PowerCenter 150 all the way up to a Blue G3. The verdict? Go get it.


The first thing that comes to mind with a new system update is, "Is it actually better, or is it just more bugs than I needed?" Well, our experiences with OS 8.6 have been fantastic. Stability hasn't been this good in a LONG time, and it's a refreshing change.


The installation of the updater is extremely straightforward. So much so that Power Users may find it a bi t of a letdown. There are very few options to choose from. The only choices available are in regard to the hard disk that it will install to, whether or not you want to update the drivers of that list, and if you want to let it create an Installation Log. In the version we received, the ONLY choice is "Recommended Installation" and it seems to work just fine for most machines. A few caveats are listed here:

  • If you have an alias named "Utilities" in the root of your hard drive, you'll have to rename it prior to installing the update. The installer creates a folder called "Utilities" and will stop dead in its tracks if it cant create it.
  • For those of us with G3-upgraded machines, the installer removed the previously recommended "Ethernet (built-in)" extension, but did not re-enable the new "Apple Enet" drivers. There were some incompatibilities with fast transfers on G3 computers with the old "Apple Enet" extension, causing many users to "roll back" to the older, more-compatible "Ethernet (built-in) extension. Thankfully, though, the new "Apple Enet" extension seems to work fine, so those of us with G3 processors can actually run the latest software now!

One other thing: while it does give an "estimated time remaining" along with a task bar, it does not show the details of the files being modified. Again, this is only something that Power Users and nitpickers would care about, but being one, I figured it was worth a mention. There is, however, the option of looking at the Installation Log after the fact and seeing the changes that took place.


The first thing you will notice is that the startup splash screen now includes the version number of the OS. A nice big MacOS 8.6 welcomes you to your computer. This is a great feature that many power users, technicians, IT support people, and anyone else who may often find themselves on a Mac that is not their own. It looks good too.


Sherlock has been updated for even better support to search from behind a firewall. Support now includes the ability to use both SOCKS and authenticated proxy servers. There's also an option in the preferences to set the maximum number of simultaneous connections that Sherlock will make to the internet at any given time.

And... the Sherlock window is now resizeable for those of you with tons and tons of Plug-ins!

Find by Content also got a little update that will allow you to index and search PDF and HTML files. Preferences have been added to only index or search for items that match a certain label, or reside in a certain folder.

Open Transport 2.0.3

Not a WHOLE lot has changed with this update to Open Transport, but they did fix one thing - DHCP. Yeah, I know, it wasn't officially "broken" in 8.5.x, but they made it "more compatible" and, as a Road Runner cable-modem user, I'm happy!

ColorSync 2.6

The updated ColorSync provides file format support for JPEG and GIF files as well as 18 new AppleScript Commands. Additionally, there are more built-in profiles and CMM's included as well.

Game Sprockets

While Game Sprockets have been available for quite some time now, it's a good sign to see them included with the update to the O/S.

LaserWriter 8.6.5

LW 8.6.5 adds support for USB Postscript printers. It also includes the ability to create a Job/Font log to view a history of the fonts you've used in previous printing jobs.

This update is available from Apple's web site. You can also get the 8.6 updater on CD-ROM by calling the Apple Order Center at 1-800-293-6617 (U.S.), 1-888-295-0653 (Canada).

The Bottom Line

MacOS 8.6 is a solid upgrade and in our view, a "must-have" for Mac users with PowerMacs. Not much appears different on the surface, but the overall stability alone will make many users pleased.

The fact that it is free is also a good move for Apple, especially considering the fact that it seems Apple's only attempt to fix the DHCP situation affecting some cable modem users is in this update. Plus, the upgrade cycle has been somewhat stiff for some. With less than a year and a half lapsing between MacOS 8 and 8.5, both full-priced (and well worth it) upgrades, Apple risked consumer anger at another update that would have cost money.