Ask the MACist

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Welcome to the latest edition of “Ask the MACist." The column where I answer your Mac and Mac-related questions with hopefully more clarity and insight than you could ever need. As always, I want to thank those of you who sent in questions this week. They are much appreciated. Keep it up!

And remember, if you have a question about anything Mac, Mac-related, or even something about another technolgy like Tivo or anything, send it to me, The MACist, at: themacist at gmail dot com. Ok, let's get to the questions.

Our first question comes from Jill in Santa Monica. She asks "I just recently got a new Intel Mac and want to get the stuff off of my old Mac. What's the best way to do that?"

This is something comes up more and more now that Apple has made the switch completely to Intel processors. As people replace their old Power PC based Macs with Intel ones, they want to be able to ge their data and other setting from their old computers to their new ones. Fortunately, Apple makes this process relatively painless.

In most cases, you can use Apple's included tool, the Setup Assistant (aka Migration Assistant), to move your data, applications, settting and whatever else from your old computer to your new one. Just follow the directions on-screen and you will most likely be fine However, in some special cases, its better not to use this tool and instead take a more "manual" approach to moving everything.

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Some of these cases include: if your Mac is several years old and has never had its OS cleanly re-installed, you may want to move things manually and install your applications again on your new Mac in order to start "fresh." Or, if you have been having any problems with your previous Mac such as application freezes or difficulty starting applications or an overall feeling of slowness and other thing of that nature. You wouldn't want those problems to get migrated over to your new Mac along with your data and other settings would you? So manually copying things may be a better way to go.

So, if you've decided to do things the manual way, how do you go about it? Unfortunately, that process is a little too involved and has far too many variables that I can't go into here. However, if you do decide to do it, there is one main thing to keep in mind. Most of the items like your email, prefrences, documents, iPhoto Library, iTunes Library and most other items asociated with you and your user account are located in the Users folder on your previous Mac. So, that's where you want to look for them and also where you want to move these items to on your new Mac.

In truth, I have had a great deal of success using Setup Assistant (Migration Assistant) even when going from Power PC Macs to Intel Macs. Even though it may cause occassional issues (very rarely), these issues are usually minor. For the most part, you should feel free to use Migration Assistant when moving to a new Mac. If something does happen to go wrong, there's always your friendly Apple Care specialist or a Mac consultant in your area to help get you back on track.

The second question comes from Scott in Hollywood. He asks "I have an old iMac that's a few years old at least. Can I run the latest version of OS X called Tiger on it?"

This is one of those questions that has a somewhat complicated answer. The quick answer to this question is yes, you can run Tiger on this kind of iMac. The hardware requirements to run Tiger are listed on Apple's website and according to that list, any iMac ever made technically qualifies to run Tiger.

But that's not the complete answer, really. The complete answer is "yes, but why would you want to?" Why do I say that? Well, its simply that while this iMac can run OSX it will not run it very well at all and will not give you all the benefits that OSX as to offer. OSX is a very complex operationg system with many different things going on under the hood all the time. Consequently, the more horsepower you have in terms of processor speed the better OSX will run.

This type of iMac has a G4 processor and is not bad in terms of performace. For many simple things like surfing the web or email, this iMac wil do just fine. If you start to demand more from it like editing photos or video, for example, you may find this machine lacking, especially under Tiger. Tiger is a bit of a resource hog so consequently it helps to have the fastest processor possible, like a G5 or, even better, an Intel one.

That said, if you do what you can to help your iMac, like putting in the maximum amount of RAM, and not taxing the computer too much, you may be able to enjoy this computer for a few more years. Unfortunately, at some point (most likely with the next version of OSX, code named Leopard) you won't be able to use it on anything other than an Intel-based Mac. So, its probably a good idea to start thinking about the inevitable day when you will have to replace your classic iMac with a shiny new Intel one.

About Chris Ullrich: Chris is a frequent contributor to LAist as well as other sites like Comic Book Resources and Cinematical. He also used to tweak Macs (and PCs) for clients in the Entertainment Industry.

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