But if they've purchased a new Mac or boldly installed OS X on an existing machine, they find themselves facing an almost completely alien computing environment.
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Of the estimated 25 million Mac users in the world, only about 20 percent have moved to Mac OS X, according to Apple. The other 80 percent still are using some version of the original Mac operating system, the final version of which was Mac OS 9.
Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., says the transition is on schedule, but most folks have no desire to change their operating system; some of it is inertia, some of it is fear: If it ain't broke ... .
But Apple's campaign to push OS 9 users over to OS X has grown more intense in the past year. Last January, it made OS X the default operating system on new Macs; in May CEO Steve Jobs declared OS 9 dead to developers; in September Apple said that Mac models introduced or upgraded in 2003 only would boot OS X.
Many OS 9 users fear upgrading because they know that when something does go awry in OS X, all their years of Mac experience will be almost useless.
They're right. Fortunately, a few tips I have gleaned from 16 months of using OS X should help hesitant OS 9 users become more comfortable with the new system.
First, a few troubleshooting tips from OS 9 still hold true:
Most, however, are in the preferences folder buried in the library folder in your users folder. The path: Macintosh HD/Users/yourname/Library/Preferences. A detailed explanation with illustrations of where to find an application's preferences may be found in the Tutorial archives of the Creative Mac Web site.
Beyond those procedures, troubleshooting and maintaining OS X is all new territory.
The good news is, however, that less goes wrong in OS X; system crashes are rare, and usually are caused by hardware issues.
If Mac OS X becomes unresponsive, it could be that one program has locked up. In OS 9, this meant rebooting, but in OS X you can force-quit the offending program without causing general system problems.
To bring up a menu of running programs, hold down the Command-Option-Escape keys simultaneously. Select the troubled program from the list -- often the unresponsive program will be highlighted in red -- and click on the Force Quit button.
But the worst scenario in OS X is a kernel panic, a total system crash. When this happens, the Mac's screen dims and a multi-lingual message appears instructing you to restart the computer. It's the equivalent of OS 9's "System Bomb" message.
The difference is that kernel panics are not normal and usually indicate a hardware incompatibility -- often a memory chip not up to OS X's standards. As always, first check the latest change or addition you've made to your system.