Apple Archive

Is OS 9 Still Useful?

- 2002.11.15

Now that Macs are shipping with OS X as the default operating system (and will soon only boot OS X), and most major vendors have come out with OS X native versions of their software, how useful is OS 9?

For a start, any pre-G3 Mac is unsupported when running OS X, and officially they can only run up to OS 9.1. Anyone without a G3 processor is stuck with Mac OS 9.1 unless they are willing to play around with XPostFacto or another OS X install utility.

Apple is still supporting OS 9 for its users, and there are reasons to keep using it. The main reason is to use older peripherals. For example, my old HP DeskJet 870Cse is still a good printer, but it's a serial device - and OS X doesn't work with them anymore. Connected to my 9600, the printer still gets plenty of use.

Older scanners are the same way. While Mac OS X does support various SCSI cards and scanners, most old SCSI scanners don't have recent drivers that work natively in X. There is an application for Mac OS X called VueScan that is compatible with many recent SCSI scanners, however. It worked well with my Umax Astra 1220S when nothing else did.

There are some applications that will not run in Classic mode - older versions of Virtual PC, for example. There are also some games that don't work well in Classic mode. Some extremely old games don't even work well on a modern computer (the computers are simply too fast for them).

Other applications, such as Claris Emailer and Claris Home Page, have never and will never be updated for Mac OS X. You can either run them in Classic or natively in 9. There is also currently no OS X native version of Microsoft Outlook Exchange Server, which might pose problems to those using their Mac in a school or office where this software is required.

Upgrading software can get very expensive, depending on what versions you currently own and what applications they are. It's also a shame to cast off older peripherals just because they aren't compatible with OS X. Using them on your old 7600 will give them, as well as the computer, a longer life.

Also, if you use your Mac for recording music from a MIDI keyboard, for example, much of that software hasn't been updated for ages. In fact, I remember reading somewhere that some of this software didn't even work with OS 9 - and 8.6 was the most recent OS you could use it with. If this is still the case, I hope Apple puts a bit of pressure on these companies to release more modern versions.

It can also be argued that OS 9 can have some serious issues when an extension gets corrupted or an incompatible extension is installed, and that OS 9 can unexpectedly crash or freeze at any moment.

Right now you can just about do anything on OS X that would have required Classic a year ago. OS X and various Mac developers have really come a long way over only a year's time. Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Illustrator, MS Office, Virtual PC, AOL, and many other applications are now available for OS X. In some cases (such MS Office and AOL), the latest versions requires OS X.

If you have a compatible computer and aren't running OS X yet, there are only two reasons to stick with 9, both mentioned above. Sometimes upgrading all of your software to OS X compatible versions just isn't financially doable, and in other cases your peripherals or some necessary software may not work with Mac OS X.

Still, upgrading to OS X might make your life easier, with fewer crashes and better multitasking enabling you to do something in one application while another application is busy.

Face it, OS 9 is obsolete - and has been for quite some time - but that doesn't mean it's useless.

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