In our previous article, “Mac Corner: Your Mac OS—‘Go fish,’ part 2 ,“ we examined System 7.6 and its enhancements, installation requirements, and known issues, as well as the 7.6.1 update. In this article, we’ll review Mac OS 8.0, including the 8.1 update.

Mac OS 8.0
Not even a year after the release of 7.6, Apple introduced a major system overhaul in July 1997 with OS 8.0. At this point, the 68030 processor machines are left behind (even those with PowerPC upgrade cards) as this release introduces Finder interface changes. All of the reviews of OS 8 encourage the upgrade, but these are not minor changes and it may take time for users to adjust. I know it took me about a month to get used to the different ways Windows worked, and support personnel on older Macs may not appreciate the upgrade, if not forewarned.

Machines that are NOT supported in OS 8 include: Mac Classic II; Color Classic; Classic II, IIvi, IIvx, LC 520, LCII LCIII, IIci, IIfx, Iisi; Mac TV; Performas 200, 250, 275, 400, 520, 600; Powerbooks 140, 145, 145B, 150, 160, 165, 165c, 170, 180, 180c; and PowerBook Duos 210, 230, 250, 270c.

OS 8.0 enhancements
Beginners are treated to MAC OS Setup Assistant and The Internet Setup Assistant. The OS Assistant walks you through setting up some of the preferences that are normally buried in the Control Panels folder. The Internet Assistant walks you through the process of setting up your ISP connection, e-mail, and Web browser preferences. In addition, a Simple Finder choice is available for users who don’t need all of the various file views and detailed features available to those of us who like to customize everything!

Power users are treated to their long-awaited multithreaded PowerPC native Finder, plus a whole new look. The new look includes an updated File menu, pop-up windows, a new Appearance control panel, reorganized view options, contextual menus, desktop picture customization, a 3-D interface, and collapsible windows. The Appearance control panel allows you to change your system font and accent color. A rather esoteric new feature, Personal Web Sharing, allows you to turn your hard drive into a Web site and file server. OS 8 also delivers Java support with Mac OS Runtime for Java (MRJ) version 1.0.2. (Note: In August 1999, MRJ version 1.5 was released, so use this version with OS 8.) Another enhancement available to applications that have a need for color input is the new Color Picker. This extension lets you choose colors and identify the hexadecimal code for Web page authoring, the RGB code, and the CMYK code (or the hue angle, saturation, and value), not to mention the way-cool crayon picker that presents Crayola-like crayons for color selection.

OS 8.0 install requirements
Mac OS 8.0 requires at least 12 MB of real installed RAM, but you must use virtual memory if you have less than 20 MB. Any Mac with a 68040 processor or later may be upgraded. Most users recommend 32 MB of real RAM for smooth running. Although the installer says 60 MB of hard drive space is needed, MacUser (Sept. 97, Vol. 13, #9) claims the basic install uses 90 MB of space, and a full install with all the optional files, including the Internet options, uses 155.5 MB of hard drive space.

OS 8.0 known issues

  • ·        When available memory is low and a very large copy is initiated, some of the files may not be copied correctly, but no notification is given to that effect. The solution is to make sure several MB of memory are available prior to starting a large copy. Make sure to compare the items in the source and the destination drive using Get Info from the File menu when a copy is completed to verify everything was copied.
  • ·        When you duplicate a folder with more than 20 items on a remote server, the copy may not complete, and no notification is given. The solution is to copy the folder to another volume and copy it back again.
  • ·        68040 machines will incorrectly display a sad Mac when booting from a CD-ROM if the CD drive is set to SCSI ID #5. Internal Mac CDs are usually set to 3. The solution is to make sure any external CD-ROM drives aren’t set to SCSI ID 5.
  • ·        If you select Make Alias or Duplicate from the shortcut menu while in a pop up window, your system may crash. The solution is to select Make Alias from the File Menu and not to duplicate a file when in a pop-up window.
  • ·        Make sure you use Adobe Type Manager (ATM) version 4.0.2. An ATM prior to version 4.0.2 will not load properly with the new OS 8 QuickDraw Graphics Extension. Do not install ATM 4.0.2 if you use ATM Deluxe 4.x.
  • ·        Now Utilities no longer works in Mac OS 8. Power On Software purchased Now Utilities and has upgraded the product. Look for Action Utility updates on Power On Software’s Web site .

Mac OS 8.1 update
January 1998 brought yet another update for the Mac OS. Although “point” upgrades are usually mere bug fixes, Apple introduced one major feature in the OS 8.1 update: Extended Volume Format or HFS Plus (HFS+). HFS+ uses a different file system by decreasing the minimum size of a single file, so instead of a 1-KB file using 32 KB in a 4-GB hard drive, it only uses 1 KB of space. This results in a large return of hard drive space. (An HFS+ drive when accessed with OS 8 or earlier will display the text file, “Where Have All My Files Gone,” on the drive.)

Other enhancements in this update include: an upgraded Mac OS Runtime for Java (MRJ) 2.0; an optimized virtual memory and disk cache system; a new LaserWriter drive that allows printing from TCP/IP networks, PC Exchange 2.2 (which now supports Windows 95 long file names), and PC formatted removable media; and a built-in Digital Video Disk (DVD) Universal Disk Format (UDF) that reads DVDs and DVD-ROMs. It also adds Microsoft Internet Explorer as the default Web browser, and Personal Web Sharing is upgraded to version 1.5.

OS 8.1 known issues

  • ·        Password Security v1.0.6 does not work properly if installed on a Mac OS Extended Volume (HFS Plus). The solution is to turn Password Security off in the control panel before you convert a volume to the Mac OS Extended Volume Format. (Apple Notes: “Password Security v1.0.7 included with the PowerBook G3 Series and v 1.0.8 included with Mac OS 8.5 are completely compatible with the Mac OS Extended Volume format.”)
  • ·        Do not use a Mac OS Extended formatted volume as your startup disk unless you have the Mac OS 8.1 CD because earlier systems will not recognize the disk. You can use a Mac OS Extended formatted drive with a non-PowerPC Mac OS computer, but you cannot use it as a startup disk or as a hard drive for virtual memory.
  • ·        Disk First Aid 8.2, released in June 1998, is the earliest version of this utility you should use with OS 8.1 and extended formatted volumes. This upgrade to Disk First Aid repairs some types of damage to a Mac OS Extended volume caused by other disk repair utilities that are not compatible with Mac OS Extended format. Apple Tech Note #30567 states that this utility has only been tested with the U.S. English version of OS 8.1.

Stay tuned—this series on Apple’s Operating Systems will continue with more useful information on Mac OS 8.5, 8.6, and the latest and greatest—Mac OS 9.

Ilene Hoffman, MS, is a Macintosh/Internet writer, trainer, and consultant based in the Boston area. She is Senior Editor at, Contributing Editor at MacTech Magazine, and the perpetrator of the Hess Macworld Expo Events List . She also hosts weekly Mac conferences on Talk City and AOL.

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.