Cookie Segelstein (a.k.a. MacMama) is an Apple Certified (ACSP) technician who offers hands-on consulting, basic software and operating system troubleshooting, out of the box set ups, printer installations, wireless network set up, iPhone and iPad help, tutorials, and more. Patient and thorough, a self-described "middle-aged woman with years of experience in people skills, Cookie is not your typical computer geek! Find Cookie's listing in OPEN EXCHANGE's Computers category.
The old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," unfortunately doesn't apply to computers. Of course, the idea of spending over $1000 every three years does not sit well with most of us, so here are some guidelines for when to upgrade. There are two elements to upgrading your system: hardware and software.
Let's talk about software first. About every year or so, Apple upgrades its operating system. An operating system is software that manages hardware resources as well as other system software. So in your case, the most current Tiger, which is Mac OSX (which stands for Operating System 10) 10.4.11, is your computer's operating system. For example, the OS provides services for the drivers that allow your printer to communicate with your machine and Microsoft Word to work with your printer. So it acts as an intermediary between applications and the computer. When software companies come out with new versions of their products, they have to make sure that current operating systems will be compatible. In order to do that, they often remove compatibility with older systems. If your OS is too old, your software will become outdated, and no longer supported. In some cases, like in the case of Eudora (an email program), the company that created it no longer exists.
And now about hardware: To compound the compatibility problem, Apple upgrades its internal hardware, too, and when that happens, some older software will no longer work on new machines. There was a big bang in the Apple orchard in 2005 when Apple announced plans to use Intel microprocessors (called "chips") in all of their machines, replacing the PowerPC chip. So these days, all of Apples products have Intel inside. This means that not only will software written for the Intel chip often not work with older machines, but also software written for the earlier chip will not always work on the new machines. This is most likely why your printer does not work. Many printers do not have drivers for machines with operating systems earlier than OSX 10.5.
One of the biggest problems with waiting too long to upgrade, either the OS or the computer, is that the learning curve to jump from 10.4 to the current one today, 10.7 is pretty high. And this can be very frustrating, especially for a casual user. Along with upgrading the OS, you may have to upgrade some of the software on your machine to retain compatibility. Most software companies keep up with the changes, but some are notorious for lack of backward compatibility. So unfortunately, the spending does not stop with the purchase of a machine. Like a car, maintenance costs continue through your ownership. So the general rule of thumb is this: keep your operating system current, and when your computer can no longer run the current OS, get a new computer.
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