The release of OS X version 10.7 (aka Lion) represents the biggest news in the world of Mac this month. As I have had some experience with Lion (I installed it on an iMac and three laptops), I thought I would write about some of the issues I encountered and some of the fixes that you can implement to correct problems should you run into them.
I installed Lion on an iMac, a 13" Mac Book Air, a 13" Mac Book Pro and a 15" MacBook Pro. The iMac and the 13" MacBook Pro represent the current iterations of their lines. The 13" MacBook Air and 15" Mac Book Pro came out at the end of 2010 and represent lines that Apple recently refreshed. I acquired the Lion software from the App Store (the only venue that sells it for after purchase installation). As Apple tells you to do, I made sure that each computer had the most recent software updates to the Snow Leopard OS.
After purchasing the software, I downloaded it. The download consists of just under four gigabytes, so it takes a while. I expect that the download took longer due to the fact that many of us purchased Lion when it first came out, and that caused a slowdown in delivery. I expected that and just note it for informational purposes. I have since downloaded it again and it took much less time, supporting that hypothesis.
I installed the Lion OS on the four computers. One of them (the iMac) did not take the first time, so I reinstalled it. The installation went through the second time. The laptop computers all installed on the first try.
After installing Lion, I discovered that all four of my computers suffered from similar problems (although they reflected different levels of impact). All of the computers slowed down dramatically and froze often (shades of Windows!). They also developed a particularly annoying tendency to garble the order of letters, so that if I typed my name “Jeffrey” it might come out “effrJey.” For some reason, the first letter of typing after a break in typing would show up 4 or 5 letters later.
I talked to Apple’s tech support staff. As Apple had just released Lion, they had not had a lot of experience in dealing with post-Lion installation problems. Nevertheless, they worked very hard to try to solve the problem. Ultimately, after escalation of the issues in the Tech Support Department, the Apple tech and I were able to solve the problem on one of the computers. As replicating the corrective measures on the other computers also appears to have resolved the issues with those computers as well, I conclude that the problems (none of which existed prior to the Lion install and all of which started immediately following it) related to the installation of Lion and that we found a viable solution to the problems.
What remains unclear is whether my computers had some unusual configuration of software that interacted inappropriately with the Lion installation. As the steps we followed to solve the problem will likely clean up many issues with computers that have started to slow down, I thought it made sense to take you step-by-step through the process, so that you could duplicate it on your own.
If you have a computer with a wireless keyboard, you may have some problems getting the computer to perform the corrective measures. I experienced that problem with my iMac and Apple Wireless Keyboard. I solved the problem by taking out an old Apple wired keyboard and plugging it into the iMac. I learned a long time ago that wireless keyboards generally work just fine, but that sometimes a computer will not recognize the wireless keyboard early in the boot up stage and that you should keep a wired keyboard around for troubleshooting (and trouble solving).
OK. The first thing you will want to do is go the Library and find the folder labeled “Caches” and drag it to the garbage. You will also want to go the “Launch Agents” folder and throw everything that does not have the word “Apple” in its name into the garbage. You may have a difficult time finding the “Library” folder, as Lion hides it. To find it, go to the finder (click on your desktop background and you will see the word “Finder” in the upper left corner of your screen). You will see a pull-down menu labeled “Go.” Click on that menu and hold it open while you press the Option key. You will then see the “Library” folder. Click on it and you will find the “Caches” and “Launch Agents” files. Next go the “Preferences” folder, find and drag to the trash the file labeled: “com.apple.systemuiserver.plist”.
Next go to your System Preferences (under the Apple pull down menu). Go to “Users & Groups,” unlock the lock, and choose your user profile. Click on “Login Items” and delete all the login items one at a time by clicking on each of them and then clicking the “-” button to delete that file.
The next step is to restart your computer. When you restart it, hold down the Command and R keys simultaneously. Hold them down until the computer boots up. This will take you to a special partition that Lion created on your hard drive during the installation. Go to Disk Utilities, select your computer’s hard disk and then select “Repair Disk.” When the program finishes that process, select “Repair Disk Permissions” and wait for the computer to finish that process.
Restart the computer and this time, as soon as you hear the startup chime, press the Command, Option, P, and R keys simultaneously and hold them down until you hear the computer chime two more times. Then release them and let the computer finish its boot up process. Congratulations, you have just reset your computer’s parameter RAM.
Once the computer has finished that process, you will want to restart your computer one more time; this time, hold down the Shift key during the boot up process. This causes your computer to boot into “Safe” mode, and in the process it may correct a few more system issues.
At this point, you can restart your computer, and it should work much better and faster than it did before you started this process.
After going through the process I have outlined for you, three of my computers worked properly again. The fourth had a problem booting up into “Safe” mode, so after letting it try for several hours, I turned it off and let it boot normally and then reinstalled Lion over the existing installation (be sure to have the current version of Lion as Apple has already released version 10.7.1). You can download the 10.7.1 installer as an update in the App Store.
Now, for a touch of irony. I have used the Mac OS and hardware in my law office since the mid-1980s. In all that time, I have installed and upgraded operating systems many times. I have done so without any serious issues arising in connection with the installation or as a result of it. By contrast, I regularly ran into problems with the upgrading and operation of computers using various iterations of Windows. For many years, pundits described Windows as more and more “Mac-like.” Turnabout being fair play, I guess we can say Lion is the most Windows-like upgrade process that I have experienced on the Mac.
That said, and the problems now behind me, I do like the Lion OS. The system brings many new and useful features that make it even easier to operate. Apple claims the upgrade introduces 250 new features. In all honesty, I have not identified all of them yet; but I do like several that I have identified, including Launch Pad and Mission Control, quite a bit. The Mail system needed an upgrade and got one. It takes some getting used to, but ultimately, it presents a clearer and better way of dealing with your mail. If you find it too daunting at first, you have the option of looking at the mail in “classic” mode, meaning the way it used to look before you upgraded to Lion. The implementation of gestures as a means of navigation gives you a much better and more flexible means of navigation. It works well on laptops as they all have track pads. Many of you will not yet have one for your desktop. Apple does make and sell track pads to match your keyboard. If you get Lion, you will want to get a track pad to take advantage of the more fully implemented gesture navigation.
The bottom line is that after all the problems and the efforts to solve them, Lion works very well and introduces new features well worth having. Would I do the install over again? Yes; but I would go through the corrective clean up process a lot earlier this time.