Snow Leopard

Mac OS X version 10.6, called "Snow Leopard," came out in fall 2009, and was superseded in July 2011 by Lion. If you have a Snow Leopard install disc, you can install it and update to 10.6.8 from the Apple servers, but Apple is no longer selling Snow Leopard. It is no longer available from the Apple Store. Recent software updates for Apple applications (like iPhoto) will not run on Snow Leopard: they require later versions of the OS. The latest iTunes available for 10.6 (11.4) will not support connecting to iOS 9 devices. This note describes how to update a machine with an older version of MacOS to Snow Leopard. The general approach applies to other major OS transitions as well.

Apple no longer supports OS X 10.9 or below. There are current security threats that attack Macs, but there are no updates for Snow Leopard or prior systems avaliable from Apple.

(01 Feb 2016) Google Chrome is no longer supported on OSX 10.6, and won't get any more updates.

If you have an Intel Mac, it will work better and faster with later versions of the OS. I carefully tried Snow Leopard out on a test computer, and waited to upgrade my main computer until some bugs were fixed. My actual install went smoothly in August 2010, and my machine seemed snappier.

Who Can Update

Not everyone can use the new OS version. if you have a PowerPC Mac, OS X 10.6 won't work on it. Stick with 10.5.8. Users who cannot update to the latest version should disable Java and be careful about the web sites they visit. What Leopard users SHOULD do now, whether or not they plan to upgrade:

Plan your install

When you decide to install OS X 10.6, do it carefully. You may find that there are issues that affect you: do your homework.

The Snow Leopard FAQ on lists a lot of software and whether it will work on OS X 10.6.

When I was getting ready to install 10.6, I found that some software I was using, which worked just fine on 10.5.8, was not compatible with 10.6. I updated most of these old versions with newer versions marked "compatible with Snow Leopard."

Particular issues before upgrading

Installing Snow Leopard

  1. Clean up and update software before installing
    • Get the applications on your computer ready for 10.6: apply latest fixes.
    • Delete junk files
    • Delete Safari, iTunes, and Firefox caches. I used Cocktail to clean all caches.
    • Empty trash.
    • Repair disk permissions with Disk Utility.
    • Clean up damaged and duplicate fonts.
    • If you modified your Apache configuration, save a copy of /etc/apache2/httpd.conf.
    • If you installed Perl modules via CPAN or fink, make a list of them.
      perldoc perllocal | grep :: and fink list -i | grep -v virtual
  2. Backup and prepare
    1. BACK UP YOUR HARD DRIVE to an external disk. I used SuperDuper to clone my whole drive.
    2. If you use MySQL, backup the database with mysqldump databasename > db.sql
    3. If you use Little Snitch, uninstall it.
  3. Install
    • Dismount and unplug external drives.
    • Set screen saver to NEVER, turn the volume way down, and turn off Time Machine.
    • Reboot
    • (Some folks think you should boot from the install disk at this point and run Disk Utility to repair the hard disk. Do this if you suspect there are file system problems.)
    • Use the OS X 10.6 disk to install the new OS. Install Rosetta and Developer Tools from "optional installs." (Takes hours.) (This process will reboot the computer and play some annoying music that you can't quit.)
    • Run Software Update to update to 10.6.8, then run again to make sure all software is updated. (Another hour or two, and another reboot.) (This process hung on one computer I tried it on. I had to restart the computer and retry the install.)
    • Verify that the machine is working OK for you. If you have trouble, restore your backup and go back to 10.5.8.
    • (Mail, printers, WiFi, bluetooth, network, and applications all "just worked" for me.)
  4. Recover
    • Wait for Spotlight to finish indexing. Performance will suck till it finishes.
    • Turn on screensaver and Time Machine.
    • If Time Machine complains that it has to discard your old backup and start over, it will do a big backup, takes hours.
    • Repair permissions with Disk Utility again.
    • Note that the display gamma is changed from 1.8 to 2.2 (changed it back on my mini)
    • If you use Little Snitch, re-install and re-register it.
    • In Apple Mail ► Preferences ► Accounts ► Mailbox Behavior, uncheck "Show Notes" for each active account.

Post Install Tasks

Snow Leopard observations

Gotchas in Snow Leopard


Apache was a pleasant surprise. I had modified /etc/apache2/httpd.conf and all of my mods were applied to the new httpd.conf. Check and ServerAdmin, and the LoadModule php5_module statement. It is still wise to save your httpd.conf before updating and compare afterward.


On occasion I have wanted to test PHP code on my Mac that will be deployed into a protected environment elsewhere. (I am very cautious about PHP because it has historically exhibited multiple security weaknesses. Every day, my websites see dozens to hundreds of attempts to take over the web server by exploiting poorly written PHP functions. Use PHP with care, and don't install PHP code you don't understand.) OS X 10.6 seems to ship with PHP available. If you must use it, php5_module should be loaded, and you need to


AppleScript changed in Snow Leopard. I had an AppleScript, saved in 10.5 as an app. The 10.5 "file" command said "Mach-O executable ppc" even though I saved it on an Intel machine. When moved to 10.6, the file got an icon with a "no entry" slash. Double clicking it got a message saying that the classic environment was not supported.

Script is replaced in 10.6 by Utilities:AppleScript The 10.6 AppleScript Editor opened my file but showed garbage in the program text window and got errors. I extracted the program source on Leopard, saved into a text file, pushed it over to Snow Leopard, pasted it into AppleScript Editor, and saved as an app. The resulting app launches OK. It is an application bundle directory, not a file like the old one.

I'm glad I had only one Applescript.. it would be a pain to convert hundreds this way. Detailed notes from Apple do not mention that old style AppleScript apps won't work.

Planning for the next version

Version 10.7 of Mac OS X, codenamed "Lion," shipped in summer 2011. I wrote a similar web page for upgrading to Lion.

Home | FAQ © 2010-2022, Tom Van Vleck updated 2022-11-04 16:34