In Praise of Snow Leopard

Underlying this blog is my long held belief that just because a given technology is now older does not mean that it is now obsolete and of no further use. Older technology delivers the same valuable functionality today that it did when it was shiny and new, and it can still be used to enhance your life today just as it did years ago.

A case in point is Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6.x). Some time ago in this blog, I penned a piece called “Everything Old is New Again”, praising Apple for extending Mac OS X Mavericks support all the way back to my aging 2007 MacBook Pro, allowing me to refresh it with the latest and greatest version of Mac OS X that Apple then had on offer.

2007 MacBook Pro Running Leopard

This seemed like a great idea at the time, and it still is not a bad one, but Mavericks was four releases later than the Mac OS X Leopard that my MacBook Pro arrived on the doorstep with. Those four releases had incorporated a lot of new functionality, and a lot of new code, and Mavericks was just a touch slow on this increasingly vintage hardware.

Mac OS X Mavericks Logo

I accepted that as the inevitable price of progress and got on with it. Mavericks was slow to start up, but once it got its legs under it, it was decent enough to work with. Over time however, as always happens, it seemed to get progressively slower. None of my usual maintenance routines could reverse this trend, and eventually, this past week, I started to notice a 2+ second launch delay for pretty much any application I might chose to launch. On top of the generally sludgy behavior of the machine, this was just too much.

Enter Snow Leopard. It was the next Mac OS X release after the Leopard that had graced my MacBook Pro when it was new. At the time of Snow Leopard’s release, I was hugely disappointed with both Apple and with Snow Leopard. The reason will be a familiar one to readers of this “Pre-Intel Mac” blog – Snow Leopard did not support my beloved G5 main computer, which became effectively, and for all time, stranded at Leopard.

Mac OS X Snow Leopard Logo

I did eventually upgrade from the G5 to a Mac Pro (an Intel machine) and it came preloaded with Snow Leopard. It seemed useful enough, and wickedly fast, but I never loved it, or Snow Leopard, like I had loved my G5 and Mac OS X Tiger. Eventually, I upgraded the Mac Pro to my current “daily driver”, a 27” iMac now running, you guessed it, Mavericks.

That left me with a lightly used set of Snow Leopard install disks, which gathered dust from then until now. Faced with the Mavericks slowdown on my MacBook Pro, I took a fresh look at Snow Leopard. I remembered that the release of Snow Leopard marked one of those truly unique moments in computing history. When was the last time you heard of a major new operating system release whose declared purpose was not to add gigabytes of clever new features, but rather to streamline, optimize and reduce the footprint of the product? That was Snow Leopard.

I do recall being particularly impressed with Steve Jobs at the time, thinking that only he would have the guts to pull off such a move. He did, it succeeded, and rebased on this smaller, smoother and faster platform, Mac OS X launched forward into the Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite and El Capitan releases that followed it.

Smaller, smoother and faster – these were just the attributes I was looking for to breath new life into my struggling MacBook Pro. I got out those nearly forgotten Snow Leopard install disks, dusted them off, and put them back to work. Yes, I downgraded my MacBook Pro from Mavericks to Snow Leopard, and I could not be happier with the result.

Mac OS X Snow Leopard Install Disk

The machine is now wonderfully responsive once more. Applications spring into life in a heartbeat. Gone is that annoying 2+ second application launch delay, and gone as well is the lengthy, lengthy wait for the machine to boot up. It is like a new computer again. I am so pleased. That’s the up side. What’s the downside, you ask? What have I had to give up to accomplish this renewal? Well… effectively, not a whole lot. I have all the same applications loaded, albeit older versions of a few, and am 100% current with today’s web via the good offices of Firefox and Thunderbird, whose current versions execute perfectly under Snow Leopard.

I have lost the ability to sync my latest iDevices (iPad, iPhone and so on), but this is not an issue, as these are homed to my 27” iMac anyway. So, really, I have lost nothing, and in return I have restored the youth and vigor that my MacBook Pro had on the day it was new. The machine is now 8 years old, and thanks to Snow Leopard, I may just get another 8 years out of it.

To wrap this up then, lets return to where we started. Just because it is old does not mean that it is obsolete. Reloading an older Mac OS X version (Snow Leopard) onto an older platform (a 2007 MacBook Pro) has delivered a fully functional, incredibly fast and very much non-obsolete laptop that will now continue to serve me well for years to come. If you have an older MacBook Pro lying around, think about Snow Leopard for it … you will be glad you did.

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2 thoughts on “In Praise of Snow Leopard

  1. Indeed SL is a great OS. I still use it every day and will use it as long as my 2008 MBP will run.

    Why did Apple stop supporting Rosetta ? Why do we need a recent osx to sync an iDevice ? Why doesn’t Apple continue to release SL security updates ? If only Apple had kept Rosetta, or let any iDevice sync with an old iTunes and released security updates for all its systems, I would have been a very happy Apple user. Now I look at Apple and think “naaah they really don’t care that much about their customers. They didn’t before, but now it’s worst.”

  2. I find that Snow Leopard – Safari aside – delivers everything I need on a Core i5 2011 iMac. The main downside is that I cannot run the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in for the camera I bought in 2014. Safari is more and more temperamental, but still well over 50% of websites cause no problems. Firefox, and the newly unsupported Chrome, do the rest. I might be tempted by Mavericks, but no further, as I refuse to go beyond iTunes 10.

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