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In order to get a smooth Panther update there are a few things you should consider. Let me try to give you some clues that might help.
The following procedure might help to upgrade successfully (most programs mentioned are shareware and are available from http://www.versiontracker.com . You can use most of these for a limited time for free, but I do encourage you to pay the shareware fees so that the programers continue to develop their programs). If you already have serious trouble with your system 10.2.x you can either try the steps below to fix them or you should consider an archive&install or erase&install, but DO NOT run the simple update (probably not even the archive and install since this keeps potentially corrupted preferences):
Before you start, check the minimum system requirements for Panther here: System Requirements
Panther is very sensible about RAM. Make sure you have at least 128MB installed and that your RAM meets the (quality)specifications required by Apple. "Bad" RAM is the most common reason for kernel-panics during installation. Top 5 things to do before upgrading to Panther
1. Update the firmware of your computer before you even think about updating. Chart of Available Firmware Updates
2. Upgrade your OS 9 installation to 9.2.2:
Mac OS 9: Available Updates
3. If you have an external firewire hard disk, check for firmware updates and apply them (e.g. one, LaCie, Initio,
MacAlly, SmartDisk, OWC, WiebeTech).
4. Backup your hard disk (Carbon Copy Cloner)!
5. Update all your haxies (e.g. ASM, TinkerTool) or uninstall them.
6. Deactivate StuffIt AVR (StuffItDeluxe only) and NortonAntiVirus and other background programs
7. Remove Startup-items unless you are sure they are Panther compatible
8. Restart and run fsck -y (further information: Using Disk Utility and fsck for file system maintenance in Mac OS X )
9. Restart and repair permissions
10. Run DiskWarrior before you update.
11. Did I mention to BACKUP?!
12. Unplug your external firewire drive if you could not find a firmware update
13. Unplug all other peripherals except the original Apple mouse and keyboard.
14. Startup from the Panther CD and repair permissions again (most interestingly disc utility 10.3 finds more
permission errors than 10.2).
15. Update (After all of these precautions it seems to be save to use simple update)
16. After restart repair permissions
17. Run Cocktail (Tab "Pilot": Caches, Logs and CRON)
18. Force update prebinding (Cocktail, OnyX or System Optimizer X) and immediately afterwards
19. Shut-down, wait 2 minutes and restart
20. Download and install 10.3.9(Combo)
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