Hacking Mac OS 7.6.1 to Work with Many OS 8 Apps

Blame it all on BBC, the British Broadcasting Company. I like BBC’s radio programs, but as my favorite operating system is Mac OS 7.6.1, there has been a problem called Real Player 8 (RP8). Regular OS 7.6.1 lets you use RP5, and the Appearance Manager brings RP6 (a.k.a. G2) in the game, but the BBC Radio Player needs RP8 to work.

What You Need

Mac OS 7.6.1 install CDThe line of software compatibility between some classic Mac OSes is far from strict. With basic upgrades to 7.6.1, some apps meant for Mac OS 8.0 and 8.1 already works fine. Add the Appearance Manager 1.0.4 SDK into the soup, and IE 5.1.7 (among others) will be in your reach (see Appearance Manager Allows Internet Explorer 5.1.7 to Work with Mac OS 7.6.1).

While visiting Pure Mac, please pick up the secret flavor of ResEdit 2.1.3 to make it spicy. Now you have most of what you need to really soup up System 7.6.1!

How To Do It

The fast way: Use ResEdit to open the System Folder, then System, last line down, second box from left reads ‘vers’. Open it. There are two lines, open those one at a time and just change the 7.6.1 on the top to 8.1.0. Save when asked and restart. That’s it!

The way your mama wants you to do it: I do this myself with the help of Conflict Catcher 8 (CC8), but you can also do it manually. Start with a nicely working 7.6.1 and run something like Norton Disk Doctor (see warnings below) to make sure everything is working fine. Do a backup.

Make a clean install (do not format!) to the same partition where your current System is. Upgrade it the way you had the old one done.

If you’re running CC8 (try Amazon.com, eBay, and the Low End Mac Swap List to find a copy), install it to the new OS too, and make a System Merge by letting CC copy all extensions, etc. from the old System Folder to the new. Otherwise just manually copy everything the new System Folder is missing (no apps, only preferences, etc.).

With the CC8, one can switch between System Folders (or, in another situation, between OSes) during booting. If you’re working manually, drag the Finder out of the System Folder you do not want to use to the desktop. Then open and close the other System Folder to “bless” it. Now your Mac will start from that System Folder. (By the way, it will automatically start from the new System after installation, which is good).

Now you can do the ResEdit part safely. Do it to the new System, in case something goes wrong. As you know, the old one works great, but the new one could in theory be less than perfect.

You can have two System Folders on the same drive or partition forever; no need to take either one out. This is a good thing to have, even when you would not be doing any voodoo ResEditing. This way done you can continue nearly instantly if your OS dies. Just restart from a CD, bless the other System Folder, and you’re riding again in no time.

Why Do This?

My main motive has been the BBC’s requirement of Real Player 8. Before installing RP8, be sure to remove any previous versions of RP files from the hard drive – otherwise the installer will get stuck. I use Norton’s Fast Find to locate these files.

Bonuses are that you can now run NAV 6 and SoundJam 2.5.2 (a late full version that needs 8.1 to run, but it’s way easier to find than older ones for 7.6.1). Web Confidential 2.2.2 works fully too, while without the ResEditing a handy button in it did not work in my PowerBook 1400/466 G3. The app is for 8.1, so not a surprise, really. I am sure there are way more apps that will start to work afterwards.

A real word of caution here is in order. If you try to make 7.6.1 pretend to be 8.5, it will have heavy mental confusion and die.

Further Reading on Norton Utilities for Mac

  • Tips From the Mac Manager, Dan Knight, 2000.09.07. “Our tool of choice has always been Norton Utilities, going way back to the days when you could boot it off a floppy disk. Run Disk Doctor. Fix everything it finds. Then run Speed Disk.”
  • Norton Utilities Warning, Dan Knight, 2002.09.06. “…until yesterday, I had run Norton thousands of times on over 100 different computers ranging from my Mac Plus through Quadras and PowerBooks and Power Macs – and it had never created a problem.
    “My winning streak ended yesterday….”
  • Mac Maintenance, Part 1: Protect Your Hard Drive and Data, Michel Munger, 2005.06.29. “Norton, with its Disk Doctor component, tries to ‘patch’ your disk directory instead of rebuilding it completely. That makes Norton the fastest utility for preventive maintenance. The big drawback is that patching is not easy: It is not always a permanent solution and it exposes your directory to additional errors. This is part of the reason why Norton caused trouble when ‘fixing’ some people’s disks.”

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