Tiger or Leopard for PowerPC Macs? Does It Matter Anymore?

Whenever a new version of Mac OS X is released, it is always debated whether it is an improvement over the previous version and whether it could slow down your machine, particularly if you are not running the latest hardware.

This was especially true when Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was released. Leopard really raised the bar in terms of system requirements. Previous versions didn’t really need faster hardware: OS X 10.3 Panther required USB, and OS X 10.4 Tiger required FireWire – but the basic requirements (CPU speed, memory, and hard drive space) stayed pretty much the same. Leopard, however, jumped the requirement from running on almost any G3 (officially 300 MHz or faster) to requiring an 867 MHz G4.

A lot of people claim that running Leopard on any G4 is too much for the hardware, so you should stick with Tiger. I have run Leopard on both an 867 MHz G4 and a 1.07 GHz G4, and it runs well. The key is RAM: You need at least 1 GB. Of late I have found the latest versions of iTunes really are quite slow and bring up the “spinning pizza of death” just a little too often.

But with the demise of the PowerPC and only a handful of software developers still releasing software for the platform, does it really matter what version of OS X you are running? Are they all not in the same boat these days?

The core of OS X changed with Tiger, and, as such, unless you have a seriously underpowered G3, nobody will recommend running lower than Tiger. Apart from Classilla (a port of Mozilla for the Classic Mac OS that also runs in Classic Mode from the guy who also brings you TenFourFox, a port of Firefox for PowerPC Macs), I know of no other developers still supporting Panther.

So does it really matter whether you are running Tiger or Leopard?

I am raising this question because my iBook G4, which was running Leopard, recently died of a logic board failure, and its replacement (which should arrive shortly) is a Titanium PowerBook G4. It is a 500 MHz model and therefore only runs Tiger.

I have had a look around, and for my needs at least, there is very little difference in software.

Why You May Need Tiger

If you need Classic Mode, you can’t go beyond Tiger. Leopard doesn’t support it.

If you have a G3 Mac, you can’t run Leopard; it requires a G4.

If you have less than 512 MB of RAM and don’t want to upgrade system memory, you don’t have enough to install and run Leopard.

And if you don’t have a DVD-compatible optical drive, you can’t use the Leopard installer at all.

Why You May Need Leopard

Safari and iTunes are two pieces of software that have a difference between Tiger and Leopard. Safari stopped at version 4 for Tiger, but 5.1 runs in Leopard. iTunes stopped at version 9.2 for Tiger, but Leopard is still receiving new versions and is at 10.2 as of this writing.

iOS 4 requires Leopard, so if you have an iPhone 3G running iOS 4.2.1, you need Leopard. Fortunately, at the moment I have an original iPhone running iOS 3.1.2, so Tiger works fine for me.

Flash support has been cut for all PowerPC Macs, and the glorious TenFourFox browser runs in both, so that is browsing covered.

For me, everything else I use runs in Tiger – OpenOffice, Bean (a word processing app), Audacity (an audio editor), SuperDuper (for backup), and SeaShore (an image editor), to name a few.

So if you have a PowerPC machine that will not run Leopard or you want as much power as you can get from your aging machine, Tiger might be the better way forward.

I will miss the little extras you get in Leopard, Quick Look being the feature I use that isn’t in Tiger, but in ways I am looking forward to the slick, streamline power of Tiger to refreshingly put the zip back into my Mac.

I will let you know my progress after a few weeks of running Tiger.

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