After nearly a year in release, Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard still seems to still be a work in progress. I keep trying to upgrade to Snow Leopard, but always end up back with Leopard for a number of reasons including bugs and hardware stress.


After nearly a year in release, Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard still seems be a work in progress.

I keep trying to upgrade to Snow Leopard, but always end up back with Leopard. I have both operating systems installed, using separate partitions of my MacBook’s hard drive, and keep thanking myself that I didn’t cut the umbilical cord to Leopard when I installed Snow Leopard late at OS 10.6.3.

My procrastination about installing Snow Leopard had much to do with there being no really “gotta have it” new features in 10.6, but I’ve discovered that there are lots of small tweaks that I like and appreciate using. Unfortunately, it’s just been too buggy to make it worth my time.

The Bugs

Even at OS 10.6.4, Snow Leopard is still as buggy as a flophouse mattress. Here are some of the issues I (and others) have encountered.

Spaces support keeps crapping out, taking keyboard response with it, requiring endless Dock quits and reboots in order to get things working again. See here, here, here, here and here for examples, discussions, and workarounds pertaining to this bug. Less monotonously aggravating, but occurring frequently enough to be tedious, I’ve found that keyboard input also sometimes dies randomly independent of the Spaces issue, and in those instances doesn’t respond to quitting and restarting the Dock. I’m left with just the trackpad or mouse to shut things down in a reasonably civilized manner and reboot the system.

My MacBook will randomly wake up from sleep unbidden in Snow Leopard. More discussion of this bug here and here.

The Heat

Adding insult to injury, my MacBook (2.0 GHz, 4 GB RAM) runs some 15° to 20°C hotter in Snow Leopard than it does in Leopard, with the same suite of applications in play. I absolutely hate fan noise, but it’s nearly constant background accompaniment in Snow Leopard. And I thought OS X .6 was supposed to be leaner and more efficient, imposing lower overhead demands on hardware? Discussion links here and here.

I can only tolerate three or four days of this before losing my patience and booting back into the serenity and stability of Leopard space. I guess I should be thankful that Leopard continues to do such a fine job, and I am, but the problem is that more and more applications are requiring 10.6 and later for their latest updates. MacSpeech Scribe, for instance, requires OS 10.6. The proverbial writing is on the wall.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that an OS 10.6.5 update  will squash some of this bugginess, but I have to say that it’s not a very lively hope, given that the problems cited here were evident in OS 10.6.0, and four revisions later they’re still with us.

And yes, I don’t doubt that there are lots of users out there getting excellent service from Snow Leopard. I’m happy for them, but that hasn’t been my experience with this cat species, nor the experience of others who echo my complaints. Leopard, and Tiger before it, are proof that Apple can do better.

What about you? Nearly a year later, what has your experience with Snow Leopard been?

  1. I find Snow Leopard so good in so many ways that I’ve been okay with dealing with some serious bugs. It is taking longer to stabilize than Panther or Tiger or Leopard, but its ability to deal with Active Directory is so important to me that I would not go back. Period.

    At home, I use it simply because I don’t want to be using two different versions, one at home and one at work. Plus the benefits of Snow Leopard when it’s working.

    Here’s hoping Apple squashes the serious bugs soon! Can I get a harumph?

  2. I have none of these issues and it is NOT normal. For you or anyone else. I would think that is obvious actually. Do a clean install and run Cocktail or another tool. Also Diskwarrior.

  3. Jamie Kirkpatrick Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    I agree with the previous commenter…you must have something wrong with your system because for me this is as stable as any other OS release from Apple in the last 10 years. All this stuff about spaces crashing taking the dock with it etc – never seen anything of this sort.

    Have you tried a completely clean install of the system yet?

    1. That is just a great comment: you must have something wrong with your system. So because of your own experience, no one else can have one that is different? What about all of the other links provided where people are all complaining about the same problems?
      You sound like Jobs: there is no problem here, move along!

      1. It would be really interesting if the original poster did a chart showing the SL positive comments vs. the negative comments.

  4. nary a problem in over a year of use on my MBP and MacMini. Do you run a lot of third party hacks to the system?

  5. Weird.
    I have NO problems like your in my 2007 MBP. I have no problems with spaces, no noisy and hot computer. None.

    1. That’s interesting. I have a 2007 MBP 17″ (2.1 C2D 2,33GHz), a 2008 White MB (CD 2.0GHz) right here, both showing the same unexplicable massive temperature rise after updating to SL. No fancy additions (I checked all the kexts), two completely different usecases and applications, Idle CPU usage is around 2-3% (so no rogue processes eating CPU), ambient temperature about 23C.

      The MBP will very quickly under light but idle usage (Mail, Camino (flash disabled) with a couple static webpages, Adium, Vienna) with approx. 8% CPU usage heat up to at least 60C at which point both fans are spinning at 6000RPM already and permanently stay there.
      According to iStatMenus the CPU draws around 3W (sometimes 6W but a SMC reset or simply putting it to sleep and wake it up again fixes that), the GPU 3.5W which I would consider pretty decent. The system is also too hot to touch on the top case.

      Now if I actually use the system a little (like watching a SD video on YouTube via Flash-enabled Safari) the CPU will very quickly heat up to 90C and more at which point one of the following will occur:
      – Video/audio stutter (CPU throttling itself?)
      – The Yukon chips crashes making network unusable (fixable again by sleeping and waking up)
      – Graphic artefacts occur or the graphic system freezes (remote login still possible!)
      – The whole machine just freezes and needs a reboot

      To get anything “demanding” done, like the backup of my Photos to a TrueCrypt encrypted drive I have to remove the battery to make the machine limit the CPU to 1GHz in which case it won’t overheat. Otherwise I have to make sure that I interrupt the “demanding” at around 80C and resume at around 60C.

      With Leopard the same system stays cool to the touch in the same idle state and can even be operated as a laptop. The fans normally spin at their minimum 2000 RPM and will only audibly spin up if I export a video from iMovie or batch process RAW images.

      Oh, I do have a 23″ DVI Monitor connected; I know this makes a difference because when I don’t, the GPU draws a bit less power and the system sometimes tones down a notch when completely idle.

      So I really do not buy the explanation that the hardware must have went bad. In fact I’m pretty sure that Apple either botched up the powermanagement implementation for older processors (Merom for instance) and or is driving the hardware too hard.

      Unfortunately I can’t go back to Leopard on this machine due to software requiring SL.

      The MB has the exact same issue. There I could downgrade, though.

      I also have a friend with a 2007 15″ MBP also having the exact same troubles.

      I have been a very good Apple customer, also converted a whole small company to Macs, but this is absolutely ridiculous! I’m on the verge of getting two shiny new Macs replacing my old work machines, but if they’re not getting their act together and fix the legacy support I won’t buy another piece of Apple hardware.

  6. This is very strange as well. I use all of those features and have been very happy with Snow Leopard. I’m not saying it is problem free, no OS is and it surely is not. But I do not really agree that it is so buggy it is beyond all use.

  7. I upgraded to Snow Leopard and immediately started having issues. Especially with using Mail for my RSS feeds. I am on Hughes Net Satellite for my internet and I started hitting my bandwidth limits within hours. Took me a few days to figure out what was going on and what was causing it. When I did figure it out Apple Care support couldn’t solve the issue right away. I really like using Mail to read my RSS feeds that I keep track of but had to disable it. Finally it stopped and still don’t know what the fix was.

    The worst was that my Dreamweaver stopped working, as well as iTunes. Never could get Dreamweaver to work with the upgrade. But I recently went to have my CD Rom replaced that had quit working and while at Apple Care I had them to do a clean reinstall of Snow Leopard. I wanted to see if Dreamweaver would work with a new install and it did. Got my iTunes back too.

    For me I guess that there were some issues with the upgrade that caused a lot of problems. So far doing the clean re-install has helped. If not I am like you and going to go back to Leopard.


  8. I have been running Snow Leopard on my late 2008 15″ MBP without experiencing any of the bugs you listed. I upgraded from Leopard and have been running fine ever since. BTW, I am a heavy user of Spaces.

  9. I’ve had Snow Leopard for a while now, and all I can say is that it works a LOT better thanLeopard and Tiger did. I have no problems, myself.

  10. I have had nightmarish problems with Snow Leopard on my iMac. Fortunately, I did not upgrade my wife’s MacBook which never has an issue other than the Mail app (another story).

    Where to start? ALL of my Pro apps constantly crash, especially Final Cut. My work time with video editing has nearly doubled for several reasons: outright crashes so I now have to save after every significant edit; very, very slow operations and there is always dropout lines in me video playing.

    In fact, in every operation of the iMac my main screen does not refresh so I don’t always see the entire active window until I drag the window off-screen and then bring it back.

    Watching movies is a problem because of the lines dropping out to expose what is beneath the current window. It reminds me of watching over-the-air TV in a fringe zone.

    All-in-all, I like a lot of the nuances of 10.6 but it is miserable to live with the problems. I have rebuilt the system from scratch twice. Even replaced the hard drive. I attribute most of the problems to the fact that I think the GPU is now being used for more operations than pure video presentation but this is only a guess.

    I’ve been afraid to go backwards to 10.6 as I upgraded most of my apps to operate in a 64-bit environment. So let’s hope progress is made by Apple – quickly. (I feel like I’m running Vista!)


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