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Avoiding reboots in Mac OS 8 and 9

The idea that Mac OS prior to X needs to be rebooted to install and uninstall system enhancements is not as true as people like to believe – there are certain types of enhancements that can be installed and uninstalled with no need to reboot, as explained below.

Contextual menu plug-ins

Users of the Contextual Menu Extension version 1.0.2 can make use of a nifty feature included in this version: the extension can be made to close all running plugins and rescan the Contextual Menu Items folder and load all plugins it finds. Mac OS itself does not provide any such facility, but a utility supplied with Apple’s Contextual Menu Plugins SDK, Contextual Menu Plugin Reloader (download, StuffIt, 1 kB), provides this service. Simply add and remove items from the Contextual Menu Items folder and launch this utility and the plugins will be installed and uninstalled as requested.

To save having to download the entire SDK, I have provided a copy of this utility for download directly from my site (with added icon goodness).

Control Strip modules

With newer versions of the Control Strip (I am guessing Mac OS 8.5 and later), Control Strip modules can also be installed and uninstalled without a reboot. To install a Control Strip module, simply take its icon in the Finder and drop it onto the Control Strip:

Control Strip will move the file into the Control Strip Modules folder and load the module immediately:

Similarly, to uninstall a plugin, hold option and drag the module’s button right out of the window and into a Finder window or onto the desktop:

The module will then get moved to wherever drop it, such as the desktop or the Trash, and Control Strip will shut down the module and remove it from the strip. Take care to let go of option before you let go of the mouse button, though, or else you will copy the item to wherever you drop it!

Background applications

A number of system extensions in Mac OS 8 and 9 are in fact programs that run invisibly on your machine, known as background applications and sometimes called daemons. Common examples of these include the Control Strip, Time Synchroniser, Folder Actions and the tear-off application switcher. Control Strip is not completely invisible, because you interact with it via a window on the screen, but the OS hides the fact that it is a running program virtually the same as any other.

The obvious and correct conclusion to draw here is that you can actually load and quit these programs and thus install and uninstall them without a reboot. Various process display software will show them along with regular programs, the most useful of all being MaBaSoft’s Quit CSM Control Strip module (which also provides a handy free memory graph). To see and quit background programs with Quit CSM, hold command while clicking its Control Strip button.

The only way I have found so far to start such programs is Clarkwood Software’s Peek-a-Boo, via its program launching facility. The actual process of launching such a program is trivial, and I have been tempted to write a program myself that can load and quit background programs.

The bigger difficulties here though are being able to recognise them, and knowing which to run manually. The system normally simply shows them as being system extensions, but they can be identified by their file type of ‘appe’, either by using a tool such as TypesChange CM Plugin, or by enabling Show Type Column in the Extensions Manager preferences. As for knowing when to load and quit them manually, I can but say that this is simply something of a more technical nature that most people will probably not wish to attempt to deal with.

Handily, though, A-Dock takes care of this for you – it has a Quit contextual menu item, and the A-Dock control panel can load A-Dock if it sees that it is not running (the same as the Control Strip control panel does for Control Strip), meaning that you can upgrade A-Dock without a reboot. A-Dock itself is like Control Strip – a background program that does actually offer user interaction via a floating window.

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