Mac OS X: Reinstalling Mac OS 9 or recovering from a software restore

Learn how to reinstall Mac OS 9, or how to recover after performing a Mac OS 9 Software Restore option on your Mac OS X disk. You might need to do this to install a System Folder for Classic.

This does not affect your computer if the Mac OS 9 System Folder that you are restoring is located on a different hard disk or hard disk partition than Mac OS X.

This document can help if:

  • The computer will not start up from Mac OS X. When you try to do so, an icon of a belt around a folder appears on screen.
  • Mac OS X files are not in their expected locations after using a Mac OS 9 Software Restore. Important: This refers to older, single-disc Software Restore CD-ROMs, not to newer multi-disc versions.
  • You see an alert box with this message during installation: "Problems were encountered accessing the file 'icon' on the disk 'Macintosh HD.' Please move the file to another folder and try again."


This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.

Click the topic that applies to you:

Installation of Mac OS 9 (after Mac OS X) -- How to install or reinstall Mac OS 9 on the Mac OS X volume following a Mac OS X installation, using either a retail Mac OS 9 Installation CD or Mac OS 9-based Software Restore CD which came with your computer.

Recovering from an improper installation --How to recover from a Mac OS 9 installation that was not performed in a manner described in this document, and in which one of the following symptoms may occur.

Installation of Mac OS 9 after Mac OS X

The type of Mac OS 9 CD you have determines which installation method you use. A "bootable" CD is one your computer can start from. Some Restore and Install CDs are bootable, and others are not. Bootable CDs must be the of the same generation or later than the computer that you want to start up from CD. A brand new computer usually will not start up from a CD that is 18 months old, for example. More...

Follow the directions based on what type of Mac OS 9 CD you have:

  • If your computer came with both Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X installed on the hard disk, and a bootable Mac OS 9 Software Restore CD, see "Apple Software Restore: How to Perform a Multiple Disc Restoration". This procedure requires erasing the volume.
  • If your computer came with Mac OS 9.2.2 and Mac OS X 10.2 or 10.3, and a non-bootable Software Restore CD which includes Mac OS 9.2.2, do this:
    1. Open Software Restore, and select to restore only Mac OS 9.
    2. Open Classic preferences and verify that System Folder (the one that was just installed) is selected for the Classic environment.

    When you are finished moving any items from the "Old Mac OS 9 System Folder," (such as preference files for Classic applications, unless "Use preferences from home folder" is selected in the Classic preference pane) it can be deleted.
  • If you are reinstalling by using a bootable Mac OS 9 Installation CD (either retail version or one included with your computer) and you need to reinstall Mac OS 9 on the Mac OS X disk, perform a clean installation by following these steps:

    1. Start up from the CD, and open the Installer.
    2. Click the Options button in the Installer to access the clean installation option.
    3. Select the checkbox for clean installation.
    4. Install the software.

    If Mac OS 9 is reinstalled without issue, you may stop here.

Preparing for Recovery

The rest of this document explains how to recover from any of the symptoms listed above that may result from a Mac OS 9 reinstallation.


If you are not familiar with the term "Home directory," see "Mac OS X: Using Your Home Directory"

This article also includes file "paths" for clarity. For example, instead of referring to "the text file 'termpaper' in the Documents folder in the latavia folder in the Users folder on the Mac OS X disk", this document uses:


The first slash (solidus) means the top, or "root," level of the Mac OS X disk. Other slashes mean a lower folder, or "directory," level.

Get software updates

Some steps tell you to install software updates. There are two ways to get them.


  • In Mac OS 9, choose Control Panels from the Apple menu, then Software Update from the submenu.
  • In Mac OS X, choose System Preferences from the Apple menu, then click Software Update.
  • Click Update Now to see available updates.
    Tip: In Mac OS X and some versions of Mac OS 9, you must update the Software Update engine itself before other available software will be displayed for installation. If you only see an update for Software Update, install it and repeat these steps to see other available software.

Download a standalone installer for an update from Apple Downloads.Because they can be stored on a disk, standalone installers are useful if you have a slower Internet connection or if you have many computers to update.


Choose a set of steps that matches the Restore option you used.

If you used Restore Erase

If you chose this option, the only way to recover your users' files is from backup copies stored on other disks or partitions.

Follow these steps:

  1. If you restored a version of Mac OS 9 earlier than Mac OS 9.1, install the Mac OS 9.1 Update.
  2. Start up the computer from the Mac OS X CD and install Mac OS X.
  3. Install any updates that you may have previously applied to Mac OS X.
  4. Restore users' files from backup copies, if available.

If you used Restore in Place

The computer may start up normally from Mac OS X, but other symptoms could arise.

Follow these steps:

  1. If you restored a version of Mac OS 9 earlier than Mac OS 9.1, install the Mac OS 9.1 Update.
  2. Start up the computer from the Mac OS X CD and perform a complete installation of Mac OS X.
  3. Install any updates that you may have previously applied to Mac OS X.

If you used Restore Saving Original Items

Your Mac OS X system software and Home directories have been moved into a folder called Original Items. You must reinstall Mac OS X, recreate your users, and then recover the contents of users' Home directories from the Original Items folder. Finally, you may recover the disk space consumed by the installation of Mac OS X stored inside the Original Items folder.

Reinstalling, recreating users, and recovering Home directories

  1. If you restored a version of Mac OS 9 earlier than Mac OS 9.1, install the Mac OS 9.1 Update.
  2. Start up the computer from the Mac OS X CD and perform a complete installation of Mac OS X.
  3. Install any updates that you may have previously applied to Mac OS X.
  4. After completing the Setup Assistant, choose System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  5. Click the Users icon.
  6. Recreate the users that were previously on your computer. Tip: Each user has a Name (such as "John Kelly") and a Short Name (such as "jkelly"). You must be sure that the Short Name of each user is the same as it was before. You can see the original Short Names by opening the Users folder located inside the Original Items folder. The Short Name of a user is the same name placed on that user's Home directory (folder).
  7. Click the Finder icon in the Dock.
  8. Click Applications in the Finder toolbar.
  9. Open the Utilities folder.
  10. Open the Terminal utility.
  11. Type: sudo cp -R /Original\ Items/Users/* /Users Important: This step creates a copy of the original Home directories in the correct location (/Users). Terminal commands must be typed exactly, including capitalization and spaces. sudo cp -R /Original\ Items/Users/* /Users If you do not have enough empty hard disk space to make this copy, you may replace cp (copy) with mv (move). When possible, you should use cp to prevent the possibility that unexpected circumstances cause the only copy of the original data to be damaged, lost, or misplaced. The -R flag is not included in the command when using mv.
  12. Press Return.
  13. Type an administrator user password.
  14. Press Return.
  15. Type: cd /Users
  16. Press Return.
  17. Type: sudo chown -R name name Important: In this step, you would type your user Short Name in both places that "name" appears. You might type, for example: sudo chown -R jkelly jkelly
  18. Press Return.
  19. Repeat steps 17 and 18 for each user that you created in step 6.
  20. Quit the Terminal utility.

The contents of users' original Home directories (/Original Items/Users/username) should now be copied to the users' new Home directories (/Users/username).

Preferences and applications

You may wish to adjust system-wide settings in System Preferences that were not set in the Setup Assistant.

Reinstall all applications that were not included with Mac OS X.

Reclaiming disk space

You have copied the contents of your Users' Home directories into the correct location, so you can save space on your hard disk by deleting the Original Items folder. However, you may want to remove or back up some other files from Original Items before doing that.

Tip: Be aware that many Classic (Mac OS 9) applications store data such as favorites, contact lists, and email in the Mac OS 9 System Folder. You may wish to save a copies of the previous Preferences folder (/Original Items/System Folder/Preferences/) and Favorites folder (/Original Items/System Folder/Favorites/). Check for any other data in the Original Items folder that you wish to keep that may have been located outside the users' Home directories.

Follow these steps to reclaim the disk space:

  1. Check the Original Items folder for any more items you wish to keep.
  2. Once you are certain that you have removed, copied, or backed up everything you need from the Original Items folder, you may drag it to the Trash.
  3. Choose Empty Trash from the Finder menu.

You may have some locked items when emptying the Trash.

See these articles for more information:

Using Restore Discs with Mac OS X 10.2 through 10.3.1

Mac OS X: Classic doesn't start, Mac OS 9 not installed or recognized

Mac OS X 10.2, 10.3: How to perform Mac OS 9 clean installation with Restore CDs

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