Tech Support

Roar! How a $30 Upgrade to Mac OS X Lion Could Cost Me $699

For major software releases, it’s often best to avoid being an early adopter and let others work the bugs and kinks out first. See how I got a nasty bite from the new Mac OS X Lion. – Samantha

If you’re a Mac user, you may have heard about the new operating system, Mac OS X Lion, which became available for sale last week.

Normally, these things fly under my radar until the early adopters have ironed out all the kinks. But since I started writing a tech blog earlier this year, I’ve been paying closer attention.

I read some reviews, which all gave it the green light. Then David Pogue, the New York Times tech writer, gave it a positive review, and that’s all the push I needed. $30 later, I was purring contentedly while batting around the new Mac OS X Lion.

Nice Kitty Kitty

I was pretty happy with Lion. My calendar and address book apps look nicer. Mail has some good improvements, like showing all emails in the same thread on the same page. It saves everything, automatically. There’s the full-screen feature, which lets you maximize your current window to fill the entire screen with one click (something the PC has had for years, by the way).

With the new multi-touch gestures, a swipe of a paw to your trackpad or mouse this way and that lets you do various things – a convergence with the iPad / iPhone navigation style. And of course new applications like Launch Pad, a better looking version of the Applications folder.

Two hundred and fifty regal upgrades in all!

Then, the Big Bite

Imagine my surprise when I attempted to open Photoshop, an application I use daily, and saw this message:

The “PC” here stands for “Performance Computing” and has nothing to do with that other PC, the personal computer. PowerPC is the old Mac processor type prior to 2006. That’s the year Apple switched to the Intel processing chip.

Turns out, I did have fair warning. David Pogue stated in his review that Apple, in the name of streamlining and moving forward, has dropped support for Rosetta, “a software kit that allowed ancient programs to run on the Intel chips that Apple started using in 2006.”

Which means all PowerPC applications will cease to function in OS X Lion. What I didn’t realize was how “ancient” my copy of Photoshop CS2 was. Told you I wasn’t an early adopter 🙂

Bone Number One

Admittedly, I haven’t upgraded Photoshop in, ahem, a while. So I decide to throw Lion a bone and purchase the $199 upgrade.

But when I attempt to install the application, it won’t accept the serial number from my existing Photoshop program. It was purchased as part of the Adobe Creative Suite in 2006, and as it turns out – once you purchase a software suite, you’ve committed to upgrading the entire suite. You can’t just upgrade one program within the suite. Lesson #1.

To get back the $199 I already spent, I had to submit a “case” to Adobe, promise to destroy the installation file (done), and hope they grant a refund.

Bone Number Two

OK then. I’ll just purchase the Creative Suite upgrade, even though I really only use Photoshop, and move on with things. How much is that? That’s $399.

But remember – my Photoshop CS2 is ancient. That price is for a “point” upgrade. Jumping three points from CS2 to CS5 will set me back an astonishing $699. Abandoning the suite and simply buying Photoshop CS5 as a standalone product? Grrr… that’s $699 too.

“I’ll never get that iPhone!” I roared, pacing the floor and switching my tail angrily.

Put the Lion Back in His Cage

Then I pounced on an idea. I’ll just rollback my Mac to Snow Leopard. It’s cuter anyway.

I consulted in-house tech support, who for the record advised against upgrading to Lion in the first place, on the grounds that it was too new.

Rich pointed out that operating systems, like most software, are really not designed to go backwards. There’s no guarantee my data would survive the rollback.

I do of course back everything up to an external hard drive, but things were really getting complicated. I was starting to feel caged in.

For now I’ve decided to punt on the issue. I’ll keep my Mac on OS X Lion, and whenever I need Photoshop, I’ll use the outdated version on my antiquated PC. While I tug on my mane and mull over the alternatives, Mac users please take a minute to review the list of applications that are not compatible with Lion – before you find yourself caged in with me.

Apps That Will Not Work in Lion

  • Adobe Creative Suite: versions CS2 and earlier
  • Microsoft Office: 2004 and earlier (including Office X)
  • Quicken and Quicken Essentials: all versions
  • AppleWorks: all versions; replace with iWork or MS Office
  • FileMaker Pro: versions 8 and earlier
  • Macromedia Freehand/Studio: all versions; replace with Adobe apps
  • Drivers: some older Epson or Nikon scanner drivers/utilities
  • Bundled apps — Art Director’s Toolkit, GraphicConverter, OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner and Zinio Reader

The Bottom Line

Free patches or updates are often important for stability and security. Go ahead and install those. For major releases (paid or free), it’s often best to avoid being an early adopter and let others work the bugs and kinks out first.

On the other end of the product life cycle, older software can experience compatibility issues with newer systems, and vice versa. You don’t want to let existing software languish too long either. Like my ancient Photoshop.

This strategy should help you avoid bugs, compatibility problems, and keep total cost of ownership down as well. Plus, you get to enjoy all the new software goodies sooner.

What about you – do you like to buy software upgrades right away, or wait until you’re forced into it?

Photo credit: Zooborns


  1. Sarah Eaton

    07/27/2011 at 8:35 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m a Mac user and was considering the upgrade. I’ll stick with what I have. 🙂

  2. Samantha

    07/28/2011 at 2:04 pm

    Thanks for writing in Sarah! Are you running one of the PowerPC apps on the list?

  3. Sasha

    09/15/2011 at 2:52 am

    Great post…I just did what you did last night…but one up…my harddrive went bad while installing lion. $350 for labor and new hardrive. Now I have to spend the $600+ on Photoshop…dont think I backed up my install so Im stuck with the Lion…should be called Mac OS 600Lb Gorilla

    1. Samantha

      09/15/2011 at 3:41 pm

      Sasha, thanks for sharing your experience. Sorry you ran into trouble, but I’m glad to see your humor is intact… Gorilla, lol. I took a look at your site and wanted to say thank you for your service, and nice artwork too!

  4. Frances Morency Photography

    10/22/2011 at 3:51 pm

    First off, didn’t do my research this time………my bad except for the fact that my intel core2 duo mac only had 1gb of memory and lion needed 2 to upgrade. So that was my focus last week. Found out that I can add more memory, order the 3gb, installed it yesterday and upgraded to lion no problem whoooooohoooooo!! right?

    NOT SO FAST!!!!!!! Today, I turned on my mac and proceeded to start editing a wedding when my photoshop CS2 wouldn’t load. Now what!!!!!

    Researching and reading reviews when I came across your blog. I cannot believe what is happening right now. First, I thought I would need to eventually upgrade my mac approx. $2000.00 give or take……. instead Paid $100 for memory, $30 for Lion, but wait now it’s going to cost me $699 for Photoshop!!, as a photographer can’t live without it !!!!!!!

    I guess I should be thankful for the $1000.00 savings.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

    1. Samantha

      10/22/2011 at 4:09 pm

      Frances I am so sorry to hear about this! Photoshop is essential for you! The only consolation is that moving to CS5 is probably a good idea and hopefully you’ll find the software upgrade worth the price. Let me know how it goes and thanks for writing in.

  5. S Lemons

    11/02/2011 at 9:51 pm

    I upgraded to lion on another hard drive just to check it out. I didn’t find it worth the $3,000 it would cost me to upgrade all of my apps. So, I continue to use Snow Leopard. I have Photoshop CS, which is the last version without Adobe’s onerous DRM. (I tried CS2 briefly then sent it back for a refund after it kept asking me to authorize it every time I launched it. In my view copy protection is the manufacturer’s problem, not mine.) I also still prefer Freehand over Adobe’s horrible Illustrator program. Unfortunately, Freehand was ditched with Adobe bought Macromedia, so there is no upgrade path for that one. I also have an older version of Filemaker, which would be another expensive and unnecessary upgrade. What will I do 3 years from now when I’m forced to upgrade to an OS that no longer supports the older apps? I will probably have to abandon Photoshop. It’s a great program, but I can’t justify $700 for a whole new license and the agony of their DRM. I will probably use Pixelmator and Aperture. I did upgrade to Microsoft 2011 — an absolutely horrible upgrade, btw. For Filemaker, I’m testing Bento. I miss some of the higher level features, but I can’t justify the cost of Filemaker for home use. I have not identified a solution for vector graphics. Illustrator is not an option. I’ll have to look for a Mac-friendly alternative. Any suggestions anyone? Happily, the rest of my apps are up-to-date, but I have no doubt the next OS upgrade will require hundreds of dollars in app updates. That’s partly why I’ve moved away from these “corporate” apps like Adobe makes.

  6. Billy

    01/09/2012 at 3:24 pm

    Wow – glad I checked this FIRST! Thanks! Was just going to make the switch, but I’ll stick with Snow Leopard so CS2 still works.

  7. Jeff McLellan

    02/28/2012 at 11:48 pm

    I like Lion, especially the iCloud synchronization with my iPhone. My suggestion for those with a need to use old PPC software is to configure your machine to allow dual-boot into either Lion or Snow Leopard. It’s a bit awkward but today’s machines boot quickly so it might be a workable (and free) solution.

  8. Stephen

    07/14/2012 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Samantha, I had the same problem when I downloaded Lion. I am an artist and need photoshop. I purchased photoshop elements as an app to work around this. It was $99.00 and works but is not the full photoshop I still have on my other Mac, that I do not want to upgrade to Lion, this is all very frustrating, thanks for posting this. Did you ever find a way to upgrade photoshop? I had the full photoshop app.
    Thanks, Stephen

    1. Samantha

      07/15/2012 at 5:24 pm

      Hi Stephen, no I did not find a workaround, and ended up buying a new license for Photoshop. Very expensive program! I thought about trying some free alternatives, like Gimp, but I know PS too well now and have limited time like everyone else. I guess that helps keep the price so high! Good luck and thanks for writing in.

  9. Anna

    08/07/2012 at 1:19 am

    I just got a new Macbook Pro to find out my Photoshop CS (the original version!) does not work on Lion. I Suppose I should have upgraded since 2005 also but it was working fine for what I needed and besides there were features of CS3 that I didn’t like. Now I can’t find anyway to upgrade a version that old to anything. Wish I had my old Mac back!!

    1. Samantha

      08/07/2012 at 1:31 am

      Hi Anna, sorry you got the same nasty bite I did! Depending what you need Photoshop for, what about Photoshop Elements, an more affordable alternative? At least you can have fun with your new Macbook Pro.

  10. Silvio

    08/07/2012 at 12:35 pm

    I’m considering an upgrade myself I Have CS3, just above yours. I have snowleopard on my desktop but as I am planning to upgrade to new mac mini so i can expand my ram. However all new mac come with lion. I am looking at alternatives to adobe creative suite. The leading alternative is Corel Draw Graphics Suite X6 around $450.00. The only draw back is its only for pc platforms. However, you can run windows in a virtual program and install it that way. Something to consider. From what I understand you can’t upgrade to Adobe CS6 with anything less than CS4. I like the Adobe software however, the cost and restrictions have me seriously considering alternatives.

    1. Samantha

      08/07/2012 at 1:29 pm

      Yes Adobe programs are great, but not inexpensive! Good luck finding an alternative and thanks for writing in!

  11. Samantha

    09/23/2012 at 12:02 pm

    Update: here’s the solution I chose for Photoshop. The subscription program for $19.99/mo. I have the latest CS6 installed on my computer, and all updates and upgrades are included. So, while the cost over three years is $20 more than purchasing the traditional plan ($719 v. $699), presumably w/in three years Adobe would offer an upgrade. Currently that’s $199. So assuming an upgrade, the 3-year cost of ownership comparison becomes $719 subscription plan v. $898 traditional. And of course, less money upfront which is always nice. Find out more about Adobe’s subscription editions here:

    Hope this helps!

  12. Frieda

    10/05/2012 at 6:39 pm

    I have a late 2009 iMac that worked flawlessly for 18 months. The next 12 months were spent on and off with an Apple Care specialist to determine why I was getting kernel panics (computer shut downs) and wi-fi drops.

    The first fix was a new hard drive fan and airport card. The next fix was to upgrade the OS. I have Lion 10.7.5 and went to re-install my PS CS and MS Office X. Augghhhhhh!! I wish they had told me that I would encounter this problem prior to upgrading to the new OS. I now have two choices: fork over the $$ for new software, or downgrade my OS and risk encountering all the problems I had previously.

    1. Samantha

      10/06/2012 at 3:09 pm

      Hi Frieda – that does sound frustrating! They definitely should have forewarned you about the older software not working in Lion. I did not downgrade my OS as per Rich who said it would be problematic. We decided to subscribe to Photoshop for $20/mo (see post above) so I could have the latest PS w/o having to fork over $700. What do you use MS Office for? Could you consider a free alternative like OpenOffice? More about that here:

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