Following its excellent advice, I backed everything up to an external FireWire hard drive using Carbon Copy Cloner, and proceeded to disable all of my login items and nearly all of my third party software add-ons like Default Folder X and WindowShade X. When that was done, I inserted the Panther CD-ROMs and ran an ‘Archive and Install,’ which gave me a fresh system while also verifying and repairing the hard disk itself.
These precautions were a bit extensive and probably required far more technical savvy than really should be necessary for a consumer operating system, but hey, that’s where we are in the history of usable software. The complexity of the process, though, doesn’t take away from the fact that this kind of methodical preparation works. I haven’t yet fully stress-tested Panther, but it thus far runs wonderfully and without a hitch on my aging Titanium PowerBook G4. In fact, I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it at first, but the system is actually snappier than its predecessor, a happy consequence which squeezes at least a few more months of life out of this laptop for me.