Tips and Tricks for a Major OS Upgrade

El Capitan (Mac OS X 10.11) is nearly upon us – Due for release on 30th Sept so we thought it would be a good time to list some tips and helpful advice to make the upgrade as smooth as possible.

The last couple of releases of Mac OS have not had the same issues as some which came before (moving from 10.6.8 to 10.7 had major headaches!) but it is still a full replacement of the heart of your Mac. We always see an increase in the number of failed hard drive or hard drive upgrades required to support the new versions of the OS and are expecting the same this time.

Tip #1 – Always (ALWAYS) have a full backup of your OS and important files before completing the Upgrade.

We recommend you complete a full Time Machine backup, and also have a Clone of your current OS.

If you use the wonderful Carbon Copy Cloner, you will need to make sure you are running 4.1.4 for it to work in 10.11.

Why Both?

The advantage of a Clone is that you can boot from it and get back to a working state if the worst happens or if some vital piece of software stops working after the upgrade. A Time Machine backup often updates before you have a chance to test everything. The OS may upgrade library files such as the Mail or Photos folders to later versions which may not be compatible on an older version of Mac OS. We recommend unplugging your time machine backup disk before applying the upgrade; and plugging it back in after you are happy that everything is working. You may need to erase and restore to go down to your previous OS.

Tip #2 – Complete all recommended software updates before upgrading.

Most software authors have spent lots of time and effort to make sure that their software will run happily in El Capitan (Mac OS X 10.11). We recommend going through each application you use and applying their upgrades (often in the help menu or a reminder at startup). Completing these updates before hand means give you the best chance that it will work after the upgrade.

Tip #3 – Make sure you have enough RAM.

Apple min spec is 2GB RAM for 10.10 and 10.11. In our experience this is just not enough. (see this article). We recommend 6GB min for 10.11 – preferably 8GB and, if your Mac can take it, 16GB is defiantly worth considering.

Tip #4 – Make sure you have enough storage capacity.

You’ll need to allow around 6GB of space for the download, and 6GB for the installer to work with – this is on top of the recommended 10-15GB of free space on your storage device (SSD or HDD). Running a machine with less than 10-15GB of free space will be very slow and will work the drive very hard.

Make sure you empty your Trash folder and check your “Downloads” folder for any large installers (Office 365 installer image takes over 3GB) or updaters which have been applied. Look out for older updaters (we often see many multiples of Java or Flash updaters which can be deleted once used). This can free up space.

Tip #5 – Plan your time.

Downloading 6Gb of upgrade may take a few hours (especially on launch day) and applying it will defiantly take an hour or two.

Our testing installing a clean version onto a standard rotational drive in an iMac or Mac Pro  will take between 45 mins and 1.5 hours. Upgrading from a pervious version can take a little longer (one Mac in the Office took 2 hours after the download completed). This will be faster on a newer Mac with an SSD and fast internet connection.

This is not something to do when you have a deadline looming or work to be done. Give yourself a day for a work Mac or have another which you can work from for the time being.

For a home Mac; start it early and have your favourite beverage to hand. Once the download is complete you will need to select the destination and hit “continue” – the second part takes a while and will often restart a couple of times automatically! Also factor in time for libraries / databases to be updated (such as Mail)

What to do if it all goes wrong:

Recent updates have gone very smoothly for the vast majority of Apple Mac users, if anything does go wrong we can often help, so give us a call, eMail or join us in our online chat during office hours to go through your options.