OS X El Capitan – Prepare to Upgrade

The latest update to Apple’s operating system, known as OS X El Capitan is scheduled to be released on September 30, 2015. This is a good time to decide if you can upgrade and how best to prepare for it.

Can I upgrade?

Of course, the first question is, How do I know if I can upgrade?

The simple answer is, if you are currently running OS X 10.10, Yosemite, your Mac can run OS X 10.11 El Capitan. If you haven’t yet upgraded and you’re not sure, here is a list that Apple says will support OS X El Capitan.

  • iMac (Mid-2007 or later)
  • MacBook (13-inch Aluminum, Late 2008), (13-inch, Early 2009 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2009 or later), (15-inch, Mid/Late 2007 or later), (17-inch, Late 2007 or later)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or later)
  • Mac Mini (Early 2009 or later)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or later)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)

Do I Have Enough Room?

Apple recommends that you have at least 8GB of free space on your hard drive in order to install OS X El Capitan. Most people suggest you have at least double that. Our general recommendation is that you should always have at least 10% of your hard drive’s space free. If you have a Mac with some of the earliest solid-state drives (which were 64GB and 128GBs), the 10% recommendation puts you at just above the minimum recommendation. Anything bigger than that, and the 10% recommendation leaves you with more than enough room for the upgrade.

OK, so you know that you can upgrade. What’s next?

Back-up Your Mac

We have been updating Macs for a long time and we don’t recall ever having a problem, but that doesn’t mean we don’t take precautions every time, and you should to.

We recommend that you always back-up your Mac before you start a major upgrade and there is probably nothing more major than an upgrade of the operating system. Of course, as a good Mac user, you already do regular back-ups of your computer, don’t you?

The easiest way to back up your Mac is to use Apple’s Time Machine, which is built into OS X. Just connect an external hard drive to your Mac, and click on the Time Machine icon in your Dock. Don’t have a Time Machine icon on your Dock, then open System Preferences and select the Time Machine icon there.

No one explains how to set up Time Machine better than Apple so, if you haven’t used it before check out their support page here.

Although we use Time Machine to back-up all of our Macs, we also believe that you should have a second type of back up known as a “bootable clone”.

Unlike Time Machine which constantly copies your file changes, a bootable clone is an exact copy of your computer’s hard drive, taken at a specific point in time. This complete copy is stored on an external hard drive and because it is an exact copy, is actually able to be used to start and run your computer, should your hard drive fail due to a mechanical failure or other issue, like a failed operating system update. The reason a bootable clone is so important is because you are able to copy that clone back to your computer from the external drive. So, if you make a clone right before you do the upgrade, and should the upgrade fail, you have the ability to restore the clone back to your computer and be back to where you were, with no loss of data.

There are two main applications for making a clone of your computer, Carbon Copy Cloner by Bombich Software and Super Duper by Shirt Pocket Software.

We have used both of these products and it’s hard to say one is better than the other, as we believe they are both fine products and you would be well served to use either one.

Do Some House Cleaning

Doing a major system upgrade is a good time to take stock of the applications that you have on your Mac and ask yourself if you still need all of them.

We suggest opening the Applications folder in Finder and going down the entire list. If there are applications that you haven’t used since the last upgrade, chances are you don’t need them anymore and you can delete them. There may also be some older applications that are carry-overs from the PowerPC days. These are best identified by their icons, which are no longer active and have a line through them. These can and should be deleted since they no longer work in the more modern Intel environment. In some cases, the room you recover will be of more value than keeping these applications on your Mac.

In most cases, an application can be deleted by simply dragging the icon to the trash. Some applications, like Microsoft Office have their own Uninstaller and should be used accordingly.

Check iCloud

If you have been using OS X Yosemite, you are probably already using iCloud. Just make sure you have your ID and password handy when you do your upgrade, since you will probably need it to complete the upgrade process. Not using iCloud yet? We recommend you sign up now so that the upgrade process goes more smoothly for you.

You say you are still using an older version of OS X and it doesn’t use iCloud? Why not upgrade to OS X Yosemite today and set up iCloud so you are ready for the upgrade to OS X El Capitan when it drops.

The Bottom Line

OS X El Capitan is one of those upgrades that concentrates more on “under the hood” enhancements as opposed to major changes in the way it looks and works. That said, there are a bunch of reasons to upgrade if you can. If you want to read more about just what OS X El Capitan has to offer, check out Apple’s El Capitan page here.

Good luck with your upgrade. Check in with us after you complete your complete yours and let us know how it went. What worked well for you and what went wrong?

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