Upgrading to OS X 10.10 Yosemite

18. October 2014 Just an update 3

You may have been amongst the first to upgrade your Mac to OS X 10.10 Yosemite or you may be one of the people that prefers to wait a bit. Here are a few tips to ensure the upgrade goes smooth when the time comes.

1. Make sure your Mac meets the minimum system requirements, at LEAST.
According to Apple the following Macs can run Yosemite:
• iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
• MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
• MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
• MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
• Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
• Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
• Xserve (Early 2009)
– OS X 10.6.8 or later.
– 2 GB of Memory.
– 8 GB of available storage.

As with OS X Mavericks, the requirements cover a broad range of Macs and as with OS X Mavericks, it is not a good idea to install the system on a Mac that meets the bare minimum requirements. Here is my recommended minimum requirements list:
• iMac (Early 2009 or newer)
• MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer) (if you must)
• MacBook Pro (Early 2009 or newer)
• MacBook Air (13-Inch, Late 2010 or newer)
• Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
• Mac Pro (Early 2009 or newer)
– OS X 10.9.5 Mavericks.
– 4 GB of Memory, 8 GB preferred.
– 20 GB of available storage.
– A graphics card that has 512 MB of memory or more preferred.

This list is based on my experience over the years. After a new OS is released I see people every day that upgraded and have issues immediately. More often than not this is because their previous system was already experiencing issues. Cluttered drive, upgrades on top of upgrades, no maintenance etc. These can all cause issues. Upgrading from an older OS, skipping one or more versions and going straight to the latest often causes issues as well. Something I also hear a lot is “but I meet the minimum system requirements, why is it so slow?”.

Minimum system requirements tell you what is needed to run the OS, just the OS. The way these requirements are often understood is; I have 2 GB of memory so I can run the latest system ánd any application I want. With only 2 GB of memory the Mac will load the OS, start up and present you with your desktop and files but by that time it will already have consumed most of that 2 GB. If you then try to run iPhoto, iTunes, Safari, Spotify or any other application on top of that, you’ll be out of memory in a matter of minutes. Since OS X Mavericks the memory (RAM) management has really improved so people can do more with less but there are limits. Look at your system now and your most used applications to figure out what your ideal setup should look like. For example a user on average uses these applications:
– iTunes
– iPhoto
– Safari
– Microsoft Office
– Mail
This is just basic use of a Mac. Lets see what each of these applications require.
– iTunes (500 MB of RAM)
– iPhoto (4 GB of RAM recommended)
– Safari (1 GB of RAM recommended depending on use)
– Microsoft Office (1 GB of RAM recommended)
– Mail (200 MB of RAM)
Talking about Photoshop or other photo/video editing applications?
– Photoshop (1 GB of RAM for CS 6, 2 GB but 8 GB recommended for CC)
– Aperture (4 GB of RAM recommended)
– iMovie (2 GB of RAM, 4 GB recommended)

These applications require this amount of memory on top of what the OS needs to run. As you can tell, 2 GB of RAM is not enough to do anything smoothly. If the minimum requirements for something is X GB, double it to make sure it runs smooth. The average system needs 4 GB to run smoothly most of the day but these days 8 GB is definitely recommended.

2. Compatibility.
Once you are sure your Mac can handle the new system it’s time to check all your applications. Is all the software you have and use compatible with the new OS? Check manufacturer websites to see if you need updates or maybe even completely new versions. User forums for products can help too. If a lot of people on the Apple or Adobe forums are complaining about compatibility issues, you may want to hold off.

3. Be prepared to start fresh
If you are planning to upgrade a system that is running 10.6 or 10.7, I recommend starting fresh. Meaning a clean install of the system. While upgrades like this that skip one or two OS versions can result in a perfect smooth running machine, this is mostly not the case. Again, speaking from experience. If your system is currently experiencing issues (regardless of the OS version you have installed) like slow performance, freezing, spinning beachball or applications unexpectedly quitting do not upgrade. An upgrade is not a magical fix, it will almost certainly make the issue worse. Instead resolve the problem first and then upgrade. Depending on the issue a clean install may be the best solution.

4. Backup and Clone

Upgrading to a whole new OS is a very invasive undertaking. In case something goes wrong (see point 3 but even if your system is fine, stuff can still go wrong) you want a backup to restore from. You should already have some kind of backup strategy in place like Time Machine backups but in cases like these it’s a good idea to have a clone of your system as well. A clone is a 1:1 copy of your hard drive contents and will allow you to boot up from it or restore the entire system. If you upgrade to Yosemity and find out you hate it, have too many incompatible applications or it just doesn’t run well on your older machine, just start up from the clone drive and clone the whole thing back to your Mac. Once the clone is done and you restart it’ll be like nothing ever happened.

SuperDuper is my preferred cloning tool and I recommend using an external hard drive that supports FireWire 800, USB 3.0 and/or eSATA for best performance. USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 will work but both the cloning and booting from it, if needed, will be painfully slow. Keep running your Time Machine backups as usual too of course.

5. Remember your passwords
After installing the new system you will be asked for your Apple ID so that features like iCloud and Messages can be enabled so make sure you know the login details before you upgrade. You can set up your iCloud and Messages later on but entering these details during the installation will make for a smoother experience when it’s done.

6. Duplicate important documents
Once you upgrade and start working on a document in a new version of Numbers, just to name one, you can not open that document in older versions anymore. This is the case for a lot of software. With a new OS usually come big application updates or upgrades as well. If you have important documents that you still need to be able to work on even if you decide to downgrade back to your previous system later on (with that clone I mentioned), make a copy and work on that instead. If you open/edit the original file you may not be able to use it anymore if you downgrade your system.

Having a backup (clone preferred) will ensure you can go back to the current state of your system and is therefor the most important step when it comes to any upgrade.

I have enjoyed the new look and features so far and have yet to find any bugs or issues.

3 thoughts on “Upgrading to OS X 10.10 Yosemite”

  • 1
    René on October 18, 2014 Reply

    As usual clear instructions! Thanks!

  • 2
    John on December 27, 2014 Reply

    Very good points. I can’t tell you how many people want the latest OS X on their older Mac. But then cry foul when it works slower then their previous OS. Obviously not every improvement causes a need for more RAM. But we do know that both PC’s and Mac’s have gradually increased their RAM. My advice with Mac’s has always been, go and do one upgrade beyond the default OS that came with the Mac new. Then stop, and don’t be tempted to go further. When you can’t stand being without those great features trade that old Mac in and buy new.
    The hardware will meet the needs of the new OS and you will feel like you really got something. Rather then having a shinny new OS running on old hardware that was never meant to really handle it. I myself have a 2010 MBA and stay with Snow Leopard just because it runs so well on it.

    • 3
      Jay on December 29, 2014 Reply

      I bet Snow Leopard runs real nice, it’s one of my favorite OS X versions to date. However by running that system you have missed out on a lot of security patches and updates, your system is at risk every time you connect to a network or go online. I’d stay with a minimum supported OS X version, 10.8. Using tools like Onyx strip away all the stuff that can slow down your Mac, you’ll have a much more secure system and it’ll still run smooth.

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