How to get your Mac ready for OS X Mavericks

October 18, 2013 7:29 AM EDT

Apple [AAPL] is letting developers know to submit their OS X Mavericks apps now for inclusion in the Mac App Store when the new OS ships "later this Fall". The alarm bell isn't just for developers. It's for users, too.  So, here's the Apple Holic guide to getting your Mac ready for the upgrade.

Catch 22

I really don't want to dampen anybody's bonfire but the first thing to check is if your Mac is compatible with the new OS. Now, we can't know for sure if this list is accurate as the new software hasn't been announced yet, but if you have any of these models you should be OK:

  • 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)

If your Mac looks like it's a-gonna be compatible (you can find info about your Mac model by clicking the 'About this Mac' panel called up in the Apple menu, them clicking the More Info button that appears), move to the next step…

Back up

You know how to do it. Everyone fails to do it as regularly as they should, so get over the guilt and just back your Mac up.

Look at it this way, things probably won't go wrong, but if they do, you'll be pleased you did it now rather than staring at your machine feeling frustrated because all your buddies have upgraded and you're waiting for back up to complete -- or, worse, you find you're one of the 0.000001% of people who have a disaster when they upgrade.

So back up: if you don't know how, read this.

Now the steps:

Check your RAM

Remember the About This Mac thing? Check it to see how much RAM you have installed. There's some chatter claiming the new OS may need 4GB of RAM to run. I don't believe it will, but you may as well know before you cough up the cash for the upgrade(assuming it isn’t free, which it ought to be) only to find it won't work with the RAM you have.

First Aid

If your Mac used to run like a Greyhound and now runs like a fat Labrador, or even if it doesn't, run Disk Utility (it's in utilities).

Finder>Go>Utilities>Disk Utility

Launch the application and choose Verify Disk. The operation will take a few minutes. Just go and do something else while you wait -- read a magazine, flick through some TV check your Twitter feed, whatever.

If Disk Utility doesn't find a problem, then run "Repair Permissions". This will take a while, so you might want to talk to your mum or cousin or something.

If Disk Utility says there's a problem, be thankful you've already backed up. Then follow the instructions here.

When you summon the OS X Recovery feature you run Disk Utility from within this volume to Repair Disk. This will take a while. You will probably need to go to the shops or something while the work takes place. If you still have a problem, you'll need to call Apple Support or whoever maintains your machine.

Update stuff

Now you've got your Mac in the best shape its been since the last time you got it together to do any maintenance, you might as well upgrade your Apple software. Just open up Software Update from the Apple Menu, and install anything that needs updating.

Check your Apps

Take a note now of what non-Apple applications you already have installed and which versions they are:

Apple menu > About This Mac > More Info > System Report

You should also take a moment to ensure all the apps you use most often are updated to the current version -- some developers may have hidden a few compatibility updates in there.

Don’t be too surprised if some key applications aren't fully Maverick compatible from day one. (Adobe, I'm looking at you solely on the strength of your historical track record for being laggard at this). If you use your Mac for mission critical work you may choose to delay the upgrade until you are certain your key applications are compatible.

While you are doing all this you may find a few applications you don't need any more. This might be a good time to dump them, for which I recommend AppZapper.

(In truth some users may choose to back up once again at this point, now their Mac is in a happy place.)

These few tips should help you upgrade to Mavericks fairly seamlessly, though don't be surprised if a few million Mac users worldwide make the new OS fairly slow to download across the first few hours subsequent to release. Don’t worry about it -- it will download a lot more smoothly the next day.

Happy transition!

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