Apple will introduce OS X 10.10 Yosemite this Fall, but you won't need to wait that long to put the beta version of the software through its paces -- you don't even need a spare Mac. This short and painless guide will help you get your Mac ready for Apple's public beta.
Step One: Join the OS X Beta Program
Apple will make Yosemite available to the first million people who join its OS X Beta Seed Program. Joining the scheme adds a new Beta Access Utility to your Mac which you use to download the OS. It also has a Feedback Assistant app preloaded in the Dock for comments and bug reports.
To join the program, visit this link and follow the Sign Up process, which requires your Apple ID. There are some limitations to what you can do with what you learn (you can't talk about the beta online), but you do at least get to use it and help improve it.
Step Two: Update
Run Software Update and ensure your current system is up-to-date.
Step Three: Backup
Before you follow the next step, and certainly before you install Yosemite Beta on your Mac, be sure to backup your system. If you use Time Machine, that's great. But I recommend that any Mac user also keep a second backup on an external USB drive using CarbonCopyCloner.
Step Four: Partition your Mac
You do not want to install the Yosemite beta on your primary Mac -- it's beta software and that means problems are possible and you will not want to lose your data. If you don't have a second Mac and still want to explore Yosemite it may help to create a new partition on your drive and run the new OS on that.
If you use Boot Camp or File Vault adding a new partition is a little more complicated. To do so you'll have to disable File Vault, or, if using Boot Camp, install the test OS on an external drive.
You should now have a test partition (or an external drive) on which you can install Yosemite.
Step Five: Install
Apple isn't yet distributing Yosemite, but it makes sense to test whether you've managed to set the partition up correctly. To test this, we're going to install OS X Mavericks.
Congratulations, you have Mavericks running on two partitions on your Mac.
When Yosemite Beta ships, launch Disk Utility, select "Yosemite Test" and click the minus button to lose this test partition. Then repeat these steps to create a new partition on which to install Yosemite. (I recommend this to avoid potential performance or installation issues that I don't yet know of.)
I hope this helps you prepare for the future of OS X.
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