There was a small surprise last week when Apple released the public beta of OS X 10.10, Yosemite. Cupertino had announced this was to be in August, but testing appears to be going well. The public beta will produce feedback from more users, which should help improve OS X. However, there is no real expectation at the moment that the predicted mid-September release of Yosemite will be changed. This may not be at exactly the same time as the iOS 8 release apparently, even though some features need components of both to work.
Updating an operating system stretches the current installation. If there are weak components, it is a time when problems may surface. I have not had any update fail me since 10.1, although in 10.2 (Jaguar) a third-party utility caused some problems until it was updated. Although the Developer Program allows testing of software with the new version of OS X, not many software companies do.
Just because your Mac seems to be purring along does not mean the installation is perfect. Preparation for an update is essential. For me, that includes backing up. I do this on a daily basis with Time Machine, but I also copy data directly to external disks: three at home, two at work. Some data is also backed up using cloud systems: this will become more widely used as time passes, with companies (including Apple) relying more on cloud solutions.
Disk space is also important. If there is less than 10% capacity free, the computer will show some problems, anyway. An update to OS X also needs its own space, plus some breathing room.
The other essential before an update is maintenance. I have met several users who fail to do this. They then wonder (often out loud) why they have problems, usually blaming Apple for a faulty release of OS X.
Maintenance used to require external media, or a second Mac connected using Thunderbolt (or Firewire). Since version 10.7 (Lion), a Mac has an additional Recovery partition with tools to help a user. To access this, restart the Mac, holding down the Command + R keys. I ran this recently on an older iMac. It took a minute or so for the grey Apple logo to appear, then a couple of minutes more with the spinning indicator. When done, the screen displays a menu bar and a panel with four options:
Restore from Time Machine Back-up
Reinstall OS X
Get Help Online
To check the disk, I used the last item. The others are for more serious problems. (Unlike OS X on a Mac, there is no screenshot facility, so I used the iPhone camera and drew the blinds in my office.)
When Disk Utility is selected and the Continue button is pressed, the Disk Utility application opens. This is basically the same as when opened on a Mac, allowing a disk to be partitioned or erased if needed, but the disks displayed in the left panel are not identical. Another difference is that when the main disk is highlighted, the button marked Repair Disk is not greyed out, so the disk can be checked or fixed. That is not the case on a Mac currently, where only Verify Disk is available.
Clicking on Repair Disk begins a check of the system and files (the button changes to “Stop Repair”). Information is displayed in black text. At the end, if all is well, green text appears with the words, “... all appears to be OK” followed by a couple more lines in confirmation (in black). It may also be a good time to repair preferences, but do not worry about the number of things found (or reported “not found”): all is normal.
If there are problems with the repair, red text appears and Disk Utility will attempt to repair any problems. If these are serious, it warns that a stronger program is needed.
My preference is for Disk Warrior: an application that has got me out of trouble many times. Some people baulk at the cost ($99.95 — 3,180 baht), but how much is your data worth? I would run this anyway, as the result is an optimised desktop with things running much more smoothly. I do this every couple of months too. Some prefer Micromat’s TechTool Pro (currently reduced from $99 to $25 — 796 baht).
When Disk Utility has done its job, use the menu at the top to quit (or Command + Q). This returns us to the main panel. Unless other tools are needed, we can quit, again using the menu (or Command + Q). A confirmation panel appears. I normally just press Restart as I do not need to re-select a start-up disk. The screen will go blank and the Mac should start up normally.
If users make the checks now, there is plenty of time to make repairs before the update of OS X to 10.10, Yosemite.
Graham Rogers of Mahidol University’s Engineering Faculty, has OS X-flavoured web pages at www.extensions.in.th/index4.html