How to prepare for and upgrade your Mac to OS X Yosemite

YosemiteInstallerIconXApple will soon be releasing OS X Yosemite, an upgrade to its Mac operating system that bring a slew of new features along with a significantly different look that mirrors its iOS design. While Yosemite, is going to be available for free from the Mac App Store, and while the installation process is built to be seamless and easy, there will undoubtedly be problems that some people experience with the new OS, therefore, you might mull over a few preparation steps to ensure you cover all your bases when you decide to install Yosemite.

First and foremost, as with any update, consider waiting at least a few weeks to install the new OS version. While Apple has extensively tested Yosemite with its developer and Appleseed programs, and has expanded testing to a million Public Beta users, the OS may still have a few quirks that need to be ironed out. This may be especially true for those who use their Macs for more technical and less less mainstream tasks.

When you do upgrade, be it now or after waiting, then there are several things to consider before upgrading:

Outline your most important or most common tasks

Have you ever been content with an upgrade only to realize a week down the line that a software package required for your workflow will not run properly? Even if not, it may help to take a few moments to create a list of all the services, programs, and features you use on your Mac. These can be anything from marking up PDF documents in Preview, to using technical analytical software packages, to sharing photos with an online media sharing service. Think about what you do on a daily basis, and make a note of it, as this will help you quickly test these features when you decide to upgrade, and allow you to more quickly handle a problem should one arise.

Time Machine multiple backup drives

Time Machine supports multiple backup drives for redundancy.

Back up your Mac

As with any update, upgrade, or change to your system, be sure to fully back up your Mac before beginning. This can be done either by using Apple’s built-in Time Machine service (which I recommend you run continuously), or by setting up a system cloning tool such as Carbon Copy Cloner to keep a mirror copy of your boot drive on an external hard drive.

I recommend you create redundant backups to ensure your data is safe, and while Time Machine is a great option for this, I suggest you also create a system clone, especially before performing a major upgrade to your operating system.

Back up your iCloud services

As part of Yosemite, Apple is changing its Documents in the Cloud feature of iCloud to be more of a classic online disk service akin to MediaFire, Dropbox, or Google Drive. This change should be seamless, but you might be sure to check your documents in the cloud and back up the important ones before installing Yosemite. In addition to documents, look into backing up your calendars and contacts, though these should be synced with your various iOS and MacOS devices.

Download and back up the Yosemite installer

Finally, as with other recent versions of OS X, Yosemite will be available as a download from the App Store, but at several gigabytes in size it may take a short while to download. If you have several Macs you want to upgrade, then while you can download the installer to each, you can instead only download to one and then copy the installer to your other Macs.


OS X installer programs

The OS X Yosemite installer will appear here, similar to these ones, when you reveal it in the Finder. You can then copy it to a USB drive to back it up.

To do this, when the download completes and the Yosemite installer opens, right-click its icon in the Dock and choose the option to reveal it in the Finder. From here, copy it to a USB drive, and then use this drive to copy it to your additional Macs where you can run it. Be sure to do this before you install Yosemite, as the installer will be deleted as part of the upgrade process.

Optionally install to your system clone

If you decide to upgrade but are still a little uncertain about how your system’s configuration will work with Yosemite, then by cloning your Mac when you back it up, you can boot to the clone, upgrade it, and then test your various software packages and services (at this point, the list of used features you made earlier will come in handy).

If you find too many problems with the upgrade then you can simply boot back to your main hard drive. Alternatively, if the installation on the clone works out to your liking, then you can either proceed with upgrading your main hard drive, or restore the clone with the upgrade to your main hard drive.

Expect firmware updates

Yosemite includes a number of features such as more integration with iOS, and better management of power and other hardware resources, that may require your Mac’s firmware to be updated. As a result, when you run the installer you may see your Mac restart several times, as the firmware is updated.

To ensure there are no interruptions during this process, be sure your Mac is plugged into a reliable power source, and do not be alarmed if you see your Mac show a black screen for more than a few moments during the upgrade process. Eventually your Mac should return to the installer progress and drop you at the login window.

8 thoughts on “How to prepare for and upgrade your Mac to OS X Yosemite

  1. B. Jefferson Le Blanc

    Good advice, as usual. And, as usual, there will be many who fail to heed it, or come here looking for answers after they have trouble with the upgrade. It cannot be emphasized to strongly or too often that the best way to avoid or minimize problems is to back up your system first – with Time Machine, at a minimum. As you suggest, a clone is even better because it can provide the quickest way to downgrade if trouble occurs.

    As a corollary to the suggestion to list the tasks you perform on the computer, getting the latest updates for your software can smooth the process in the long run. Some apps won’t be affected by the new OS, others will have Yosemite ready updates available, while you (I should say we) will have to wait for others to be updated for OS X 10.10 compatibility. This chore can be made easier by waiting awhile to do the upgrade, giving the developers we depend on time to bring their software up to date.

    There will undoubtedly be a few apps that will not, for one reason or another, be upgraded for Yosemite. Depending on how important these apps are, it will serve some people either to avoid the OS X upgrade altogether or to maintain a separate computer or drive partition with an older version of OS X. The cost of some software upgrades – like Quicken, for instance, and Filemaker Pro, is another reason to keep an old version of OS X around. Filemaker in particular is prone to system specific versions and expensive upgrades.

    There is an old saying that is particularly apropos here: Act in haste, repent at leisure, derived from an even older expression, “Married in haste, we may repent at leisure,” in a 1693 play by William Congreve (

    1. studentx

      I’m been running FileMaker Pro Advanced on the GM Public Beta 4 through 6 with no issues at all.

      So far I haven’t had problems with any of my major 3rd party applications from Apple, Adobe or Microsoft. A few minor utilities will require an upgrade to run.

      The only major issue I’ve had so far affected iCould photo sync. But the problem was not caused by iCloud. It was caused by outdated Apple keychain certificates. That’s what I get for not cleaning out my keychain since Lion.

      People have been getting down on Apple about bugs and changes in iOS. On the other hand OSX seems to be rock solid and heading in the right direction.

  2. lloyd1981

    I have installed (and already updated) the Public Beta and the Developer versions of 10.10, as well as 10.9.5 Beta.So far, only a few programs will not work with 10.10. Parallels is one. And there are two current paths: If you already are using version 9, there is a paid upgrade to a revised 9, or you can upgrade to version 10. Since I upgraded to the newer version of 9 after August 1, which qualified me for 10, the version 10 is much quicker and offers a different controller panel that is ideal for those with dual monitors. (Still running MS OS 7.)

    Some apps will not be needed in 10.10 because the OS itself has the desired functions built in.

    Print results from Excel Office 2011 are better. FileMaker Pro 12 – no issues so far. Still does nothing to improve options available for Magic Mouse over 10.9, but that can be taken care of for the most part by an accessory, as well as dock modifications and other issues for which programs have already been released or updated. Make sure that you remove any unnecessary accessories and if the supplier installed an uninstaller, use it rather than physically removing the accessory itself.

    Seems that app developers are moving more quickly with 10.10 modifications. The producer of Onyx, however, has stated that no updates will be made until after final release and do not use any current version with 10.10.

    Two small issues so far. The menu bar icon for Time Machine does not rotate during backup and the icon for monitors has not appeared in my menu bar yet. Other than those issues, nothing serious so far and I have given up on 10.9, switching back and forth between 10.6.8 and one of the two 10.10 installations.

  3. Karen vB

    I am using Mountain Lion. If I want to use Yosemite, must I first upgrade to Mavericks, or can I go straight to Yosemite? Any idea how much longer Apple will support Mountain Lion?

  4. John Campbell

    Yosemite is the latest OS X version among Mac users. It will be the best to clone entire Mac drive before upgrading machine. I must say for having a successful backup before initiating Mac upgrading process by third party software available online like CCC, Stellar Drive Clone etc….

    1. Paul

      I have had Time Machine backing up in 3T External HD, when upgrading to Yosemite should I unplug the external , do the upgrade then plug back in the external HD? Sorry a bit confused .

  5. Lawrence

    Currently I usually boot into Snow Leopard, but sometimes into Mavericks (via a different boot volume). I expect in the future to boot into Snow Leopard and Yosemite. I’m a little concerned about your mentioning that Yosemite may update my Mac’s firmware (it’s a 2010 Mac Pro). Is there any chance that the firmware change will cause problems when I reboot back into Snow Leopard? Thanks.

  6. Adison Ross

    Earlier, when I installed the complete OS X Yosemite version on my Macbook Pro then I faced few issues like invisibility of Recovery HD and distorted WiFi connection. But few good things for Yosemite, which I feel good is..its blinking log while turning it off. And its Handoff feature of making and taking calls between iPhone and Mac.


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