Reasons to both install and avoid OS X 10.11 El Capitan

InstallElCapitanApple’s OS X 10.11 El Capitan upgrade is available for download, bringing a number of nuance improvements to the OS X experience, including split screen views for full-screen apps, a moveable Spotlight window, and tweaks to the Notes app, among others. However, the OS release is going to be quite similar to the release of Snow Leopard in comparison to Leopard, or Mountain Lion in comparison to Lion, where the OS brings more tweaks than any new features or re-designs.

Overall, you still have the same OS experience as you had with Yosemite, with two major exceptions: Speed and Security, though the new security features may impact some people’s ability to use programs and services.


With El Capitan, Apple has significantly improved speed by tweaking the OS to bring snappier interfaces and optimizations for developers to tap directly into hardware computing abilities. These efficiency improvements both stem from and result in the optimized use of hardware resources, which should show particular improvements for laptop users by extending battery lives. In addition, there should technically be fewer instances of spinning color wheels and similar hangups, especially for older Mac hardware.

This improvement in El Capitan is a universal reason to upgrade, and along with the tweaks to services like Spotlight, Mission Control, and the various apps Apple includes, you may find the user experience far more pleasant. That being said, some users may wish to wait on installing El Capitan, as its security features may impact a number of current programs.


As part of any major OS release, El Capitan comes with a few notable security improvements, the largest of which is the new System Integrity Protection (SIP) feature, which has also been dubbed “rootless.” This new feature imposes restrictions above the root level user account, to prevent modification of core components of the OS. These include any items in the following directories:

/usr (except for /usr/local)

This may affect a number of power users who develop programs, script and tweak their systems. Granted in most cases wise developers will not touch these folders, some people create quick system adjustments that may use the contents of these folders. Who this affects depends on the programs and services being used; however, in most cases tools and routines can be re-worked to use alternative folders and still get the job done.

In addition, El Capitan will not allow you to use third-party kernel extensions unless they are signed with an approved Apple Developer account. This will not affect apps that already use signed kernel extensions; however, if you use older versions of such apps, then you may find kernel extensions no longer loading, and the app may not run. This same restriction applies to processes that “attach” to other processes for system monitoring and similar routines. Of course the solution here is to keep your apps updated to the latest versions, but if costs are prohibitive, or if such upgrades are not yet available or simply not possible, then you might consider waiting to install El Capitan.

As with most security features, SIP is built to protect the average user and can ultimately be turned off, so power users who are comfortable without it may disable it. This step might be useful for those who wish to use El Capitan but have apps that are affected by SIP:

  1. Boot your Mac with Command-R held to load Recovery mode.
  2. Select your language.
  3. Open the Terminal from the Utilities menu.
  4. Run the following command, followed by restarting your Mac:
    csrutil disable

You can re-enable SIP by repeating this procedure, but using “enable” in the command instead of “disable.”

Finally, as with any OS upgrade there is the potential for various bugs to slip under the radar in the initial release or two, so consider waiting a little while and monitor tech-oriented Web sites to see if any significant bugs are affecting users before upgrading. However, as with all upgrades and major changes to your system, always be sure to keep a full and updated backup going before you install, and then thoroughly test your system and programs after upgrading to ensure they work as expected.

10 thoughts on “Reasons to both install and avoid OS X 10.11 El Capitan

  1. MaX

    Is El Capitan Faster than Yosemite to boot and handle applications on Macs with just 2 GB RAM like the Apple MacBook Air 2.13 GHz 128 GB SSD (released by Apple on June 2009)?

    Such Mac was very fast with Mac OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) but became excruciatingly slow with Yosemite.

    On the other hand, is there a list of application compatibility for El Capitan? I have found RoaringApps (Mac – Windows – iOS):

    1. B. Jefferson Le Blanc

      Why don’t you test it and let us know? Be sure, as Topher advises, to back up your system before upgrading. If your system performance does not improve, you can revert to your old system.

      It is also advisable to run your system through Disk Utility, repairing permissions and verifying the disk to make sure the upgrade won’t trip over any flaws in your current system. If you have it available, use DiskWarrior as well for added insurance that your Mac is in good shape.

  2. sefanzed

    El Capitan breaks practically every audio workstation out there in terms of AU plugins, (which, also applies to FCPX) and interfaces using USB and firewire. Lots of confusion on the developer side as to whose fault it was that things were broken at the last minute. Epic failure on apple’s part for us pro-users who actually produce content with our machines. Glad to hear the Emojis are cool though!

    1. B. Jefferson Le Blanc

      Thanks for letting us know. We need this kind of feedback to guide our own decisions.

    2. lithomangcc

      AU plugins work fine with Garageband and my Behringer USB guitar interface functions normally.

  3. Scott

    Oops… there’s more from MOTU:

    Attention Logic Pro X and Main Stage users
    Under OS X El Capitan (10.11), many Audio Unit plug-ins do not currently pass AU validation in Logic Pro X or Main Stage. This currently includes all MOTU instruments, including MachFive 3, Ethno 2, BPM and Electric Keys. We therefore recommend that you DO NOT upgrade your system to 10.11 until this issue is resolved. If you have upgraded already, the folks at UVI® (MOTU instruments are based on the UVI Engine®) have devised a workaround, which involves reverting to the old version of the AUValTool. This procedure is somewhat involved, but it appears to work for UVI products and all UVI-based MOTU products.

    1. Julia

      “…the new System Integrity Protection (SIP) feature, which has also been dubbed “rootless.” This new feature imposes restrictions above the root level user account, to prevent modification of core components of the OS.”

      According to Wikipedia this feature can be disabled. Does anybody know how?

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