5 things you must do before upgrading to El Capitan

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Do you plan to upgrade OS X on your Apple Mac to El Capitan? Of course you do, but is your Mac prepared? Have you taken the right precautions? Here are the things you must do.

El Capitan is free, so why not upgrade? You get a brand new slick and responsive operating system that will transform your old Mac. New versions of OS X are always exciting and fun to try, but before you get carried away and begin downloading and installing it, there are certain things you must do.

1 Check the disk

Run Disk Utility in the Applications/Utilities folder. This tool has two functions and it can verify the disk and also verify permissions. Use both buttons to make sure the disk is OK and if any problems are highlighted, click Repair Disk or Repair Disk Permissions as required.

Disk Utility in OS X

These two functions make sure that the disk contents are correct and error free. It would be foolish to make a major change to the disk, such as by installing a new operating system, when there are disk errors. It might only make matters worse.

The Mac’s disk must be in good condition before starting the upgrade.

2 Check the space

Disk Utility can be used for this too, and when it is run, it displays the capacity of the disk, the amount that is used and the amount that is available.

I am not sure what the minimum is, but I would not even start upgrading unless there was at least 10GB free and 20GB would be preferable. The download alone is probably 5GB or more, and then it needs space to install.

You might need to delete some apps, photos, music or videos, or move them onto an external disk to free up space.

3 Back up with Time Machine

If you have an external disk, use Time Machine to make a backup of the system. To set it up, click Time Machine in System Preferences. Select a disk for it to use and it will back up automatically.

Time Machine on OS X

4 Update your software

Some apps may not be compatible with El Capitan and to avoid any potential problems, you should check every app and see if there is a newer version. For apps from the Mac App Store, just open the store app and select the Updates tab. Install any updates that are found.

For apps downloaded from the web, go to the app developer’s website and check if there is an update.

5 Clone the disk

In addition to a Time Machine backup, it is also very useful to clone the disk drive, Make an exact copy of the Mac’s disk with Yosemite or Mavericks on an external disk, like a USB drive.

You might be wondering why considering that Time Machine already backs up the Mac, but using a utility like SuperDuper! to clone the Mac’s disk means that a bootable external disk is created.

SuperDuper! on OS X

Firstly, if something goes wrong with the upgrade, you can still boot your Mac. Hold down the Option key as soon as the grey screen appears and the cloned disk can be selected as the boot disk. In a worst case scenario you can always clone the cloned disk back to the Mac, which puts everything back as it was before you began to upgrade.

Secondly, it might be useful to be able to boot Yosemite, for example, to run old software not compatible with El Capitan.

When you have finished all these tasks, you can go ahead and install El Capitan.

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