Apple has just rolled out its latest major OS X release, 10.10, otherwise named Yosemite. For some, upgrading is a knee-jerk reaction: as soon as Apple says "go", they upgrade. Others take a much longer time, considering the implications of upgrading.
Since Mavericks, Apple has removed one element of upgrade friction, the price. Upgrades are now free. This helps Apple move its user base along much more quickly (and, simultaneously puts a stake in Microsoft's comparable pricing heart).
In addition, the free OS upgrade also helps encourage software developers to update their programs, because they can count on a large installed base for the new update (and possibly some upgrade revenue as icing on the cake).
But just because the upgrade is free and easy, that doesn't mean you should just go ahead and pull the trigger. The decision to upgrade should be considered carefully, based on your own specific usage needs.
By the way, I'm not saying you should avoid upgrading. I'm just telling you to think it through. The rest of this article will help you do just that.
Question 1: Will my Mac even support an upgrade?
Not all Macs can be upgraded. Before you go ahead and try to do the upgrade, you should make sure your Mac is one that Apple is supporting. The good news is that if you bought a new machine within the last few years, you're pretty safe.
Fortunately, our own Adrian Kingsley-Hughes has done most of the research for you. Take a visit on over toand follow Adrian's instructions.
Question 2: Will my mission-critical apps and utilities work on the new OS?
Once you've determined whether your Mac is a candidate for upgrading, the most important question needs to be whether or not the stuff you rely on day-in and day-out will still work after the upgrade.
For me, that's a relatively long laundry list of applications. Most traditional productivity applications (say, for example, Evernote) are pretty likely to work. But what might not are applications that do odd things with the OS.
If one of those four programs were to no longer work in Yosemite, I wouldn't be able to get my work done. So, before upgrading, I'll check their compatibility. I know already Parallels has an upgrade, because the program has been bugging me to pay it $50 since the day Yosemite came out.
In any case, don't even consider upgrading until you've done an audit of your applications and made sure the critical ones can make the jump.
Question 3: Are there any truly compelling new features of the new OS?
Yosemite comes with a, the most touted of which is the Continuity and Handoff features. The idea of these is that you can easily switch between working on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac right in the middle of an application.
This, to me, is a recipe for disaster. I don't like it. I won't use it. I'm sure a lot of users will find it quite fine, but I'd rather finish writing my email message and then switch machines than rely on Apple's always-questionable cloud services to not muck stuff up.
So, for me, Continuity and Handoff will be features I always keep turned off. Therefore, they are not a compelling reason to upgrade.
In fact, if I go down the list of features in Yosemite, there are only two things that really interest me. The first is simply running the latest, updated version of the OS with all the associated bug fixes and improvements. And the second is I like the slightly flatter look.
So, in my case, if I were to rate my need to upgrade on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being NEED and 1 being "Meh," I'm hovering around a 3. You might be at a 10. The point is, one part of your decision needs to be how strongly you want the new features vs. how easy it is for you to just sit tight with what you've got.
Question 4: What's the temperament of the prior upgraders been so far?
I used to be one of those guys who would install alpha and beta releases of new operating systems. In fact, I used to be one of those guys who collected operating systems just to play with and compare them. I also used to need to get a life.
Now, I don't have time for such things. As a rule, I now never install an OS before general release, except -- perhaps -- in virtual machine specifically to meet a work need.
What I like to do is wait a week to a month after the product has released and see whether or not the user community is collectively having a cow. Back when Mavericks was released,, and many of us about it.
So far, Yosemite has been out about a week and we're not hearing posts about systems failing terribly. I have to admit I'm surprised, given Apple's previous releases, but good news is good news.
As it pertains to upgrading, you need to keep your ear to the ground (or your eyes on ZDNet) and if you start to see lots of complaints, that's a good indicator that it's best to wait until the kinks have been ironed out.
Question 5: Is this a good time in my work cycle to futz with an upgrade?
This is a direct balance question to Question 3: Are there any truly compelling new features of the new OS? It's the Yin to that question's Yang. Here's why.
If there were truly compelling features, for example something that would vastly improve work productivity or help me get a current project done more reliably, then I might decide to upgrade sooner. On the other hand, if I'm on a tight deadline (I am) with a project that needs to be done in less time than really possible (it is) and there's no real way I can afford to take a half day to a day to futz with an upgrade (I can't), there's no good excuse to do an upgrade right now.
As I implied in the previous paragraph, I'm busy as heck and since there isn't really a compelling reason to upgrade, I expect to wait. You need to look at your schedule and decide not only do you have time to do the upgrade, but do you have a spare day or two in case the upgrade goes horribly wrong. Granted, that's more likely in a Windows environment, but OS X upgrades have failed miserably as well, and it's worth factoring that into your decision.
Question 6: How long can you hold out on the old OS before apps start failing?
This is a question far more unique to the Apple ecosystem than the Windows world. In the Windows world, developers have some respect for older gear and do their best to support their customers as well as possible, on a wide variety of hardware.
Perhaps following Apple's lead, iOS and OS X developers often feel comfortable adopting the latest OS features and obsoleting customers using older OS versions. On the iPad, for example, the Gmail app won't run on iOS 6.x. You might wonder why not just upgrade, but since iOS 8 is sluggish on old gear, and, there's a level of orphaning that seems designed into the Apple ecosystem.
The same pattern exists, to a slightly more limited extent, on the OS X side. Last night, I fired up one of my more critical-use applications to discover it had auto-updated. And crashed. Apparently, it -- like many OS X apps -- was revised for Yosemite. Unfortunately, it blew chunks on Mavericks.
So, an app that worked perfectly well two days ago no longer runs -- and probably won't until I update to Yosemite. Yes, I can do an uninstall, dump all the data files, and grab an old installer file from backups, but doing so would nuke many of the preferences and settings (and special document types) I've created. If I don't want to lose all that work, I need to upgrade.
I expect to see more and more of this while staying on Mavericks. As I mentioned earlier, Parallels is nagging me constantly to pay $50 for an upgrade.
I've also noticed another little trick that's pretty uncool: a few apps pop up with upgrade notices, you click upgrade, and suddenly you're running a trial version until you pay for the upgrade fee. Not cool, folks. Not cool at all.
My point here is this: unlike users who can stay on Windows 7 until the end of time, it's much harder to stay on an older version of OS X because the apps move on more aggressively. As a result, while I can probably hang out in Mavericks for a few months, I'm guessing I'll eventually give in on a quiet weekend and do the upgrade.
Putting it all together
Now that you see how I look at upgrades, it has to be all about you and your preferences and needs. Let's recap the thoughts that you should be considering.
Will my Mac even support an upgrade? Obviously key. If your Mac won't support an upgrade, no need to consider any further points.
Will my mission-critical apps and utilities work on the new OS? Make a list of your key applications and then research their compatibility on the new OS. Thing can get pretty unpleasant if you upgrade and can't use a key piece of software.
Are there any truly compelling new features of the new OS? How tempting is the new OS? How much do you really care about what it has to offer?
What's the temperament of the prior upgraders been so far? How reliable is the new OS? How much screaming is there online by users who have already taken the plunge?
Is this a good time in my work cycle to futz with an upgrade? How busy are you? Do you have time not only to do the upgrade, but to devote to cleaning up a mess if the upgrade goes horribly wrong?
How long can you hold out on the old OS before apps start failing? How pushy are your existing apps to get you to upgrade? Are you being orphaned by any critical applications if you stay on the older OS version?
There you go. Think those six questions through carefully and you'll be able to make a carefully considered upgrade decision. Make sure you think before you click.
Have you upgraded to Yosemite? What's your experience been like? Would you advise other users to take the plunge? TalkBack below.