Should you install the iOS 14, iPadOS 14, macOS Big Sur, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 public betas?

It's fun to play with beta software, but in the words of that classic song, "there may be trouble ahead…". And if you're not careful, that trouble can be of the worst kind.

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Apple has released the public betas for iOS 14, iPadOS 14, macOS Big Sur, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 public betas, which offers an excellent opportunity for users to test drive the new software, give Apple feedback (mileage varies on how useful that is), and become more familiar with what's changing.

But with betas come risks.

It's right there in the name -- beta. Just because this is a public beta, don't let that fool you into thinking that there are no bugs. There's plenty of bugs in final releases. Betas bring with them all sorts of issue, from bugs in the software itself, to compatibility issues with all the apps and software that you rely on.

Must read: Should you install iOS 13.7 on your iPhone?

It can actually be super annoying to find out that everything works -- except for that one thing that you rely on.

Now, installing Apple betas isn't catastrophic in that they're a one-way trip. You can roll back if things go wrong -- Apple has instructions here for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS.

However, you do also need to plan for the worst, and make sure that you have a backup of all your data (an off-device backup, just in case the device ends up being totally wiped). Data loss really is the worst kind of trouble you can get into playing with betas (the risk of completely bricking a device is negligible).

Backing up and recovering devices where the beta has gone rogue is time-consuming, so do factor that in. You can play Russian Roulette with your data and win many times, but the thing with Russian Roulette is that you only need to lose once.

Here are my top tips for trouble-free running of public betas:

  • Don't run betas on devices you rely on!
  • Have up-to-date off-device backups
  • Make sure you allow plenty of time for backing up and possibly restoring afterwards
  • Don't run betas on hardware you don't own!

My experiences with the current crop of Apple betas is quite positive. Most of the issues I encountered related to third-party software, and these are on the whole being dealt with quickly by developers.

But still, don't let that lull you into a false sense of confidence. Things can go wrong. Very wrong.

And fast.

Still interested? Head over to the Apple Beta Software Program website for more details and to enroll your devices.