Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode # 382
Six years ago, in July 2014, Apple did something it had never done before: introduce a public beta program for its next generation operating system (OS X 10.10 a.k.a. Yosemite).
Apple has just released public beta versions of its desktop and mobile operating systems. So I would make you think before installing a beta operating system on any device.
Since this column is titled Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves, I will focus on Mac beta operating systems. But the same advice applies to beta versions of iOS, iPadOS, watchOS or tvOS.
Beta = incomplete
First, remember that the beta software is not finished. Apple says, “Please make sure to back up your Mac using Time Machine before installing the beta version.”
This is great advice, but I would like to go further and create a clone of your startup disk (as a backup of your Time Machine backup). That way, if things go wrong, you can restart from the clone and be back to work in a few minutes. Without a clone, you could spend half a day (or more) reinstalling macOS, then migrating data from the Time Machine backup. The mere idea of losing half a day while my Mac is settling in and migrating is enough to make me have nightmares.
If you only have one …
If you only have one Mac and you rely on it to work, you’d be silly to install a beta version. Apple recommends installing public beta versions on a secondary Mac, as it may contain errors or inaccuracies, and some applications and services may not work as expected.
I think it’s too careful. You don’t need a second Mac to run a beta OS, you just need another hard drive or solid state. Simply install the beta version on the other drive, then reboot while holding down the Option key, which will allow you to choose the drive with the beta operating system as the startup disk. When you are finished playing with the beta version, restart by pressing the Option key to select your usual boot disk.
About your iCloud data
Another consideration is that data synced via iCloud, including your contacts, appointments, reminders and notes, may be affected. With many versions in the past, if you sync using the beta version, you will only be able to sync with other Macs (and iDevices) running a compatible beta version.
So if you decide to try beta, think long before activating its iCloud services.
If you are installing a beta version
For those who choose to take the plunge despite my warnings, here is a final tip: often check the System Preferences pane for software updates and install beta updates as soon as they are available. Why? Mainly because each new version overwrites existing bugs and often includes new or improved functionality.
If there is one thing I want you to take away from this column, it is that you NEVER NEVER, NEVER install a beta operating system on any device you depend on. I spent hours erasing and reinstalling beta on my aftermarket devices … DO YOU have hours to lose if your beta device goes south?
And that’s all he wrote.