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Preparing a Mac for Upgrade to macOS High Sierra

Apple announced High Sierra the latest version of it’s macOS operating system, numbered 10.13, was announced on 5th June 2017 at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).

This is the fifth in a departure from the previous naming of operating systems after big cats, and the second since the operating system was renamed from OS X to macOS. Following on from OS X 10.9 Mavericks10.10 Yosemite10.11 El Capitan and macOS 10.12 Sierra, it continues with the new naming convention of locations in California.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you what you will need to do to ensure that a Mac is ready for upgrade, from macOS 10.12 Sierra, or earlier, to macOS 10.13 High Sierra following its release on 25th September 2017.

Upgrade Costs

Below is listed the comparative upgrade costs for previous versions of OS X and the recent versions of Microsoft Windows.

OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

Way back in October 2009, OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard was delivered via DVD and cost £25 in the UK when launched.

OS X 10.7 Lion

Apple stopped supplying DVDs with the release of OS X 10.7 Lion (though it was available for a short time on a USB drive) and cost £20.99 in the UK, preferring a download delivery model via the new Mac App Store, instead.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion was only available as an upgrade through the Mac App Store and cost £13.99 in the UK. 

OS X 10.9 Mavericks

OS X 10.9 Mavericks was only available as an upgrade through the Mac App Store and was offered as a nil-cost upgrade to Apple OS X users as far back as OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

OS X 10.10 Yosemite

OS X 10.10 Yosemite, following on from Mavericks, is to be offered as a free upgrade for existing Mac users of any OS X version from 10.6.7 Snow Leopardonwards.

OS X 10.11 El Capitan

OS X 10.11 El Capitan, following on from Mavericks and Yosemite, is to be offered as a free upgrade for existing Mac users of any OS X version from 10.6.7 Snow Leopard onwards.

macOS 10.12 Sierra

The first version of OS X now titled as macOS, Sierra is a free upgrade to existing Mac users of any version of the operating system since 2010’s OS X Lion 10.7.5.

macOS 10.13 High Sierra

The second version macOS, High Sierra is a free upgrade to existing Mac users of any version of the operating system since 2010’s OS X Lion 10.7.5.

Microsoft Windows 8

Compare this to £99.99 for Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, and any upgrade to macOS is a bargain.

Microsoft Windows 10

Compare this to prices from £55.00 for Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system, and any upgrade to OS X is a bargain.

Distribution

Similar to previous versions of the operating system, it has been confirmed that macOS 10.13 High Sierra will only be available as a digital download—via the Mac App Store— for Macs that require upgrading, as it has been for the last six years.

System Requirements

macOS High Sierra
macOS High Sierra

As of its beta release, macOS 10.13 High Sierra is compatible with all Macs that are capable of running macOS Sierra. These are essentially Macs with an i5 or i7 processor.

  • MacBook (Late 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2010 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Mid 2010 or newer)
  • iMac (Late 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)

It’s inevitable that some of the sexier features of High Sierra will not be compatible with older hardware, though.

Checking Hardware Compatibility

To check to see if a Mac is compatible, click on the Apple at the farmost left of the menu bar and select About This Mac then click More Info.

About This Mac
About This Mac

Checking Memory

To check to see if how much memory is installed in the Mac, click on the Apple at the far most left of the menu bar and select About This Mac then click More Info followed by the Memory tab.

Checking the amount of installed memory on a Mac
Checking the amount of installed memory on a Mac

In order to run macOS 10.13 High Sierra, the Mac must have at least 2GB of memory. From my own experience of running OS X 10.9 Mavericks, on a Mac mini Core i5, my recommendation would be to look at 4GB being an absolute minimum for High Sierra, which will run very slowly indeed. 

Ideally, you should look at 8GB RAM being the minimum to run High Sierra and install more if you can afford it. Probably the best place for memory upgrades for a Mac is Crucial.

Crucial is a long established reputable supplier of Apple Mac memory upgrades
Crucial is a long established, reputable supplier of Apple Mac memory upgrades

Before upgrading to High Sierra, the Mac will need at least 14.3GB of available hard disc space and be running Mac OS X 10.7.5 Lion, or later.

All versions of the operating system since OS X Lion have the Mac App Store, which is a requirement for the digital download delivery mechanism to install macOS 10.13 High Sierra.

In terms of third party apps, you will need to consult with the developers of each app to determine whether your software will be compatible with macOS 10.13 High Sierra.

Roaring Apps is a useful website for determining Mac software compatibility
Roaring Apps is a useful website for determining Mac software compatibility

For previous OS X updates since Lion and Mountain Lion, a hugely useful resource has been Roaring Apps. This site maintains a Wiki, to which anyone may contribute for the good of the Mac community, in sharing information about compatibility of apps between versions of OS X and, now, macOS.

Roaring Apps is being updated to include information regarding High Sierra compatible apps. It’s a huge timesaver.

Perform Apple Software and Firmware Updates

To check to see if there are any updates for the Mac, click on the Apple at the farmost left of the menu bar and select Software Update. This launches the Mac App Store and checks for any available software updates. This works on macOS Sierra

Alternatively, press Command-Space to open Spotlight and type Mac App Store to launch the application then click the Updates icon.

Performing an Apple Software update
Performing an Apple Software update

Update the software, and firmware if applicable, with the software updates that are available, prior to attempting to upgrade the Mac. 

Note that some upgrades may require the Mac to reboot in order to install them. This is especially true of firmware updates.

Backing Up Data

This is imperative! It is essential that you back up your data before attempting to upgrade your operating system.

There are many ways in which you can go about backing up data, on the Mac. In fact, Apple makes this quite easy, with Time Machine, and other app developers have created invaluable tools such as SuperDuper! and Carbon Copy Cloner. Furthermore, cloud-based services such as Dropbox provide even more ways to ensure that essential data is safe.

Setting up Time Machine to perform a backup
Setting up Time Machine to perform a backup

Upgrade or Clean Install

Apple makes the process, to upgrade to each new version of macOS, very simple such that you might have upgraded through a number of iterations of macOS already.

The question regarding an upgrade or a clean install, the latter being the reformatting of the hard drive and the complete installation of macOS from scratch, is one of personal preference.

For me, personally, I prefer the clean install approach. A cathartic experience that allows me to ensure that macOS is running at optimal efficiency whereby I only install the apps that I depend upon and think carefully about installing anything else.

Conclusion

With the recent release of High Sierra, a little bit of planning now will make the transition trouble-free. In this tutorial I have shown how to check your hardware and software compatibility, I’ve shown you the importance of backing up your data and I’ve looked at upgrades versus clean installs.

Before you jump into High Sierra, perform an audit of the software that you use on your Mac to ensure that it is all compatible, or can be upgraded, before you upgrade the operating system. This will avoid the risk of problems following an upgrade to High Sierra.