Pro Tips For Your Next OS X Upgrade

The upgrade to Mavericks or any Mac OS will be smooth sailing for many, but troublesome the first time around for some people. Maybe some crucial software or function doesn't work immediately and may take time to be updated. Luckily, with tips from this guide, you can revert back if necessary and protect your data. For those of you who still haven't upgraded to OS X: Mavericks, here are a few pointers for preserving your data and undergoing a possible OS revert. For newcomers to OS X, and Macs, hopefully this guide will give you some valuable information.

Option 1: For the love of God, have an external backup. Time Machine or a clone will do. What's a clone you say? It's a bootable backup of your entire hard drive. - Yup. You can plug in that external drive and boot right off of it on your Mac.

  • Time Machine is built into OS X, and incrementally backs up your data behind the scene. You can see versions of files and folders made when accessing the Time Machine app. To enable Time Machine, look for it in Systems Preferences. This backup is not a clone, but the contents of this backup can be used to restore your contents after the OS itself has installed. An OS X reinstallation will usually end with a reboot upon which you will be asked if you wanted to import data from another Mac or a Time Machine Backup.
  • Carbon Copy is a straight-forward, painless way to clone your HDD to an external drive. It used to be donorware but they went commercial recently. The download should be a 30-day trial:
  • To clone the manual way using the Disk Utility app built into OS X. Here's a helpful article on cloning with Disk Utility, and some more details on cloning with CarbonCopy.
  • Personally, CarbonCopy is a godsend since it can easily clone the Recovery partition as well. The clones also work for Time Machine restores too which is a great feature.
  • After upgrading your OS, if you need to revert back to your old OS, you can boot off this clone and clone the clone (ha...) to your Mac's HDD. To boot off any external drive on a Mac, hold the 'option' key when you see the Apple logo as you boot up. From there select the drive you wanted to boot off of.

Step 2: Make a backup of Mountain Lion or current OS installation.

  • Since Lion, OS X has been available digitally through Apple's Mac App Store, there have been numerous ways to have this install file made into a bootable flashdrive. You can boot off this flashdrive as a recovery partition to diagnose and repair your Mac. A Time Machine restore can be done while booting off this drive (be sure to have the time machine drive plugged into your Mac as well). Safari, Terminal, and Disk Utility can also be used from this bootable drive. Hence, you can reinstall the OS that this recovery drive was derived form.
  • Apple has a Recovery Disk Assistant as a free download. They also provide some more information and easy instructions. Note that this key can ONLY be used by the Mac you made it with. with.
  • To make a more versatile bootable OS X install, check out Lion DiskMaker (yes it works with Mountain Lion). All you need is the downloaded file of OS X on hand from the Mac App Store. You can view your purchases and hit download (after OS X installs itself, the download file disappears so you will probably have to re-download).
  • Super Pro Tip: If you really want to do a clean install of Mavericks (which means the HDD is wiped clean, and the OS is then installed), backup your data to something like Time Machine, download Mavericks from the Mac App Store, and STOP. Don't proceed on the install. The creator of Lion DiskMaker currently has a beta version that will make a Mavericks USB drive. The final version should be out soon-ish. Check out the beta at your own risk here:
  • tl;dr - have a bootable usb stick of your previous OS that you can use to revert back to. This option assumes your Time Machine data is also from prior to your OS upgrade, since it may not restore backwards. That way, you can essentially got right back to how your Mac was the moment before you upgraded if something went wrong.

So there you have it! Feel free to leave more upgrade/backup tips or any suggestions for me in the comments. Here's a GIF for those who are gonna make a sweet clone and OS X usb recovery key: