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Back up your hard drive BEFORE you install El Capitan

Get Alerts on El Capitan via Twitter & the MacMedics Blog

Get our updates on El Capitan via Twitter or on the MacMedics Blog.

Back up your hard drive BEFORE you install El Capitan

MacMedics Alert on Apple's OS X El Capitan 10.11

IMPORTANT: DO NOT install El Capitan without having a working and tested backup system. If you use Time Machine, that’s awesome, but there isn't really a good way to test a Time Machine backup. If you install El Capitan and you can’t work, you could find yourself in a real pickle. MacMedics recommends a bootable clone backup of your main drive. This way, if there is a problem, you can boot off of your clone and get right back to work. You should test your bootable clone backup by booting from it before you do any upgrading. This ensures that if there is a problem installing, running, or using El Capitan, you can revert to your clone backup with no downtime.

Currently, there is a significant compatibility issue between OS X El Capitan and Microsoft Office versions 2011 and 2016. Users that rely on Office applications should not upgrade to OS X El Capitan at this time.

We'll post new info on this page, our blog, Twitter, and Facebook as it becomes available.

For more detailed information on installing Apple system updates, please see our recommendations below.

General Guidance for Upgrading OS X or Installing Any Apple Software Update

Running a software update from Apple (or elsewhere) as soon as it pops up is not always the best plan. In our travels, we frequently see clients who have run a software update without planning ahead for it, and as a result end up with annoying issues, sudden incompatibilities, and even data loss. One thing to consider is the overall health of your hard drive before running an update. Never try to solve an issue such as system lock ups or crashing by installing the latest update, as symptoms like those can be exacerbated by applying a software update.

Here's our safety checklist for running software updates or installing a system upgrade.

  1. Back up your data, and double check your back up before installing any update. Don't forget to unplug that backup before installing an update.
  2. Repair permissions. It's not going to hurt anything, so a quick permission repair is always a good idea.
  3. Disconnect any USB or FireWire hard drives, devices, or hubs.
  4. Make sure you have enough free space on your hard drive. A safe bet is to have 10% of your total hard drive free.
  5. Quit all applications while running software updates. The updates should be the only process running.
  6. Consider the possibility that major applications and/or features might be affected by an Apple software update or system upgrade.
Don't run a software update on a production machine while on a deadline. You want to be certain that the update will not cause more problems than it was designed to fix. If your machine is working, let it continue working as is and plan to install the update after you know it's not going to cause any issues for you. We install the updates on our test machines here at MacMedics as soon as they are released to Apple Developers and again when they are released to the public. Let us be the guinea pigs. We'll post results and information on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Can Your Hard Drive Handle El Capitan?

Installing a major OS upgrade can kill a hard drive. Whenever Apple releases a major update, we see folks in the shop with dead or dying hard drives that were affected by trying to apply it. We recommend a new hard drive every 2 years in laptops, and every 3 years in desktops. Backup hard drives will also die and should be retired using the same guidelines. 2.5″ drives in backup devices should be retired every 2 years, and 3.5″ drives in backup devices should be every 3 years. When you buy a new backup drive, write the date of purchase on a piece of tape and stick it to the drive, so that you don’t forget to retire it or to step it into semi-retirement as an off-site backup. See our website to find out why you should retire your older hard drive and to learn about our 5 rules of data protection and preservation.

Prices have dropped significantly on hard drives over the last year or so. Why take a chance with your data when faster, larger, and generally more reliable drives are available? An OS upgrade is a great opportunity to also replace an old hard drive, further ensuring that your data is safe.

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