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5.5. Updating your Operating System (Sierra and El Capitan)

While MacOS Sierra is a free download and arrives as a simple to use installer from the Mac App Store, you'll want to prepare your Mac before jumping into a new release of MacOS.

Below we have outlined some important steps before upgrading your system.

Customers with a support plan with Central IT should bare in mind the following when updating your system:

- Minor updates such as MacOS 10.10.4 to MacOS 10.10.5 are supported by Central IT. We recommend that you contact us first for advice before proceding.
- We support all self-installed applications, drivers and and their respective updates. An example of this is Adobe Creative Cloud or Microsoft Office.
- Major system updates such as MacOS 10.10 (Yosemite) to MacOS 10.11(El Capitan) are NOT supported by Central IT and can potentially void your cover. There may be a charge for correcting issues relating to such an upgrade.

1: Confirm System Requirements Compatibility

Here is a full list of the Macs that will be able to download the upgrade with Sierra:

   MacBook (Late 2009 or later)
   MacBook Air (2010 or later)
   MacBook Pro (2010 or later)
   Mac mini (2010 or later)
   Mac Pro (2010 or later)
   iMac (Late 2009 or later)

Obviously it's disappointing to find out that your Mac isn't compatible, particularly when El Capitan was available to Macs stretching back to 2007. However, this stretch back to support seven-year-old machines is good work by Apple, considering it sometimes drops device support for iOS update long before they reach the ripe old age of seven.

System requirements for OS X El Capitan are quite generous, and if the Mac is capable of running OS X Yosemite then it can also run OS X El Capitan. The minimum hardware list as determined by developer versions is as follows:

    iMac (Mid-2007 or newer)
    MacBook (13-inch Aluminum, Late 2008), (13-inch, Early 2009 or newer)
    MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2009 or newer), (15-inch, Mid / Late 2007 or newer), (17-inch, Late 2007 or newer)
    MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
    Mac Mini (Early 2009 or newer)
    Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
    Xserve (Early 2009)

Those Macs or newer, which all have a Core 2 Duo or better processor, will run OS X El Capitan. You'll also need at least 15GB of disk space available to download the update from the App Store and then install El Capitan, but realistically you should have more than that available for performance reasons.

2: Update Apps & Install Lingering Software Updates

It's always good practice to regularly update your Mac apps, system software, and the other occasional updates that come through to OS X, but many of us ignore these things. Before updating to a major new release of OS X, it's a good idea to update all of this stuff though.

    Head to the  Apple menu and choose "Software Update"
    Install whatever updates are waiting within the Updates tab of the Mac App Store

Software update

As usual, if any core system updates are in there, be sure to back up the Mac before installing them.

3: Perform General System Maintenance

Performing some general system maintenance is always a good idea, so try to make it a habit. We've touched on some easy maintenance tips before, and they still apply here.

If your Mac is low on hard drive space, free up disk space so that you have enough available storage to install the update and be sure that OS X has space to run well (that means plenty of room for caches, virtual memory, your own files and apps, etc).

Also, if you have some old Mac apps that are sitting around collecting dust and never being used, you may want to consider uninstalling them to free up some space and reduce overhead for functions like Software Update.

We would also highly recommend that the hard disk is checked for problems within disk utility (utilities folder) before proceeding with the upgrade.

4: Back Up the Mac

You're almost ready to install Sierra! But before doing so, you absolutely must back up your Mac. This should not be considered optional, without a backup you could lose your stuff if something goes wrong. Don't risk it, just back up your Mac. Time Machine is so easy to use, runs automatically and routinely, and external hard drives are cheap. Seriously, there's no excuse and the risk is not worth it, always have backups.

Time Machine

Remember to start a backup with Time Machine right before you begin the actual installation with Sierra, this insures that if a disaster happens, you can resume to exactly where you were right before the problem happened. Do not skip this!

5: Download Sierra & Install

Checked everything off the list and you're ready to go? Head to the App Store, start the download on your Mac, and update to OS X Sierra, and enjoy!


Remember that to utilize the full feature set in OS X El Capitan, you'll also want the latest version of iOS (iOS 8.1 or newer) on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, this allows for features like Handoff, Continuity, and the ability to make phone calls from your Mac.

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