Upgrade tips for High Sierra

macOS High Sierra is now available for download. If you’re upgrading or planning to upgrade, do a bit of advanced prep before you download and install the new operating system using the Mac App Store. Those steps include backing up your Mac and qualifying the apps and devices you depend on for use with the new operating system. Here are some helpful hints to keep you on the right course.

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What’s New In High Sierra

macOS 10.13, High Sierra, makes some core changes under the hood. There’s a new file system for Macs with all-flash internal storage: Apple laptops and some desktop models. (Support for Fusion Drive and spinning hard drive-equipped Macs is coming soon). With more Macs capable of supporting 4K and higher quality video, Apple added support for the HEVC video encoding standard, also called H.265. Apple has improved graphics capabilities and performance with the new Metal 2 API, which also helps with natural language processing and other core functions. There are plenty of changes to core applications like Photos, Safari and Mail.

If you have a Mac that’s already running Sierra, High Sierra should work on it (though Apple’s being opaque about what High Sierra’s actual specific system requirements are). Those systems include Retina MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, MacBook, iMac, Mac mini, and Mac Pro of most vintages since 2009 and 2010.

More details are available from Apple’s High Sierra web site.

Back Up!

First of all, make sure your Mac is completely backed up before proceeding. Use Time Machine, backup or cloning software, or cloud-based backup or sync service.

My preferred method is to use Time Machine, so I can quickly restore in the event of a catastrophic failure. I use Backblaze to backup my computer to a remote cloud service. That way, if anything happens to my local Time Machine backup, my offsite backup can be used to restore files in a pinch.

There are some other practical benefits to keeping a copy of my data offsite, too. Let’s say I need to restore files or specific versions of documents when I’m away from my Time Machine backup – like when I’m meeting a client in their office or doing some work from Starbucks. Having a cloud-based backup repository lets me do exactly that.

Qualify Your Apps and Peripherals

Don’t get stuck with an upgrade that will cripple your workflow.

Check in with the developers of your favorite apps. Microsoft’s already thrown up a warning that older versions of its Office software won’t work with High Sierra, for example, and some app vendors may have other issues. If you use any external devices, check with their makers to be certain they’ll work ok: Thunderbolt peripherals like RAID systems, graphics and audio breakout boxes, and more.

If you’ve downloaded apps from the Mac App Store, check the Mac App Store’s Update section to look for the latest updates to your commonly-used apps. Do the same for any other app download services you use, including game services like Steam.

Unless you need the new features and functionality of High Sierra, chances are you can wait. If you can, it may ultimately be to your benefit. Let others fall on the early adopter sword and see where the problems are before you make the switch.

If you’ve upgraded your Mac with an SSD, it’s essential to check with the SSD maker before upgrading. The APFS file system change is especially designed for flash-based Macs. I was able to upgrade my Mac mini with no problem; I’ve heard from others with third-party SSDs that weren’t updated automatically, so your experience may differ.

If you rely on your Mac for business or any other essential communication in your life, you should take a very conservative approach to upgrading your operating system.

Once you’re satisfied that you’re not going to run into problems, go ahead and get started. Launch the Mac App Store, and if your Mac can install the upgrade, you’ll see it pop up as a feature download. Apple charges nothing for High Sierra, so you can download and run it when you want.

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