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Preparing a Mac for OS X 10.10 Yosemite


Apple announced the latest version of it’s OS X operating system, on the 2nd June 2014, at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. 

The second in a departure from the previous naming system of big cats, the next iteration of OS X, being 10.10, will start a new naming convention taken from places in California. OS X 10.10 will be known as Yosemite, named after the Yosemite National Park 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 OS X 10.9 Mavericks, or earlier, to OS X 10.10 Yosemite when it is released later this year.

Upgrade Cost

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, 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 Leopard onwards.

Microsoft Windows 8

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


Similar to 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion and 10.9 Mavericks, it has been confirmed that OS X 10.10 Yosemite will only be available as a digital download for Macs that require upgrading.

System Requirements

Yosemite beta program
Yosemite beta program

As of its beta release, OS X 10.10 Yosemite is compatible with all Macs that are capable of running OS X Mountain Lion (and some earlier systems). The compatibility list is very similar to that for the release of OS X Mavericks, last year.

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

It is likely that this will not change between the beta and the retail version, but it's inevitable that some of the sexier features of Yosemite will not be compatible with older hardware.

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 farmost 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 OS X 10.10 Yosemite, 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 Mavericks, which will run very slowly indeed. 

Ideally, you should look at 8GB RAM being the minimum to run Yosemite 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

Checking Software Compatibility

Before upgrading to Yosemite, the Mac will need at least 8GB of available hard disc space and be running Mac OS X 10.6.7 Snow Leopard, or later.

Snow Leopard 10.6.7, Lion, Mountain Lion and Mavericks all have the Mac App Store, which is a requirement for the digital download delivery mechanism to install OS X 10.10 Yosemite.

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 OS X 10.10 Yosemite.

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 to 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.

It is likely that Roaring Apps will be updated to include information regarding Yosemite 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.

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

My recommendation would be to perform at least two back ups and to test that they work. My favoured method is a Time Machine back up and a straight clone of the hard drive with SuperDuper! In addition to those, I use Dropbox to store lots of my data.

Tip: To learn more about backing up your data, take a look at the tutorials in our Data Backups and Storage session.

Upgrade or Clean Install

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

The question regarding an upgrade or a clean install, the latter being the reformatting of the hard drive and the complete installation of OS X 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 OS X is running at optimal efficiency whereby I only install the apps that I depend upon and think carefully about installing anything else.


With the imminent release of Yosemite, 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 Yosemite, 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 Yosemite.

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