Apple announced El Capitan the latest version of it’s OS X operating system, numbered 10.11, on the 9th September 2015, at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, California in the United States.
This is the third in a departure from the previous naming of operating systems after big cats. Following on from OS X 10.9 Mavericks and 10.10 Yosemite, El Capitan continues with the new naming convention of locations 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 10.10 Yosemite, or earlier, to OS X 10.11 El Capitan following its release on 30th September 2015.
Below is listed the comparative upgrade costs for previous versions of OS X and the recent versions of Microsoft Windows.
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 Yosemite, 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.
OS X 10.11 El Capitan
OS X 10.11 El Capitan, following on from Mavericks and Yosemite, 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.
Microsoft Windows 10
Compare this to prices from £55.00 for Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system, and any upgrade to OS X is a bargain.
Similar to 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion, 10.9 Mavericks and 10.10 Yosemite, it has been confirmed that OS X 10.11 El Capitan will only be available as a digital download—via the Mac App Store— for Macs that require upgrading.
As of its beta release, OS X 10.11 El Capitan is compatible with all Macs that are capable of running OS X Yosemite. These are essentially Macs with a Core 2 Duo, i3, i5 or i7 processor.
- 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 El Capitan 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.
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.
In order to run OS X 10.11 El Capitan, 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 El Capitan and install more if you can afford it. Probably the best place for memory upgrades for a Mac is Crucial.
Checking Software Compatibility
Before upgrading to El Capitan, 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, Mavericks and Yosemite all have the Mac App Store, which is a requirement for the digital download delivery mechanism to install OS X 10.11 El Capitan.
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 10.11 El Capitan.
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 El Capitan 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. This works on OS X Mavericks.
Alternatively, press Command-Space to open Spotlight and type Mac App Store to launch the application then click the Updates icon.
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.
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 recent release of El Capitan, 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 El Capitan, 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 El Capitan.