Unenrolling from Apple's beta programs: back up or back out

apple product family 2015

After a recent article on how to stop receiving notifications from the App Store about freshly baked OS X betas if you’re enrolled in the public beta program, I received a few related questions: How to install the production release of El Capitan, not the final golden master version? And how to get out of the iOS beta.

These answers are less pretty than unchecking a box and clicking a button. Apple has relatively detailed instructions at its Unenroll page, but I’ll be a little more blunt than it is.

Install El Capitan release after the beta program

Unfortunately, you can’t upgrade directly from the golden master build that was released in the public beta program to the production build. These are ever so slightly different. The final public beta was numbered 15A282b, while the production build is 15A284. (You can see the build number by selecting  > About This Mac, and clicking the version number under OS X El Capitan.)

mac911 el capitan beta build

El Capitan’s final beta build isn’t the same as the production released version.

In practice, you won’t see significant differences, but they aren’t technically the same version. If you wait until 10.11.1 ships, which is imminent given the state of the public beta for that update, you’ll wind up with the production version of that release.

If you really, truly want El Capitan build 15A284, you’ll need to download and run the production installer as if you were upgrading. As with all upgrades, you should certainly make sure you have a clean backup—it won’t erase your Mac, but OS X upgrades can go pear shaped and there’s no reason to slack on making sure you can revert to where you were.

Of course, if you want to roll back to an earlier version of OS X, it’s a much trickier proposition. You can revert to a Time Machine backup that you retained of the previous OS, but you’ll lose all the changes made since, unless you’re working entirely in the cloud: synced calendars, emails, contacts, and files (as with Dropbox, Box, iCloud Drive, Google Drive, and other services).

Leaving iOS beta

It’s just as easy for iOS as OS X, although you accomplish the process entirely from the Unenroll webpage. This this works for all iOS devices associated with an Apple ID, you can unenroll your account for iOS from either a desktop or mobile browser.

mac911 leave ios beta program

Opt out of the iOS beta and you’ll stop be notified.

  1. Visit the page.
  2. Click or tap Log In at the top.
  3. Enter your enrolled Apple ID and password.
  4. Scroll to the page’s bottom and click or tap Leave Apple Beta Software Program.
  5. In the pop-up dialog, click or tap Leave Program.

You’ll stop receiving notifications.

Reverting to an earlier iOS build

Apple doesn’t make it a tap-it-and-tap-again proposition to roll backwards, of course. Instead, you’ve got to perform a full restore. This means that you need to have made an iTunes or iCloud backup that you’re sure still exists that features the iOS release (down to the smallest number, like 9.0.2 being distinct from 9.0.0) to which you want to revert.

Apple helpfully notes, “If you would like to unenroll your iOS device, you need to put it into Recovery Mode and then restore from the iOS 8 backup you created before you installed the iOS public beta.” And what if you didn’t make that iOS 8 backup, deleted it, or you find it’s no longer available? You’re stuck in the beta, unless you want to set up the phone from scratch, and use syncing from iCloud and other services.

But choosing that path means you lose the collection of apps you’ve downloaded (not the apps), their arrangements, and any locally stored and non-synced preferences and cached files, not to mention all passwords you’ve entered.

I recently found myself in this situation, where I needed to revert an iPad from 9.1 beta to 9.0.2, and the iCloud backup that I thought was available had never been completed. Fortunately, that device had nothing unique on it, except the set of apps and their folders, so I bit the bullet and set it up as a new device.

Note, too, that you have to use Recovery mode to go from a public beta back to a release version.

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