Installing OS X 10.9 Mavericks: Our complete guide  

Installing Mavericks: What you need to know

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Installing OS X 10.9 Mavericks: Our complete guide  

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If you choose not to transfer data—so you’re essentially starting fresh—you’ll be asked to enter your Apple ID and password; if you don’t have one, you have the option to create an Apple ID. (If you use a separate Apple ID for iCloud and iTunes, you can click the little link here to enter them separately.) Once you’re signed in, OS X asks if you want to use Find My Mac for this Mac. You’re then prompted to agree to Apple’s terms and conditions (for OS X, privacy policy, iCloud, and Game Center); click Agree twice to continue. You then need to create a user account and password, configure a few options for that account, choose your time zone, and choose whether or not to allow OS X to automatically set the time. The final step is to decide if you want to set up Mavericks’s new iCloud Keychain feature. Assuming you do, you’ll be walked through the setup process. Once that task is complete, you're asked if you want to register your Mac, and after a brief Setting Up Your Mac screen, you can get to work.

Mavericks incompatible software warning
The first time you boot into Mavericks, you may be alerted to known incompatible software.

Initial setup: Warnings and alerts

Incompatible software warning: If you upgraded a Snow Leopard, Lion, or Mountain Lion Mac, the first time you boot into Mavericks you may see a dialog box informing you that some of the existing software on your Mac is incompatible with the new OS, and listing that software. (Apple provides more information about such software in a support article.) You’ll usually see this message if you had kernel extensions—low-level software that patches the operating system itself—installed under your previous OS X installation that Apple specifically knows won’t work with Mavericks. It’s also possible to see the incompatible-software dialog box if you installed Mavericks onto a blank drive and then transferred data from another Mac or drive, but it’s less likely—OS X’s Migration Assistant generally doesn’t import kernel extensions and similar software responsible for low-level processes. In either case, OS X automatically moves this incompatible software to a folder called Incompatible Software at the root level of your startup drive.

Access prompts: If you have any apps or menu extras that launch at login that require access to your calendars, reminders, or contacts—for example, a third-party calendar app—the first time you log in under Mavericks, you're prompted to approve that access. (In versions of OS X prior to Mavericks, apps could access this data without needing your explicit approval.) Click OK to approve, or Don't Allow to decline.

Mavericks approving data access
Under Mavericks, you need to explicitly approve third-party app access to personal data (left) and OS X's accessibility features (right)—for each app, and for each kind of data.

Similarly, if you use any third-party utilities that take advantage of OS X's Assistive Devices features to, say, control windows or automate tasks, the first time you launch those utilities, each will prompt you to approve this access in the Accessibility screen of System Preferences' Security & Privacy pane. To allow access, check the box next to each app in the list here. (If a utility hasn't yet been updated for Mavericks, it may prompt you to instead open the Accessibility preference pane, and it may even open that pane for you. You'll need to switch to the Security & Privacy pane, instead.)

What’s New?: Finally, the first time you boot into Mavericks, you'll notice a Notification Center alert offering to show you some of OS X 10.9's new features. Click Show to take the tour in your Web browser. (If you don't want to take the tour now, you can always take it later by choosing What's New In OS X Mavericks from the Finder's Help menu.)

Mavericks What's New
Mavericks asks you if you want to see its new toys.

Post-Mavericks tasks

Once you’re up and running in Mavericks, you’re almost done. You may find, despite your pre-installation checks, that some of your existing software needs updates. Similarly, if you’ve performed a “clean” install of Mavericks (onto a blank drive without transferring accounts and data), you’ll need to spend a bit of time setting things up, and you'll want to reinstall all your favorite apps.

Check (again) for updates: The first thing you’ll want to do is choose Software Update (from the Apple menu) to open the Mac App Store app and install any pending OS updates. If you’ve installed Mavericks in the first few days of availability, chances are you won’t have any updates waiting (especially if you checked for updates to Mountain Lion, Lion, or Snow Leopard immediately before upgrading, so you already have the latest updates to other Apple software), but it can’t hurt to be sure. And if you’ve waited a week or more to install Mavericks, there’s a good chance Apple will have released a minor update—or will sometime soon.

Even if no updates to Mavericks itself are available, you may find that, after installing OS X 10.9, a firmware update is available for your Mac. For example, when Mountain Lion was released last year, Mac laptops required a firmware update to support Mountain Lion’s Power Nap feature, and this firmware update appeared only after installing Mountain Lion (presumably because the firmware update wasn’t necessary under Lion or Snow Leopard).

Mavericks printer drivers
Mavericks can automatically download the latest drivers for many recent printers.

Set up printers, if necessary: If you didn’t upgrade from an already-configured installation of Mountain Lion, Lion, or Snow Leopard, you’ll want to set up your printer(s). As with OS X 10.8, 10.7, and 10.6, Mavericks doesn’t include many printer drivers in its base installation. Rather, when you set up a printer, the OS determines which drivers you need and, if necessary, either downloads them automatically or helps you get them. Open the Printers & Scanners pane of System Preferences and click the Add (+) button, and you’ll see a list of connected and nearby (Bonjour) printers. Choose one, and OS X will see if drivers are available. If your Mac already has the drivers installed, OS X will set it up immediately; if you don’t yet have the drivers, you see a message that you can download the software and add the printer.

Check for incompatible software and, if necessary, install apps: Next, if you saw the aforementioned incompatible-software dialog, now’s a good time to check the contents of the Incompatible Software folder at the root level of your startup drive, and then check each vendor’s website for updated versions of that software. Similarly, if you performed a clean install (installed Mavericks onto a blank drive and didn’t transfer accounts, applications, and data), it's time to reinstall your apps. Just make sure you’ve got the latest versions, as well as the latest updates (from vendor websites) to software you install from CDs and DVDs.

Note that, as with Mountain Lion, the first time you try to load a webpage or run an app that requires Java, Mavericks will prompt you to download and install the Java runtime, even if you already had Java installed under the previous version of OS X. This is normal—you shouldn’t worry that installing Mavericks somehow “lost” any of your data or apps.

Enable FileVault: If you want to use FileVault, OS X’s disk-encryption feature, but it’s not enabled—either because you’ve never used it or because you upgraded from Snow Leopard and followed my advice to disable it before upgrading—now’s the time to turn it on, via the Security & Privacy pane of System Preferences. Note that if the Mavericks installer (or the Mountain Lion or Lion installer before it) was not able to create a Recovery HD partition on your drive, you won't be able to enable FileVault.

Upgrade and installation challenges

For most people, Mavericks—like the two versions of OS X before it—is easy enough to get and easy to install. But, also as with Mountain Lion and Lion, upgrading to OS X 10.9 presents challenges for a few groups of people.

People with Mavericks-compatible Macs who are still using Leopard (OS X 10.5): There are a few Mac models that originally shipped with OS X 10.5 and are compatible with Mavericks. I’m certain there are a good number of those Macs still running Leopard, and many of them will likely stay that way—if someone has been happily running 10.5 for five or six years, and never felt the need to install OS X 10.6, 10.7, or 10.8, I doubt they’ll be running out to install OS X 10.9.

That said, what if you’re one of the people who’s still using Leopard, and you’ve finally been convinced to upgrade? Or what if you want to start fresh by installing Leopard and then upgrading to Mavericks? Can you jump directly from 10.5 to 10.9? Apple’s official policy is that you need to purchase and install Snow Leopard (currently $20 for a single-user license or $30 for a family pack) and then upgrade to Mavericks.

Indeed, the Mavericks installer is strict about requiring OS X 10.6.8: The installer application itself will launch under Leopard, but it won’t let you install Mavericks, either over Leopard or onto a bare drive. Nor can you mount a Leopard drive on a Mac running Snow Leopard, Lion, or Mountain Lion and then install 10.9—the installer simply refuses to install over Leopard.

But what if you own a copy of Snow Leopard for the Mac in question, but you don’t want to add an hour or two to the installation process by installing Snow Leopard first? We’ve published the instructions for installing Mavericks over Leopard. It’s not a simple procedure, but it works.

People with slow or limited-bandwidth Internet connections: If your Internet connection is slow, it will take a long time—perhaps days—to download the 5.3GB Mavericks installer. Even worse, if your ISP enforces caps on your Internet-data usage, you could end up paying a hefty price for the privilege.

If you’ve got a Mac laptop, you can instead tote it to your favorite Apple retailer, the library, a friend’s house, or the office—anywhere with a fast Internet connection—and download the installer there. In fact, for the past couple OS X releases (Mountain Lion and Lion), Apple’s official policy was to invite you to your local Apple Store and use the store’s Internet connection to download the installer; store employees would even walk you through the purchase, download, and installation processes. I suspect that will continue to be the case with Mavericks.

Of course, if your Mac doesn’t happen to be portable, or if you live in an area where you can’t borrow a fast, cheap Internet connection, you'll need to find another solution. If you’ve got an Apple Store nearby, you may be able to take a portable hard drive or an 8GB-or-larger thumb drive to the store and ask to purchase and download the installer on one of the store’s Macs. Similarly, you could borrow a friend’s computer, or—if you’re lucky enough to have a Mac at the office—use your work computer to download Mavericks.

(When Lion was released, Apple made available a $69 bootable flash drive containing the Lion installer. Unfortunately, the company didn’t do the same for Mountain Lion last year, and I don’t expect Apple to provide such an option for Mavericks, either.)

Businesses, schools, and other organizations and institutions that need to install Mavericks on many different computers: When Lion (the first version version of OS X to be download-only) was released, we heard concerns from large installations—schools, businesses, and the like—about the Mac App Store-only distribution. These organizations often need to roll out new versions of OS X to many Macs, and forcing each user to download and install Lion presented significant technical, logistical, and support issues. Mavericks presents the same challenges. Apple’s volume licensing information webpage explains the options: Organizations will use the same purchasing procedure as always to buy OS X, but they’ll be given one Mavericks redemption code for each purchase contract. After using that code to download the Mavericks installer from the Mac App Store, that copy of the installer can be used on any and all Macs covered by the contract.

To do so, Apple says customers can copy the OS X installer to the /Applications folder on each Mac and then run the installer from there, or they can create a NetInstall or NetRestore image, or use Apple Remote Desktop.

Apple doesn’t specifically suggest this, but an alternative is to create one or more bootable Mavericks-install drives and then install the OS on multiple computers using those.

Purring along

While researching this series of articles, I installed many, many copies of OS X 10.9 on a variety of Macs. As with Mountain Lion and Lion, my experience has been that for the typical Mac user with a broadband connection, the process of purchasing, obtaining, and installing OS X continues to be easy and pain-free. Still, heeding the advice above will reduce the chances of problems and make the upgrade go as smoothly as possible. Once you’re up and running, check out all our articles about the new OS, which cover its features, built-in apps, and more.

(For an even more in-depth look at upgrading to Mavericks, check out Macworld senior contributor Joe Kissell’s Take Control of Upgrading to Mavericks, which covers such topics as extensive pre-install diagnostics, clean installs, installation troubleshooting, and much more. And see our complete installation guide for how-tos on using OS X Recovery, creating a bootable install drive, performing a clean install, and installing Mavericks over Leopard.)

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