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Take Control of Upgrading to Mavericks
Oct 27, 2013

Take Control of Upgrading to Mavericks

Install Mavericks easily, and fly through important post-installation steps!

Gain confidence and stay in control as Mac guru Joe Kissell explains how to ensure that your hardware and software are ready for OS X 10.9 Mavericks, prevent problems with a bootable duplicate of your main disk, and decide on your best installation method, whether you’re upgrading from 10.4 Tiger, 10.5 Leopard, 10.6 Snow Leopard, 10.7 Lion, or 10.8 Mountain Lion.

You’ll find smart suggestions for managing the installer, with tips for installing on multiple Macs and dealing with bandwidth limitations. Joe walks you through installing Mavericks and then gives important advice for handling your Mac when it first starts up in Mavericks, including working through a pile of post-installation alerts, signing in with the right Apple ID(s), turning on iCloud Keychain, enabling enhanced (and local) dictation, managing user accounts, and quite a bit more.

Additional important topics include troubleshooting installation problems, upgrading from an older Mac or PC to a new Mac running Mavericks, and a brief look at installing OS X Server.

More Info

You’ll experience an easy upgrade and quickly deal with post-installation quirks with these topics:

  • Start fast: A short Quick Start overview links to detailed content behind each topic, letting you read lightly or more deeply, depending on your specific needs.

  • Catch the wave: Find out what you can look forward to in Mavericks, and why this upgrade is important for Apple.

  • Older cat upgrades: For people who are upgrading from 10.4 Tiger, 10.5 Leopard, or 10.6 Snow Leopard, Joe offers advice about the most effective way to carry out an upgrade.

  • Compatibility check: Make sure your hardware and software are ready for Mavericks, and consider if this might be a good time for new hardware, even if it’s not essential for your upgrade. (Tip: if your Mac can run Mountain Lion, it can also run Mavericks.)

  • Prep steps: Avoid upgrade calamities by ensuring you can go back to the previous state of your Mac - and that you can boot from your backup. This crucial step can save a lot of trouble, and Joe recommends software that can make a bootable duplicate without a huge hassle. Also, your operating system is getting a fresh start, but what about the rest of your stuff? Whether you need the disk space or just want to delete some digital detritus, you’ll find helpful tips. You’ll also run Apple Hardware Test (or Apple Diagnostics) and Disk Utility, to be sure your disk is good to go. Finally, for those who need it, Joe discusses special cases relating to disk encryption (including FileVault) and partitioning.

  • Picking a plan: Decide on your installation method. Most people can go with an easy in-place upgrade, but some will want the more complex clean install. 10.5 Leopard users will find special help, and those still on 10.4 Tiger get a special sidebar.

  • Installing: Find out the smartest way to download and store the installer, with special tips for people who want to install on more than one Mac or who have bandwidth limitations. And, although running the installer will be easy for many people, you’ll get full steps for what to click and when.

  • Post-installation tune-up: Make sure your new system is running smoothly with a few important housekeeping tasks, including managing Spotlight, Software Update, Java Runtime, enhanced dictation, user accounts, Apple IDs, iCloud Keychain, FileVault, Time Machine, iTunes changes, and more. Plus learn how to unhide the user Library folder.

  • Troubleshooting: Yikes! It is possible that something will go wrong during installation, or once you’ve booted up under Mavericks that you’ll discover an important incompatibility with an existing piece of software. Find time-tested troubleshooting advice to get your system working again. Plus learn what the Recovery HD volume can do for you.

  • Migrating to a new Mac: If your “upgrade” includes moving from an older computer (Mac or Windows PC) to a new Mac that’s running Mavericks, learn the best way to move your user account to the new Mac.

  • Installing OS X Server: Find a brief introduction to OS X Server, plus basic steps for downloading and installing it.

What's New

What’s New in Version 1.2

In the first few days following the release of Mavericks, a number of issues came to light that may affect the way you approach upgrading—in fact, some users now feel it’s best to postpone moving to Mavericks until Apple works out some of these early issues. Version 1.2 of this book discusses some of my post-release findings, including the following:

  • Mail in Mavericks has significant issues, especially for Gmail users with lots of email messages. See Address Mail Problems before you upgrade.

  • The Theater mode in Messages is now gone, with no obvious replacement. See Messages Theater.

  • The Mavericks installer contains a new command-line tool that lets you create a bootable Mavericks installer disk, as long as you don’t mind fiddling in Terminal. Read Make a Bootable Mavericks Installer Volume.

  • You can skip creating an iCloud Security Code when setting up iCloud Keychain, with the result that your keychains will still sync but your password data won’t be stored in iCloud. See Set Up iCloud Keychain.

  • I give a few tips for enjoying the new way that Mavericks handles multiple monitors and explain what to do should you need to expand a single window across more than one display. See Multiple Display Changes.

What Was New in Version 1.1

If you’ve read version 1.0 of this ebook already, you’re way ahead of the game. Here’s what you need to know now.

As long as you’ve already followed all the steps in version 1.0 of this ebook up through Make Sure Your Disk Is Ready, there’s no need to revisit those chapters; you’re ready to pick up with the new material. However, I did add a few pieces of information to those earlier chapters that you may find interesting:

  • Mavericks no longer includes Sync Services, and this omission may cause problems for some users (see Should You Think Twice Before Upgrading?; more details in Deal with Other Surprises).

  • Macs shipped starting in June 2013 include Apple Diagnostics in place of Apple Hardware Test (see Run Apple Hardware Test or Apple Diagnostics).

  • The final (version 10.9.0) Mavericks installer is 5.29 GB.

  • As I expected, the Mavericks license is similar to that of Mountain Lion. It authorizes you

    _to downloadinstall, use and run for personalnon-commercial use, one (1copy of the Apple Software directly on each Apple-branded computer running OS X Mountain LionOS X Lion or OS X Snow Leopard (“Mac Computer”) that you own or control…_

    (Terms for educational and commercial use differAlsoyou may run Mavericks in a virtual machinewith some limitations.) 

  • Upgrading from Leopard? Plan C: Install over Leopard now includes an easier installation option than I was expecting.

That’s all you need to know for now. You can skip directly to Make Final Preparations and proceed with the remaining installation steps!


Before I buy this ebook, can you tell me if my Macintosh will work with OS X 10.9 Mavericks?

Mavericks’s basic hardware requirements are somewhat complex, but haven’t changed from Mountain Lion. According to Apple, you’ll need not just an Intel Core 2 Duo or better processor, but also a logic board that’s designed to boot into a 64-bit kernel, as well as an “advanced GPU (graphics processing unit) chipset.” Apple lists which Mac models meet these requirements at

To find out which Mac model you have:

  • If you’re running at least 10.7 Lion, choose About This Mac from the Apple menu and then click More Info. Then choose Window > About This Mac.

  • If you’re running 10.6 Snow Leopard or earlier, it’s a little complicated. You could buy this ebook for more help—you can ask for a refund if it turns out that your Mac is too old. Another resource is the MacTracker app.

Reader Raves

I followed your instructions pretty closely, and I’m happy to say that I didn’t need the extra backup. But, now that I have this nifty external drive that’s up to date I am ready to take it to my next computer, sync everything, and do it all over again. Having a process really increased my confidence level, got me to slow down and think about the upgrade. … Thank you once again for writing such enjoyable tech. —Don Meares

These comments are about earlier editions of this book.


I just did an upgrade to Mountain Lion from Lion and all I can say is….WOW! Your Take Control instructions were educational, informative, and well directed.
—Kristopher Johnson

Thanks So Much

Thanks so much for a super ebook for upgrading to Lion. I upgraded earlier today with my iMac. I had ZERO problems due to your ebook. And, all my third-party apps which I upgraded, as appropriate, worked fine. —Barry B.

Great Value

I bought both Take Control books—‘Upgrading to Lion’ and ‘Using Lion’. They’ve been great value and really very useful. I upgraded four Macs with no problems whatsoever after creating a boot disc as described. Where I needed to keep Snow Leopard alongside Lion, because of PPC software, I followed the instructions and once again, experienced a smooth installation. —Dave W.

Really Useful Advice

Excellent books, and really useful advice. I successfully upgraded to Lion following your advice and guidance….If I had not purchased these books I would have definitely run into trouble. I had no idea the upgrade was something that had to be handled with such a lot of preparation and thought. —Thanks, C.P.

Update Plans

September 5, 2014 – We don’t plan to update the Mavericks edition of this ebook again, but check the Take Control catalog to find similar titles about later versions of OS X.

Posted by Tonya Engst

  1. You May Need to Re-download Your OS X Installer

    One of the recommendations I make in my Take Control of Upgrading to… books could potentially cause a headache unless you know how to avoid it. I tell you to save a copy of the OS X installer that you’ve downloaded so that, if the occasion should ever arise when you need to reinstall it or put it on another Mac, you don’t have to download it again. Saving the installer requires deliberate action, because if you leave it in /Applications and run it from there, OS X deletes the installer app once your new version of OS X is in place. (Some people go a step further and create a bootable volume, such as a USB flash drive, containing the installer, which makes it easier to install on multiple Macs.)

    Unfortunately, if you followed my advice and kept a copy of your installer prior to February 14, 2016 (whether or not you turned it into a bootable volume), you’ll find that the installer no longer works the next time you try to run it, because the certificate that Apple used to sign the installer (a crucial security step) expired on that day. Josh Centers explains the whole thing in the TidBITS article Previously Downloaded OS X Installers No Longer Work.

    If you’ve already saved the installer but don’t need it yet, you can delete it and download a fresh copy (now updated with a new certificate); that way you’ll be ready if and when you need it. If you created a bootable installer volume, you’ll need to erase it and follow the instructions in my book to recreate it.

    Should you find yourself suddenly in need to reinstall OS X but not have an updated installer handy, there are ways (mentioned in Josh’s article) to trick OS X into running the old installer, but they’re not ideal, and I recommend planning ahead for best results.

    This issue appears to affect every version of OS X from OS X 10.11 El Capitan back to 10.7 Lion, although a few users have reported that their previously downloaded installers continue to work (the reasons for which are unclear).

    Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

  2. Beware of Upgrading to Mavericks If You Use Western Digital Drives

    If you use a Western Digital hard drive, be aware that the bundled utilities could cause data loss under Mavericks. Western Digital is recommending that users delay upgrading or delete the utilities. Learn more in my TidBITS article about this issue: Western Digital Warning Mavericks Users of Data Loss.

    UPDATE (January 22, 2014): Western Digital has a firmware update available for affected devices. For details, see My Book Essential (USB 3.0) software update for Mac users.

    Posted by Adam Engst (Permalink)

  3. Lion DiskMaker Renamed; Apple Advice on Altered Home Folder; Gmail

    Progress marches on, and even though we just released version 1.2 of Take Control of Upgrading to Mavericks, a few additional pieces of information have already emerged.

    First, the app formerly known as Lion DiskMaker has been renamed to the less anachronistic and more future-proof DiskMaker X. Its capabilities remain the same.

    Second, Apple has posted a support article titled OS X Mavericks: Home folder appears to be different after completing Setup Assistant, which describes a situation that can occur if a Mavericks installation is aborted partway through (for example, if the computer was powered off during installation) and the installer prompts you to create a new user account. It’s no big deal; you just have to go through a short procedure to log in to your original account. But it’s worth knowing about.

    Finally, my own solution to Gmail and Mail in Mavericks not getting along has been to ditch Gmail in favor of a real IMAP provider. I posted my story at Macworld: Why (and how) I’m saying goodbye to Gmail.

    Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

  4. On MacVoices Joe Kissell Explains How to Get Ready for Mavericks

    Who is the tall dark stranger riding into town? Mavericks is its name. Pull up a chair and sit down for a spell as Joe Kissell tells Chuck Joiner of MacVoices what you need to do to prepare your Mac for OS X 10.9 Mavericks. The discussion includes backup strategies, software upgrades, and more. Special bonus for viewers of the video feed: the striking beauty of Joe’s aloha shirt in gorgeous digital color!

    Posted by Michael Cohen (Permalink)

The Author

Take Control publisher Joe Kissell has written more than 60 books about technology, including many popular Take Control books. He also runs Interesting Thing of the Day and is a contributing editor of TidBITS and a senior contributor to Macworld.