Installing Apple’s macOS Big Sur update might be tempting, but there are some steps you should take before moving your Mac from macOS Catalina, macOS Mojave, or an older software to the company’s latest operating system.
After a lengthy stint in beta, macOS Big Sur is finally available to download if you own a Mac that’s compatible with the new firmware.
macOS Big Sur brings a lengthy list of changes to Macs including upgrades to Safari, Messages, Maps, Privacy, and a whole lot more.
If you’re moving up from the latest version of macOS Catalina you’ll get the shortest change log and the “smallest” download. If you’re moving to macOS Big Sur from older software, your upgrade could be far more substantial.
macOS Big Sur is an important update and many of you should install it in the near future. That being said, it’s difficult to predict how the new software will impact your Mac’s performance.
While some of you could see a boost, others will run into frustrating bugs and performance issues. And that’s precisely why it’s important to do some prep work before you start the installation. A little work ahead of time could help you avoid serious problems.
With that in mind, we want to help you prepare for the transition from your current version of macOS to macOS Big Sur. We always recommend spending 30 minutes, or more, preparing yourself and your device for the move.
Learn About macOS Big Sur
Make sure you get familiar with macOS Big Sur’s changes before you install it. This way you aren’t caught off guard by the numerous changes on board.
If you decided against installing the macOS Big Sur beta or you haven’t been following along, now would be a good time to dig into the changes on board the new operating system.
The software is chock full of changes and some of these changes might impact the applications and services you use the most on your computer.
You’ll also want to have a look at the security patches on board the software and you can do so on Apple’s security website.
Decide If You’re Upgrading or Doing a Clean Install
There are two ways to install macOS Big Sur on your Mac. You can update and keep everything in place, or you can do a clean install if you want to start from scratch.
The update option is the easiest route and it’s the one most users should take. This keeps all your files, apps and photos in place and takes the least amount of time.
Of course, it can also bring along problems and it also keeps the clutter. If you don’t regularly remove unneeded files from your Mac, a clean install can wipe your drive clean and free up space. It will only install the apps and files you need.
You can do a clean installation using this guide. Before you do, make sure you take time to back up all your important files.
Backup Your Mac
Make sure you backup your Mac before you install the macOS Big Sur update.
Before you click on install, make sure your important files are backed up to the cloud. We also recommend having a local Time Machine Backup handy.
If you run into problems with the installation, you can restore from a backup and be up and running on macOS Catalina pretty quickly.
From there, you can try installing macOS Big Sur again or figure out what the issue is.
Make Sure You Know Your Passwords
Make sure you have all of your passwords handy before you install macOS Big Sur.
When you restart your Mac after installing macOS Big Sur, you will need to log in to your computer and you will likely need to log into your Apple account as well as your apps and services.
We recommend using a password manager like LastPass, 1Password or even Apple’s built-in manager to store this information for you. If you don’t want to use these, make sure you test logging into your Apple account and your email.
Dig Into macOS Big Sur Feedback
If you’re feeling a bit leery about the move to macOS Big Sur, you should dig through feedback from early adopters.
Again, there’s a chance you encounter bugs and/or performance issues on your device after moving to Apple’s new operating system.
Big updates like macOS Big Sur often hits older Mac models the hardest so if you own an older model, and you’re concerned about the jump up from your current software, you’ll want to hunt for feedback from those who have taken the plunge.
This feedback will alert you to potential bugs and problems. You also might learn about potential benefits of Apple’s new operating system.
You’ll want to poke around on Apple’s discussion forums, YouTube, and social media sites like Twitter for feedback from macOS Big Sur users.
Some of you might want to wait for long-term feedback to emerge before committing. And others might even want to wait for Apple to roll out the first batch of bug fixes fo macOS Big Sur problems.
Prepare for macOS Big Sur Problems
macOS Big Sur went through an extensive beta testing period, but problems have unsurprisingly slipped through the cracks into the final version.
As we push away from the release we’re already hearing about a number of different issues ranging from installation problems to issues with first and third-party apps.
If you don’t have an encyclopedia of fixes for macOS issues stored inside your head, you’ll want to track down and bookmark fixes for potential problems.
To help you get started, have a look at our list of fixes for the most common macOS Big Sur problems. We’ve also released a guide that will help you solve battery issues.
Check App Reviews, Compatibility and Install Updates
If you rely on your apps to get you through the day, you might want to read app reviews before you install macOS Big Sur on your computer(s).
App developers are rolling out macOS Big Sur support updates. These updates will be crucial to your experience on the new operating system.
Before you install macOS Big Sur you’ll want to head to the App Store and read reviews from users. If reviews are mostly positive, go ahead and install the latest update(s).
If the feedback is negative, you might want to wait for a new version of macOS Big Sur or for the developer to update the app before moving your device to the latest software.
Talk to IT Before Installing
If you use your Mac for work you might want to check with your IT team (if you have one) and make sure you’re got the green light to install macOS Big Sur.
Enterprise problems plague every single version of macOS and they can be particularly nasty after Apple releases a new operating system.
If you depend on your device to get work done, it’s important to get in touch with IT to see if the update is safe to use. If you’ve got an IT department, they should be able to provide you with feedback about the core apps and services you use.
If you don’t have an IT department or a tech on site, you might want to ask around the office or talk to friends who use the same services and see how they’re doing on the operating system.
Learn About the Downgrade Process
You should familiarize yourself with the downgrade process before you download macOS Big Sur.
If you run into problems, apps that don’t work, battery life issues, or just don’t like the new update, you can downgrade to macOS Catalina. It’s a lot easier than downgrading iOS and there’s no limit to how far back you can go.
The easiest way to do this is to restore a Time Machine Backup that you made right before installing the macOS Big Sur update. If you made a backup, this will help get your Mac running on an older version of macOS very quickly.
Here’s more on how to downgrade macOS software to an older version.
Install macOS Big Sur for Better Security
If security is important to you, think about installing the macOS Big Sur update right away.
macOS Big Sur brings 50+ new security patches to your Mac. If you're interested in the exact nature of these improvements, you can read about them over on Apple's website.
In addition to those patches, macOS Big Sur comes with additional security and privacy upgrades including improvements to the App Store and Safari.
In Safari, you can now tap the Privacy Report button to better understand how websites handle your privacy.
With macOS Big Sur on board you can now get information on the App Store that will help you understand the privacy practices of apps before you download them.
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