Apple macOS High Sierra: What to do before you upgrade

Alex Kidman 26 September 2017 NEWS

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What should you do before you upgrade to macOS High Sierra, and what new features can you expect?

While much of the focus surrounding Apple of late has been around the release of the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X and iOS 11, Apple was also readying the latest update to its computer-based macOS platform, macOS High Sierra.

The upgrade to macOS High Sierra is available now for qualifying Mac computers as a free download. However, before you rush in, it's worth preparing your Mac for what's to come.

What you must do before upgrading to macOS High Sierra

There are a few key steps you should check off before you hit the download button on the update.

  1. Check if your Mac can run macOS High Sierra. Apple's cut-off for iOS updates can be a little brutal, but on the macOS side of the fence, if you're already running macOS Sierra, you're pretty much set for compatibility. Strictly speaking, that's any iMac from late 2009 or later, any MacBook from late 2009 or later, any MacBook Pro from mid 2010 or later, any MacBook Air from late 2010 or later, any Mac mini from mid 2010 or later and any Mac Pro from mid 2010 or later. That gives macOS High Sierra quite a wide field of supported machines, although predictably older systems aren't likely to see quite the feature and performance boost of newer systems.
  2. Make a backup. We'll repeat that again slightly more forcefully. MAKE A BACKUP. Seriously. Apple's inbuilt Time Machine, which works with any suitably large external backup drive, is fine for this purpose, and you should always back up before you start any OS upgrade. For macOS High Sierra, the shift to AFPS for any solid state storage based Mac makes this utterly vital because if anything goes wrong as you shift file systems, you may be left with no way to recover your files.
  3. Make a backup. Sure, we just mentioned this above, but we wanted to make sure you were paying attention and actually made the backup.
  4. Make sure you've got enough free space. Apple's advice is that macOS High Sierra will take up around 1.5GB more hard drive space than macOS Sierra. Generally, you're advised to have more free space than that anyway for efficient file management and smooth running of your Mac, so this is really just the absolute bare minimum of additional space you should allow for.
  5. Be ready for a large download. macOS High Sierra isn't just a security patch, so the download size is quite hefty, weighing in at 4.8GB. That's likely to take quite some time to actually complete, so it's wise to schedule the time for download when you're going to be in range of a decent connection.
  6. Make a backup. Yeah, we know, it might feel like we're harping on a point here, but it's really a very good idea. You did make a backup, right?

How to install macOS High Sierra

The actual install process for macOS High Sierra isn't markedly different from previous versions of macOS. You can initiate the download from the mac App store (or by clicking on the Apple menu, then About This Mac and then Software Update, which just takes you to the App store anyway).

Once the download is completed, you'll be prompted to close other open applications and start the upgrade process.

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Essentially speaking, if you can click on a Continue button, you should be sorted.

The actual upgrade will take some time, so it's wise to schedule it for a time when you don't need your Mac or have another system to work on. Or go and have a nice lengthy coffee break. We won't judge.

What's new in macOS High Sierra?

Aside from a number of performance and security upgrades that are essentially invisible to the end-user, macOS High Sierra also brings with it a slew of new features and applications. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but at a headline level, you'll get the following new features.

  • New file system. If you're running a Mac that uses only a solid state drive, then your system will be converted to Apple's new AFPS file system. AFPS is designed to work across all of Apple's operating systems, from watchOS to iOS to macOS with a focus on speed and security, but at the launch of macOS, it'll only be available to users with solid state drives. If you've got an older Mac with either a mechanical or hybrid "fusion" drive, you won't get AFPS at first.
  • Updated Safari browser. Safari will now automatically block autoplay videos on websites (you may clap in relief now!), reduce the level of tracking of your movements across the Internet and run markedly faster than previous versions.
  • New Photos app. The Photos app gets a chronological display mode, new filters and a range of new editing tools for photo manipulation.
  • Metal 2. Apple's upgraded API for graphics work is significantly upgraded, with a claimed 10x improvement in graphics capabilities. Metal 2 will eventually also allow for external GPUs to work with Macs, although this isn't a supported feature at the launch of macOS High Sierra. Metal 2 will also bring Macs into the world of VR creation, albeit only via the HTC Vive at launch.
  • Better sounding Siri. The improvements made to Siri's diction in iOS 11 also apply to macOS High Sierra as Apple continues to blur the lines between its mobile and desktop operating systems.

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