Do more with your Ap­ple gear

Any­one can sign up for the OS X pub­lic beta and take El Cap­i­tan for a spin

Mac Format - - CONTENTS - Try out our fan­tas­tic tu­to­ri­als cov­er­ing OS X, iOS and a range of the lat­est and great­est Mac soft­ware

“Get started with El Cap­i­tan to­day to help app de­vel­op­ers make your vi­tal apps and kit work with the fi­nal ver­sion”

There are sev­eral rea­sons you might want to make an ex­ter­nal boot disk for El Cap­i­tan. If you’ve signed up to the pub­lic beta pro­gram, for ex­am­ple, cre­at­ing an ex­ter­nal boot disk is the safest way to try out Ap­ple’s new op­er­at­ing sys­tem while re­tain­ing the abil­ity to in­stantly fall back to Yosemite when you need to do some work.

Prior to the new OS launch­ing, it may also be a good idea to do the re­verse – cre­ate a boot disk for Yosemite be­fore you up­date to El Cap­i­tan. That way, if any­thing goes wrong, or if you find that El Cap­i­tan causes prob­lems with apps or hard­ware you need, you can eas­ily boot back into Yosemite.

The pro­cesses for each of those tasks are dif­fer­ent, how­ever. The El Cap­i­tan boot disk will hold a clean in­stall of the new sys­tem, or a beta of it, and noth­ing else. If you were to do that for your cur­rent OS and some­thing went wrong with El Cap­i­tan af­ter up­grad­ing, you might have to start over, re­in­stalling ev­ery­thing, los­ing files that weren’t backed up. At best, you’d en­dure a lengthy re­store from Time Ma­chine.

So, it’s much bet­ter to clone your cur­rent sys­tem and use that as a backup when you in­stall El Cap­i­tan. You should do that any­way, as a mat­ter of course, when­ever you up­date the op­er­at­ing sys­tem or make any ma­jor changes to your Mac.

There are a num­ber of ways you can clone your boot drive, and Car­bon Copy Cloner ( of­fers a whole raft of op­tions for cre­at­ing clones, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to cre­ate spe­cific tasks and sched­ule them. It also pro­vides a sim­pli­fied ver­sion of its in­ter­face, de­signed to al­low you to eas­ily clone one drive to another. The best news of all is that there’s a free, full‑fea­tured 30-day trial you can take for a test drive and use to clone your sys­tem be­fore in­stalling a new ver­sion.

In the rest of this tu­to­rial, we’ll show you how to cre­ate a boot disk for the

Clone your cur­rent boot drive and use that as a backup when you in­stall El Cap­i­tan

El Cap­i­tan pub­lic beta. The process is sim­i­lar if you want to cre­ate a clean, sys­tem-only boot vol­ume of any ver­sion of OS X since Lion (as­sum­ing you’ve had an Ap­ple ID since the launch of the Mac App Store and have pre­vi­ously down­loaded each ver­sion of the OS).

You can ac­cess any OS X in­staller from Lion to Yosemite, if you have pre­vi­ously down­loaded them, from the Pur­chased tab in the Mac App Store. Just click on the tab and scroll through the list of apps un­til you see ‘OS X’ and then the name of the ver­sion you want. When you find it, click Down­load. This will put an in­staller for that ver­sion into your Ap­pli­ca­tions folder, ready for you to in­stall on any disk.

Choos­ing a disk

The first part of cre­at­ing a bootable in­stall disk for any OS is to de­cide where you’re go­ing to in­stall it. An ex­ter­nal SSD would be per­fect, since it’s fast and will have plenty of space on the disk. For El Cap­i­tan, you’ll need a min­i­mum of 16GB, so you could use a USB stick if you wanted to. That’s fine for stor­ing just the OS, and makes for a neat so­lu­tion as an emer­gency boot disk. But if you want to test drive apps with the El Cap­i­tan beta, you’ll quickly run out of room on a USB stick (and it’ll be rel­a­tively slow). So, if you don’t have an ex­ter­nal SSD, and don’t want to buy one, the next best op­tion is a Thun­der­bolt or USB 3.0 hard drive, if your Mac has a suit­able port. If not, a USB 2.0 drive will do the job, though again it will be slower than the other ex­ter­nal op­tions.


Plug in the drive you plan to use and wait un­til it mounts. If you haven’t al­ready signed up to the El Cap­i­tan beta pro­gram, go to http://beta.ap­ple. com and fol­low the in­struc­tions to sign up. You’ll need an Ap­ple ID. If you’ve al­ready signed up, you’ll need to go to http://beta.ap­ to sign in and nom­i­nate a de­vice to ver­ify your

iden­tity, then type in the code that Ap­ple sends you to com­plete the twostep ver­i­fi­ca­tion process.

Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be taken to the ‘Guide for Pub­lic Be­tas’ page. Scroll down it to Get­ting Started and click ‘En­roll your Mac’. On the next page, scroll down to step 2 and click the but­ton la­belled ‘Down­load the El Cap­i­tan pub­lic beta’. The link will take you to the Mac App Store, au­to­mat­i­cally en­ter your re­demp­tion code, and start down­load­ing the El Cap­i­tan beta. Don’t click it yet; once it down­loads, it will in­stall au­to­mat­i­cally. In­stead, when you’re ready, go to the step-by-step walkthrough be­low.

Other op­tions

In­stalling the El Cap­i­tan beta on an ex­ter­nal drive is only one op­tion. Ap­ple’s ad­vice is to in­stall it on a sec­ondary Mac. If you have a sec­ond Mac and don’t use it for crit­i­cal work, that’s a good op­tion, pro­vided you back up its hard drive first.

You could also par­ti­tion your Mac’s main in­ter­nal drive, and run a dual-boot sys­tem, choos­ing which OS to boot into ei­ther from Sys­tem Pref­er­ences or by hold­ing down the å key at startup. But to do that, you’d need to wipe your en­tire hard drive and re­in­stall Yosemite, as well as all your apps. That’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing: you’ll have a brand new, fresh in­stall of Yosemite at the end of it, with­out all the de­tri­tus that can build up and cause prob­lems as you in­stall one sys­tem on top of another and try out apps. How­ever, it is also con­sum­ing and fid­dly, and only an op­tion if you have plenty of time to spare for re­in­stalling things.

The fi­nal op­tion is to run El Cap­i­tan as a vir­tual OS (within your ex­ist­ing sys­tem) us­ing Par­al­lels Desk­top or VMWare Fu­sion. That’s a bit more fid­dly to set up, how­ever, as it has to be in­stalled from within the vir­tu­al­i­sa­tion soft­ware. It does al­low you, how­ever, to run El Cap­i­tan with­out restart­ing your Mac.

Is it safe?

El Cap­i­tan is beta soft­ware, which means it’s at a stage where its not yet con­sid­ered fit for broad pub­lic re­lease. It’s likely to have bugs which are yet to be ironed out. Whether these bugs are mi­nor ir­ri­ta­tions or po­ten­tially big prob­lems is any­one’s guess. But at this stage – El Cap­i­tan has been tested by

de­vel­op­ers since early June and by Mac users at large since early July – it’s un­likely to be the lat­ter.

Nev­er­the­less, you should treat it with cau­tion. That means back­ing up all your data, prefer­ably us­ing a Time Ma­chine or other in­cre­men­tal back-up sys­tem, as well as cloning your hard drive. Don’t use it for mis­sion crit­i­cal work at this stage, and don’t store any data on your El Cap­i­tan disk with­out also cre­at­ing a copy some­where else.

How­ever, as long as you take those pre­cau­tions, there’s noth­ing to fear. Thou­sands of Mac users are al­ready us­ing it, and so far there have been no re­ports of se­ri­ous prob­lems with it. At this stage, the beta is rea­son­ably close to the fi­nal ver­sion, but is likely to be up­dated again be­fore the fi­nal re­lease ships. So, the other thing you should do is keep the beta up­dated by al­low­ing the Mac App Store to in­stall up­dates as they be­come avail­able.

What should I do when El Cap­i­tan ships?

Keep the disk that con­tains the beta ver­sion for a while. If you up­date your Mac to El Cap­i­tan and find you have prob­lems with, say, Mail, com­par­ing your main in­stal­la­tion with the clean beta on the ex­ter­nal drive may al­low you to iden­tify whether the prob­lem is with El Cap­i­tan or with the main in­stall of the fi­nal sys­tem on your Mac. If it’s the lat­ter, you might be able to fix it by re­pair­ing per­mis­sions, root­ing out trou­ble­some pref­er­ence files, or, as a last re­sort, by per­form­ing a full clean in­stall of El Cap­i­tan on your Mac. Kenny Hem­phill

The first part of cre­at­ing a bootable in­stall disk for any OS is to de­cide where you’ll in­stall it

You can in­stall El Cap­i­tan on a sep­a­rate hard drive to your ex­ist­ing sys­tem.

Feed­back As­sis­tant al­lows you to send Ap­ple de­tails of any bugs or prob­lems you en­counter while test­ing the pub­lic beta ver­sion of El Cap­i­tan. It pro­vides space to de­scribe in de­tail any prob­lems you en­counter.

Cloning your startup disk with a tool like Car­bon Copy Cloner is a good choice.

Go to http://beta. ap­ if you want to take the beta of El Cap­i­tan for a test drive.

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