Screenshot 2014-10-15 07.13.55

Apple’s latest desktop operating system, OS X Yosemite, is available today. In this post, we’ll take you through the steps required to protect your data by backing it up, upgrading the OS, and getting started with the latest version of OS X.

Before you get started, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need. To backup your data, you’ll need an external hard drive or a Time Capsule with at least the same amount of storage as your hard drive. You’ll also need to make sure your Mac is capable of running Yosemite (we’ll show you how below), and you’ll want to make sure you have an iTunes account to purchase the update.

Determining if you can upgrade

Before installing the update, you need to make sure that your machine is compatible with Yosemite. Most of the information we need to determine this is found on the “About This Mac” screen. To access it, click on the Apple icon on the upper left hand corner of your screen, then click on “About This Mac.”

Screenshot 2014-10-15 07.18.52

This screen will allow you to see which operating system you are running, check to see if your software is up to date, tell you how much memory your machine has, and let you know what model you have.

Screenshot 2014-10-15 07.20.19

Because Mavericks is downloaded through the Mac App Store, you’ll need to make sure the version number listed on the “About This Mac” screen is 10.6.8 or higher. If you do not have 10.6 (also known as Snow Leopard) you can purchase it online. Clicking on the “Software Update” button will check to see if there any updates available for your machine. It is recommended to make sure your software is up to date before installing an operating system. You also need to have a minimum of 2 GB of memory.

Here is a list of machines that are compatible with OS X Yosemite:

  • iMac (mid 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (late 2008 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (mid/late 2007 or newer)
  • Mac Mini (Early 2008 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
  • Xserve (early 2009)

If you are not sure what year you purchased your machine, you can find out from the “About this Mac” page by clicking on the “More Info…” button.

Screenshot 2014-10-15 16.59.44

Even if your machine is compatible with Yosemite, realize that not all features will work. Handoff and Instant Hotspot will work with the 2012 or newer iMac, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini and the Late 2013 Mac Pro with an iOS device that has a Lightning connector and is running iOS 8.

Backing up your data

If your machine is supports Yosemite, it is recommended that you have a backup of your data before updating.

If you are already using Time Machine, it is really easy to double check to see when your data was last backed up and to force Time Machine to do another backup if needed. Just click the Time Machine icon (the one that looks like a clock) to see when your last backup was completed. If you need to do another backup, just click on “Back Up Now.”

Screenshot 2014-10-15 17.02.09

If you are not backing up using Time Machine, let’s discuss the different methods of backing up your Mac using Time Machine. You have two different options: using a Time Capsule, or using a third party external hard-drive.

1. Backing up to Time Capsule. To set up your AirPort Time Capsule for backups, open up System Preferences and then click on “Time Machine.”  Then click “Select Disk” and select your Time Capsule from the list that appears.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.03.08 PM

2. Backing up to external hard-drive. When you plug in any external hard drive for the first time, a pop-up will appear asking if you would like to use it for Time Machine.

Screenshot 2014-10-15 23.14.35

Checking encrypt backup data will allow you to encrypt the Time Machine backup using FileFault 2. It is up to you if you want to encrypt the backup. Doing so will give you an extra layer of protection by requiring a password to access the backup later, but encrypting the data can noticeably slow down the backup process.

Clicking on “Use as Backup Disk” will select the external hard drive use with Time Machine. Since the initial backup could take several hours, I would recommend doing it overnight so that you do not interrupt the process. After the initial backup, Time Machine makes hourly backups of only the files that were changed as long as the drive is connected. If the drive isn’t connected when it’s time for a backup, Time Machine will simply wait until the drive is connected again and continue as normal.

In addition to a Time Machine backup, or instead of a Time Machine backup you can use online backup services, although this can be much slower than using a local disk since it has to upload your data to the cloud and is not natively supported by OS X.

Installing Yosemite

Once your machine is all backed up, you are ready to download Yosemite from the App Store. The download is free and takes about an hour to finish, depending on your Internet speed. Once it finishes downloading, the installer will open automatically and you will be prompted to begin. To install, press the “Continue” button.

Screenshot 2014-10-16 06.34.02

The first part of the installation process just involves agreeing to Apple’s terms and conditions. To continue, press the “Agree” button. If you decide later that you want to read (or re-read) all of the terms and conditions, you can find them on Apple’s website.

Screenshot 2014-10-16 07.40.20

You’ll need to confirm once again that you read the terms and conditions.

Screenshot 2014-10-16 07.44.03

Next you’ll need to choose which drive you want to install Yosemite on. For most people this should be your internal hard drive, and is often the only choice unless you have a backup drive or other external storage plugged in. For advanced users who either partition their hard drive, or have multiple hard drives in their machine, choose the installation drive that best meets your needs.

Screenshot 2014-10-16 06.26.29

In order to continue installing you do need to enter in your administrator password for the computer. Usually this password is different from your Apple ID. This password is used when you log in to your computer, and is sometimes required for settings changes. Not all users on the computer are administrators so it is important to make sure you enter in the administrator’s information. If you have more than one account on your machine, the administrator is usually the first account that was setup.

After entering in the administrator account information, OS X Yosemite prepares to install.

After a few minutes, your computer will automatically reboot to continue the installation process. It now looks identical to how iOS devices reboot.

2014-09-04 17.44.03

The computer will boot to a black screen with a gray box showing you the current installation progress. It usually gives an initial install time of thirty minutes to install depending on the speed of your machine.

2014-07-21 19.02.45

If the progress bar seems to get stuck at “Less than a minute remaining,” don’t worry. This message is almost always wrong and takes much longer than it says. Don’t try to reboot your computer during this step.

It will then restart itself and do another installation that takes about seven minutes. Even though the installation is complete, there are a few more things the installer has to do before you can resume using your Mac. This process takes a few minutes, but goes much faster than the previous step

When the installation is finished, you’ll be presented with a message that the installation succeeded. Your computer will reboot one last time. You are now running OS X Yosemite. Once the reboot finishes, there are a few additional steps you’ll need to complete to get back to using your Mac.

The setup process begins by asking for you to sign in with your Apple ID. This will allow you to setup iCloud, iTunes, iBooks, App Store and Find My Mac.

Screenshot 2014-10-16 07.16.40

Then it will ask you if you want to set up iCloud Keychain on your Mac. iCloud Keychain would allow you to store passwords and credit cards in the cloud and it will sync across your devices.

Screenshot 2014-10-16 07.15.16

It will then ask you about setting up iCloud Drive. iCloud Drive will allow you to access any type of file that you want to store in there, such as iWork documents. If you have iOS devices that are running iOS 8 you can set up iCloud Drive. If you are not on iOS 8 here is how to set it up. If your iOS devices are not compatible with iOS 8, then do not set up iCloud Drive.


It does detect if there is any old incompatible software on your machine. If you have any incompatible software it alerts you that it has been moved to an “Incompatible Software” folder.

Just like with iOS 8, it asks if you want to help Apple and app developers improve their software by automatically sending diagnostic and usages reports.

Screenshot 2014-08-20 20.56.16

To start using the machine click the “Start Using Your Mac” button. At this point, depending on which version of OS X you upgraded from, you might need to complete a few extra steps, such as logging into (or setting up) an iCloud account. These don’t take very long and they’re very straightforward.

Now you have OS X Yosemite installed on your machine you can go to Get to know your Mac, which brings you to a page on Apple’s site that details the changes in Yosemite. The second option, “Mac Help,” brings you to OS X Yosemite user guide.

Screenshot 2014-10-16 16.18.29

Congratulations! You are now setup and running on OS X Yosemite. Over the next few days we will be publishing several how-to articles to help you get the most out of your upgraded Mac. Keep checking back for more helpful tips and tricks from 9to5Mac.





FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel

About the Author

Sarah Guarino's favorite gear