Bob LeVitus: Don’t Be in a Rush to Upgrade Your Mac or iPhone

Don't make a big mistake...

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #246

It seems I have to write a column reminding you it’s never a good idea to upgrade an OS before the “point” release every year. This year I dedicate it to the perfect storm of four new Apple operating systems becoming available in September 2017: macOS 10.13 High Sierra; iOS 11 (and already, 11.0.1); tvOS 11; and watchOS 4. Here’s my curmudgeonly advice (which is the same every year),

Here’s my curmudgeonly advice (which is the same every year).

Don’t Be in a Rush to Upgrade an OS

As much as you might want to try its shiny new features, you should never rush to install a new version of an operating system on any device you expect to use today.

Never install a new OS before the X.1 release.
Never install a new OS before the X.1 release.

See, installing a new OS is like performing a brain transplant: It replaces pretty much all of the vital software parts that bring your Apple device to life. Without an OS, your Mac, iPhone, iPad, AppleTV, or Apple Watch isn’t much more than a pile of components that are dumber than a toaster. Good-looking and pricey toasters, but without an OS they’d be dumber than a rock.

So, replacing an entire operating system is an operation fraught with opportunities for things to quickly go to heck in a handbasket. While that doesn’t happen often, it does happen. And when it does, you can pretty much count on spending at least a few hours trying to get back to where you were.

Will Your Old Hardware and Software Still Work?

Another thing to consider is the impact an OS upgrade will have on your third-party hardware and software. For example, High Sierra will only support versions 15.35 and later of Microsoft Office. For those still using Office 2011, as many (including my wife) are, you’ll either have to downgrade macOS 10.12 Sierra or upgrade to a newer version of Office. The same goes for many older Adobe apps.

So, before you upgrade to macOS 10.13 High Sierra, might I suggest you make sure that your favorite apps and utilities are going to work? The best place to start is the crowd-sourced application compatibility website, which already offers High Sierra compatibility information on thousands of Mac apps.

Older apps may be even more of a problem under iOS 11, which no longer supports 32-bit applications. On my iPhone, for example, that resulted in more than 50 apps that are incompatible and have no updates available. While these are mostly older apps I won’t miss much, there are a few—like Trivial Pursuit, You Don’t Know Jack, XLR8, Capo, and WordsWorth, to name a few—I’m going to miss a lot.

iOS App Compatibility Tip

To find out which of your iOS apps are going to cease to function after you upgrade to iOS 11, launch the Settings app and tap General–>About–>Applications to see a list of incompatible 32-bit apps (requires iOS 10.3 or later).

At least 50 apps on my iPhone don't work anymore...
At least 50 apps on my iPhone don’t work anymore…

My Recommendation

I recommend you not install any OS upgrade the first time you see it. Rather, think it through and proceed with caution. Don’t forget to make one or more backups, just in case, and do your homework by scouring the Internet for appropriate phrases like, “macOS High Sierra issues” or “iOS 11 problems.”

One last thing: Don’t forget that it’s always harder to downgrade than it was to upgrade in the first place, so think before you click OK.

6 thoughts on “Bob LeVitus: Don’t Be in a Rush to Upgrade Your Mac or iPhone

  • wab95: Well put. Not the part about you being an idiot. But the rest. Thanks for sharing.

    Everyone else: This is precisely why I write this column (or one like it) nearly every year. Stuff happens when you upgrade your OS. Sometimes bad stuff. Be prepared and don’t be in a hurry to install a shiny new operating system. Wait for others to experience (and report on) the pain before you decide to backup and then pull the trigger. Rant off.

  • Bob:

    Just a quick follow up on my macOS High Sierra installation and a lessons learnt.

    As I mentioned yesterday, I had planned to clone my MBP hard drive one last time prior to installing macOS X v10.13. For some inexplicable reason, the hard drive I had ordered from Apple to do this last backup was shipped to my university address, which is not where I was. I figured, I’ve already made hard and virtual backups, even if I didn’t have a bootable backup that included my current days work. After all, I’ve been doing these for years, and have never had a problem. What could possibly go wrong, right? I got an error message when I went to the App Store to download High Sierra, and in the spirit of Jim Lovell shortly after lift-off aboard Apollo 13 dismissed it as my glitch for this mission. I deleted the faulty installation download, restarted my laptop and redownloaded the installation again. It looked great and prompted me to continue. My computer rebooted as planned, and went through the first progress bar just fine, but when it got to the second, it stalled, and informed me that it could not continue due to a possible corrupted or missing file from the OS download. I had never seen that before. It instructed me to exit the installation and retry the download. I could not get out the installation loop. I was about to boot into Safe Mode (restart and holding down the Shift key), when I thought, again channelling Jim Lovell, to call Apple, because, Houston, we have a problem.

    What worked:
    With the Apple tech on the line, I tried Safe Mode. No joy. It would not start up. What did work, in case anyone else experiences this, was to boot into Recovery Mode (Command + R, or on my 2011 MBP Command + Option + R). This provided four options, of which I selected Reinstall macOS. This time, all went well.

    All my mission critical apps work fine.

    The key point here is, never skip the backup prior to installing a new OS. Although I did have all files backed up on DropBox and Transporter, neither takes the place of a up to the last minute bootable clone at your fingertips. Although I got out of a tight spot, I was lucky. I should have followed my own counsel and waited until I got that or another hard drive and ran Carbon Copy Cloner.

    Jim Lovell is a hero. I was an idiot.

  • Bob:

    Your advice has never been better aimed than with this particular update. The new file system is what has me particularly concerned, although I applaud the move. The two apps I am most concerned about have not expressly stated that they are High Sierra compatible, neither have they said that they are not. Both are professional apps, and one gave a warning about Sierra when it came out, so I’m taking their absence of warning as green light.

    I’ve expressly waited to get a tranche of work done this week before making the move. I’ll clone my hard drive on last time today, and then go for the upgrade.

  • chama98: Sorry about that. But I hear you and that’s why I write something like this most years around this time. Too many people get burned every year by clicking “Install” before thinking through the potential consequences. I hate to be the curmudgeon every time but someone has to do it… 🙂

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