A guide to downloading OS X Mavericks

Apple has officially released its latest operating system, OS X Mavericks, for free. Mac users can install it immediately. Here's what you need to know and how to get it.

About Mavericks

Mavericks is version 10.9 of Apple OS X. At first glance, it closely resembles the previous version, Mountain Lion, but it comes with hundreds of small improvements that add up to a significantly upgraded operating system.

For example, you can now reply to an iMessage right from the notification of a new incoming message, rather than open up the iMessage app. Safari has similar improvements – new functions and features that let you stay in your current window while getting relevant information or related tasks done.

More importantly for laptop users, Mavericks contains a number of improvements that extend battery life and improve memory usage. It's impressive to see these kind of improvements at the software level.

Is your Mac compatible?

Your Mac is likely to be compatible if you are running Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6 ) or later. Here is Apple's list of compatible machines:

  • iMac (mid 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (late 2008 aluminium, or early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (mid/late 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (late 2008 or newer)
  • Mac mini (early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (early 2008 or newer)
  • Xserve (early 2009)

From Snow Leopard, Lion, and Mountain Lion, you'll be able to upgrade to Mavericks in one click – there’s no stepped upgrading required.

If you have an iMac or MacBook Pro from 2007 or later, you should be fine, although people with older machines may want to clean up and optimise their machines slightly before upgrading, especially if they've become sluggish over the years. I recommend running a clean-up utility, such as CCleaner, which is free and what I use at home. You might also verify or repair the disk (Applications > Utilities > Disk Utilities). And finally, though this may seem like rudimentary advice, transfer huge files (videos, very large photos and PDFs) to an external hard drive or another place to get them off your Mac.

Before you download...

Before you install a whole new operating system, take a few minutes to prepare so that your update will go smoothly.

Save, quit, backup. Save any work you have open, and then quit the applications you were using. Backup your data. Please. Really? Okay, if I can't convince you to back up your entire machine, how about just backing up your most important data?

Update (or remove) apps. Check for app updates, and run the ones you need except Mavericks for now. These updates will appear in the Mac App Store. Even better, if you see any programs in the updates list that you don't use any more, uninstall them. As we’ve just been saying, it's more efficient to do a little clean up before you install the new OS rather than after.

Install Apple OS X Mavericks

Go back to the App Store icon, and now install Mavericks. Also, make sure you don't futz around with your machine while it's updating.