Getting Your Mac Ready for OS X Mavericks

Avoid Upgrade Issues by Preparing Your Mac in Advance

OS X Mavericks became available in the fall of 2013, and is perceived as a major update to OS X. This may be because of the change in the naming convention from cats (Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion) to place names (Mavericks is a reference to a surfing spot in Northern California).

But in actuality, OS X Mavericks is more of a natural upgrade to Mountain Lion than a major new version of the OS. I think Apple should have waited on the name change until it released the next major bump (from 10.x to 11.x), but that's beside the point. The question is, what are the minimum requirements for running OS X Mavericks and how can you get your Mac ready for the new version? (Okay, that's really two questions, but we'll answer both of them.)

OS X Mavericks (10.9) Minimum Requirements

OS X Mavericks login screen
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

As of this writing, Apple hasn't released the minimum requirements for OS X Mavericks. We'll update this article the day Mavericks is released, but in the meantime, here are the minimum specs based on what we know about OS X Mavericks so far.

OS X Mavericks continues with the Mac App Store distribution process. That means that in order to install OS X Mavericks, you must be running a version of OS X that supports the Mac App Store. And that means the oldest version of the OS you can upgrade from is OS X Snow Leopard. It just so happens that OS X Snow Leopard and OS X Snow Leopard Server are the only versions of the OS that are still available on optical media from the online Apple store and Apple retailers.

Back Up Your Data (I Mean It)

Time Machine and iMac
Image courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

It may seem obvious, but before you consider installing the new OS X Mavericks, you need to make sure that you can return to your previous OS and all your data should anything go wrong during the installation, or should you later discover that a critical piece of software isn't compatible with OS X Mavericks.

When I update to a new OS, I make sure that I have both a recent Time Machine backup and a bootable clone of my startup drive. At the minimum, you should have one or the other; preferably, both.

If you need an external drive to back up your data, check out our Guide to External Drives for Your Mac.

Repair Drive Errors and Disk Permissions

Disk Utility
Courtesy of Apple

Many times, we upgrade our OSes and hope that it will put an end to some intermittent problem we're having, such as a spinning pinwheel of death (SPOD), occasional freezes, or apps that refuse to start.

Unfortunately, upgrading OS X rarely helps with these types of problems, so it's a good idea to try to correct them before you upgrade. After all, why carry over problems when you might be able to eliminate them before adding another layer of complexity?

Start by checking and repairing any drive errors you may be experiencing. You can use Disk Utility (included with OS X) to perform basic repairs. You may also want to consider third-party disk repair and maintenance tools, such as Drive Genius, Disk Warrior, and TechTool Pro.

After your drive is free from errors, be sure to repair disk permissions. You can find instructions for repairing your drive and repairing disk permissions by clicking on the title of this section, above.

One last tip for this section: If your Mac's startup drive continues to have problems, this might be a good time to consider replacing it. Drives are relatively inexpensive, and I'd rather install OS X Mavericks on a fresh new drive than allow accumulated debris, corrupt data, and miscellaneous legacy issues to continue to haunt my system and ruin my day.

Copy Your Existing OS X Recovery HD

Recovery Disk Assistant
Courtesy of Apple

After you perform a backup of your Mac and all of its data, you may think you’re ready to install Mavericks. But there’s one last bit of information that needs to be backed up: your existing Recovery HD partition.

If you’re upgrading from Snow Leopard, you can skip this section since you won't have a Recovery HD partition. The Recovery HD partition is a feature of OS X Lion and later.

You can create a backup in a number of ways. If you use a current version of Carbon Copy Cloner to create a clone of your Mac's startup drive, then you may notice the option to also create a clone of the Recovery HD partition. Be sure to select that option.

If you use Time Machine or one of the many other cloning tools, you can create your own Recovery HD using a handy utility from Apple. You’ll find more info by clicking on the title of this section, above.

OS X Mavericks Installation Guides

OS X Mavericks running on MacBook Pro
Courtesy of Apple

Our OS X Mavericks installation guides cover all aspects of installing Mavericks, including creating a bootable installer, performing an upgrade install, performing a clean install on your existing startup drive, plus other helpful tidbits for getting Mavericks installed on your Mac without running into problems.

Moving Beyond OS X Mavericks

OS X Mavericks has been superseded by later versions of OS X, including OS X Yosemite and OS X El Capitan. If your Mac supports the later versions (you can find minimum requirements for the newer versions of OS X in the "Our Expert Recommends" section, below), I suggest skipping Mavericks and moving to a more recent version of OS X.

Published: 8/30/2013

Updated: 1/25/2016