How to Perform an Upgrade Install of macOS Mavericks

Upgrade from a previous version of macOS

There are two ways of installing macOS Mavericks (10.9): a standard install and an upgrade install. An upgrade install offers at least two benefits over a standard install: it's simpler, and it retains almost all settings, files, and apps from older versions of macOS.

Mavericks will automatically check to make sure that your apps are compatible. Apps that do not work with Mavericks will be moved to an Incompatible Software folder. It's possible some preference settings will need to be reconfigured or modified in the setup process.

When you use the upgrade install method, macOS Mavericks is installed over your existing system. This process replaces most system files with new ones from Mavericks, but it leaves your personal files and most preferences and apps alone.

Aside from these minor inconveniences, performing an upgrade install of macOS Mavericks is fairly easy.

Hand updating software on a laptop
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Upgrade From Any Previous Version of macOS

With an upgrade install, you can skip over outdated versions of macOS, jumping from any older version to a newer one. That's because upgrades since macOS Lion (10.7) have included all of the core files needed since macOS Snow Leopard (10.6). The installer can determine the version of the OS that is being upgraded and which files are needed to update it.

This also holds true for later versions of the operating system. So long as you have macOS Snow Leopard or later running on your Mac, you can upgrade to the most recent version of the operating system. Of course, your device must also meet the minimum system requirements.

Back up Your Data Before Upgrading Your OS

Apple Time Machine icon

Whenever you make a major change to your Mac, it's a good idea to back up your system first. That way, if anything goes wrong, you can return your Mac to the state it was in before you performed the upgrade.

You may discover after upgrading that some of your apps are not compatible with the new OS. With a backup, you can either return your Mac to the previous OS or create a partition that will allow you to boot into the older OS when needed.

We highly recommend having both a Time Machine or other conventional backup of your Mac, as well as a clone of your startup drive. Some may consider this a bit overkill, but it is a reliable safety net.

What You Need to Upgrade to macOS Mavericks

  • A copy of the macOS Mavericks installer, which you can obtain from the Mac App Store. Remember, in order to access the store, you must be running macOS Snow Leopard or later.
  • A startup drive with sufficient space for the Mavericks installation. Because you're performing an upgrade install, the target destination for the upgrade will be your startup drive. The drive must have enough free space to perform the installation as well as enough free space for your OS and apps to work well after the installation is complete. Our general guideline is to keep a minimum of 15% of the drive available as free space; a larger percentage of free space is better.
  • 650 MB additional free space on the startup drive for the Recovery HD partition that will be created during the installation process.

Upgrade Install for macOS Mavericks

If you've downloaded a copy of macOS Mavericks, the installer will likely be located in the Applications folder. The download may also auto-start the installation process, but in this guide we will assume that the installer did not launch on its own.

  1. Close any apps that are currently running on your Mac, including your browser.

    If you need to access these instructions, either print them by selecting Print from your browser's file menu, or use a separate device, such as a smartphone or tablet, to read the instructions.

  2. Launch the Mavericks installer by double-clicking the Install OS X Mavericks icon in the /Applications folder.

  3. Once the Mavericks installer window opens, select Continue.

    Opting to continue Mavericks installation.
  4. When the Mavericks license agreement appears, read (or don't read) its contents, then select Agree.

  5. A dialog sheet will open stating that you have agreed to the terms of the license. Select Agree.

  6. The Mavericks installer will display the drive icon for your startup drive. If you have multiple drives attached to the Mac, you can choose a different drive destination for the installation. Select Show All Disks to reveal and select the drive you wish to use. Once the correct drive is selected, select Install.

    How to Perform an Upgrade Install of macOS Mavericks
  7. Enter your administrator password, then select OK.

  8. The Mavericks installer will begin copying the files it needs to the selected drive. Once finished, your Mac will restart automatically.

  9. Once the Mac restarts, the install process will continue. This may take some time, ranging from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the speed of the device and the type of media (hard drive, SSD) you are installing the upgrade on.

  10. Once the installation of macOS Mavericks is complete, your Mac will restart automatically.

Configure Your Mac After Installing macOS Mavericks

At this point, your Mac has restarted for the second time in the install process. Once the housekeeping is complete, your Mac will either display a login screen or your Desktop, depending on how you had your Mac configured previously.

  1. If requested, enter your login password. If you didn't have an Apple ID set up, you will be asked to create one. Provide the requested information, then select Continue. You can also select Set Up Later to bypass the Apple ID step.

    iCloud keychain
  2. You will be asked if you wish to set up iCloud Keychain. This feature is new to macOS Mavericks, and it allows you to save frequently used passwords to iCloud. You can set up iCloud Keychain now or later (or never). Make a selection, then select Continue.

  3. If you decided to set up iCloud Keychain, continue from here; otherwise, jump to step 6.

  4. You will be asked to create a four-digit security code for the iCloud Keychain. Enter the four digits, then select Continue.

  5. Enter a telephone number that can receive SMS text messages. This is part of the security system. If you need to use the four-digit security code, Apple will send an SMS text message with its own set of numbers. You would then enter those numbers into a prompt to prove that you are who you say you are. Enter the phone number, then select Continue.

  6. Mavericks will display a list of applications it found that are not compatible with the OS. The applications will be automatically moved to a folder named Incompatible Software, located in the root folder of your startup drive.

  7. The iCloud preference pane will open and display the new iCloud licensing agreement. Select the I have read and agree to the iCloud Terms and Conditions checkbox, then select Continue.

  8. You can now close the iCloud preference pane.

The macOS Mavericks installation is complete. Take some time to explore the new features, then get back to work (or play)!

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