Ask LH: Should I Upgrade To OS X Mavericks?

Ask LH: Should I Upgrade To OS X Mavericks?

Dear Lifehacker, Now that Apple has released OS X Mavericks, I’ve looked over the features and I’m not sure if I should upgrade. I don’t know if any of the changes would really help and I don’t want to introduce new bugs and software incompatibilities. What do you think: should I upgrade now, never, or later on? Thanks, Not an Upgrade Maverick

Dear NUM,

While no upgrade ever works perfectly or adds everything we might want, we usually like it more than we hate it. Mavericks, while not without its advantages, doesn’t really fall into that category. Much like iOS 7, Apple seems to have deemed the latest version of OS X complete before it was fully tested (that is, lots of bugs) and you don’t really have much to gain. Nonetheless, in some cases people will want to upgrade. It is free, after all. Let’s break it down.

Slowness, Bugs And Other Problems

OS X Mavericks suffers from a speed decrease. Through our own experience and discussions with other users online, it looks like the latest update slows things down for everyone. Why? We’re not really sure. QuickLook, for example, seems to load incredibly slowly and nothing should cause that. Generally speaking, things just move quite a bit slower. Updates often require a bit more of the hardware but you’re likely to find yourself regularly frustrated with the speed decrease. We expect Apple to fix this with a later update, but that’s all the more reason to hold off on your own, personal upgrade for a month or two.

On top of slowness, you’ll find a bunch of bugs. While they tend to vary from user to user, we’ve found that QuickLook doesn’t preview certain files correctly, Safari often abuses the CPU (highly negating the effects of App Nap), audio often stutters for no reason and Flash audio drops out until you restart your browser. Hunting around reveals plenty of other problems. Although Apple pushed a last-minute update to try and quash some bugs, nobody knows exactly what that targeted. While the update should bring added stability, you can still expect some problems if you update right away.

You Won’t Benefit From New Technologies Yet

Apple added a bunch of awesome under-the-hood technologies in OS X Mavericks. Most notably, App Nap will suspend apps you’re not using to save you a lot of battery life. I think everyone loves the idea behind this feature, but unless you use Apple’s included apps you won’t really gain any benefits. Before App Nap can make a real impact, third party developers have to integrate it. If you really want one of the top features of OS X Mavericks, you should wait a while to upgrade so that your apps can catch up.

Most Apps Work Well

With recent updates to OS X, Apple has managed to avoid major compatibility issues with existing apps (perhaps because the changes are slight). For the most part, in our tests, apps that worked under Mountain Lion work well in Mavericks. While you might run into quirks with a few (for instance, Photoshop CS6 doesn’t work with tags in some instances, some text expanders have trouble getting permission, and some apps are a little unstable on some machines but not others), you should have no trouble work under the new OS without trouble.

We noted a few apps that crashed often under the GM (Golden Master) release, but developers have since fixed those problems. That said, we didn’t test every app under the sun, so it’s still possible that you’ll run into minor issues.

iPhone Users Will Enjoy A Few Minor Conveniences

The built-in Maps app makes it very easy to get directions and send them directly to your iDevice. That only helps if you use an iPhone and the Apple Maps app. If you prefer Google Maps, you can do the same thing with DeskConnect and you don’t need OS X Mavericks for that.

While AirDrop might seem like a helpful addition for sending files between your computer and iPhone with ease, it doesn’t actually work that way. While we expect Apple to enable this functionality, it hasn’t happened yet. We don’t know why. Either way, you can use DeskConnect to do this without upgrading as well.

Productivity Features Won’t Benefit All Users

While multiple monitor support really feels like more of a fix than a feature, if you have more than one display you’ll certainly appreciate the change. That said, most Mac users — perhaps even amongst the Lifehacker readership — just have one monitor. If you don’t have more, you don’t get anything out of these new display options.

Actionable notifications will help most users if they use Apple’s apps. If you use iMessage and Reminders you’ll probably find this feature handy under most circumstances, but if you don’t use the services you won’t. If you do use it for iMessage, you may find that longer messages won’t display in full and you’ll still have to go to the app to respond to them. This makes the feature hard to use.

Finder Tabs may or may not benefit your workflow. For some — especially those with smaller screens — they’ll help reduce clutter in the Finder. Others may find that they just have a new learning curve to overcome.

Existing Labels Get Converted To Tags

Tags can help you organise your files in OS X in ways you couldn’t before. While that sounds good on the surface, it comes at a cost of your time. Apple decided to take labels — the existing feature that colour-codes your files and works as a rudimentary tagging system — and replace it with tags. As a result, all your existing labels become tags. That means you have tags called Blue, Green, Orange, and so on. If you decide to set up a more coherent tagging system that turns “Green” into “Work”, for example, you might find a bunch of files you labelled green suddenly have the wrong tag on them. If you want to get things going with tags, prepare yourself for some cleanup in advance.

The Bottom Line

Overall, OS X Mavericks doesn’t offer many compelling reasons to upgrade right now. While by no means terrible, we highly recommend waiting until Apple squashes most of the bugs and rolls out at least one update to the first version. If you really require one of the flagship features, however, go ahead and upgrade now. Although imperfect, it will work reasonably well and won’t cost you anything but time.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • So what should people who are going to purchase the haswell mbp that come with mavericks pre loaded?

    • If you are getting a new MBP with a faster processor
      i am guessing you won’t experience the lag as much considering that the haswell is fast also
      All (most) of the OSX features are still there so there is nothing you will be missing by getting the new mbp

  • Like all OSX releases, I wonder how many of the slowness reports are from people with Spotlight still re-indexing on their machines? Just that it happens every time. And people forget every time.

    Installed on my 2010 MBP (13″, C2D). Seems to be running just fine, so far.

      • eTax is a pain…
        I work mostly on OS X…but when it comes to eTax it seems to fail less miserably (still fails from time to time) on my Windows partition…

  • Am I the only one who thinks OS X peaked at Snow Leopard? I’d still be using it if I didn’t lose my install disc and had to install Lion with a new hard drive

  • I really like the calendar Facebook event integration. Maps is Ok… But otherwise Mavericks is just a disappointment. Its slow and buggy. Running Adobe CC apps is a nuisance and crashes at the most unfortunate moments. I’m on a brand new iMac 27″ too! It’s killing me. Can’t wait for the that update!

    How hard is it to roll back to Mountain Lion?

    • Ughhhh, everything feels so sluggist like I’m having a hangover. First initial reactions to this. My iPhone Backup is taking about… well, it’s been going on for over 30 mins. Adobe apps took an eternity to load—just glad it finally loaded.

      I would want to roll back as well.

      Macbook Pro 15in 2011 model.

  • I just upgraded to Mavericks on a mid-2011 MacBook Air 11″. It is no different to Mountain Lion in terms of responsiveness.

  • Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 is behaving differently since I installed Maverick. When I go to open a file I get a full menu of ALL documents. I used to get just the menu of the most recently used folder. End result: I now have to click several times every time I close a file and open another in the same folder, instead of just once, something I do many times a day for a particular project. Given this wonderful reduction in productivity, perhaps Apple could name its next OS Redmond, in honour of that other US West Coast place renowned for wipe-outs.
    My iBooks moved away from iTunes into another folder before my very eyes. Apple knows what is best for you, right? Really helps when you’re just about to go on holidays and just want to sync a couple of Rough Guides onto your iPhone.
    The tags are of no earthly use to me.
    Apple Maps is of no earthly use to me. Whilst Google Maps has some whoopsies too, e.g. an inland New Zealand waterfall stuck out in Tasman Sea, I still prefer it.
    Can anyone provide a way of rolling back to Mountain Lion?

  • I would stay away from this upgrade – big problems with it. Nothing works any more. I’ve been using a MAC for years and am tired of Apples upgrade problems. Too many things just don’t open any more. I am getting ready to sell thing thing and go back to windows machine.

  • I’m well annoyed with Mavericks. I can no longer access any of the network printer I used at work or at home. Most are HP laser jets (three different flavours) one is a brother. I’ve tried everything and the sodding think just doesn’t work.

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