Ask LH: Should I Install The iOS 8 And OS X Yosemite Betas?

Ask LH: Should I Install The iOS 8 And OS X Yosemite Betas?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m not a developer or anything, but I’m really excited about the new improvements in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. Is it safe to install the betas for them? What’s the experience going to be like if I do? Sincerely, Bleeding Edgar

Dear BE,

After the announcements earlier this week, we’re pretty stoked about both iOS 8 and Yosemite too. However, as with most of Apple’s betas, it’s hard to recommend that anyone who isn’t a developer check them out. Let’s start with iOS 8 before moving onto Yosemite.

Hold Off on Installing iOS 8

Over the years, Apple has repeatedly shown us that installing beta versions of iOS is a bad idea. They’re buggy, unstable, hard to use, drain your battery life and make a bunch of your apps unusable. iOS 8 is no different.

As a general recommendation, it’s a bad idea to install beta software on any device you use daily. This is especially the case with your phone, which you use for all kinds of things. In the case of iOS 8, you’ll probably lose the ability to use a handful of your favourite apps (this forum post on iMore compiles which apps are working and which aren’t), and your device may be clunky to use.

With iOS 8 specifically, you won’t have access to most of the big features until it officially launches. Healthkit won’t be too useful until other apps tap into it, and the same goes for HomeKit. Likewise, Continuity will be useless until Yosemite is released. Other big features, like the new photo management tool, third-party keyboards, family sharing, or even the new messaging features won’t be useful until iOS 8 is public. Basically, all you’ll get are a handful of cool but not revolutionary features, most of which you can get from jailbreaking.

All that said, if you still want to check out iOS 8, Gizmodo has a guide for where to get it and how to install it. Just make sure you back up all your data before you do so.

If you decide it’s just too buggy for you, you can go back to iOS 7.1.1, but it will take a little bit of work. Downgrading will erase all the data on your device and set it up as a fresh installation, so make sure you’re prepared for that. Here are the steps on downgrading to iOS 7:

  1. Download the iOS 7.1.1 IPSW file for your device (you can find a list of direct links here).
  2. Put your phone in recovery mode: turn the phone off, plug it into your computer while holding the Home Button until the device turns on and asks you to connect to iTunes.
  3. In iTunes, Option-Click the “Restore iPhone” button, select your IPSW file and wait for iTunes to install iOS 7 again.

After the installation, your iOS device will be back on iOS 7, but all your data will be gone, so you’ll need to wait for it to sync again.

Wait for Yosemite’s Public Beta (and Install it the Right Way)

As with iOS 8, if you’re a developer (or don’t mind going through back channels), you can download the Yosemite beta right now. However, Apple will be giving everyone a chance to be a beta tester for OS X Yosemite in coming weeks. If you’re not a developer, you are probably better off waiting for the public test.

Apple’s relatively careful when it comes to its desktop operating systems. While bugs will certainly be around in the public beta, they’re probably not going to destroy your system. Developer betas are different though. Since the general assumption with a beta is that you know what you’re doing, these early betas tend to be buggy and unstable. More importantly for you, Yosemite isn’t feature-complete right now. As Gizmodo notes in its preview post, you’ll only be able to use a handful of the new features, and the bulk of the really appealing stuff — like Continuity — are missing altogether. Plus, Cult of Mac found that Yosemite has the potential to break app compatibility and make your computer worthless.

If you’re still itching to check out the beta, you should do so on a partition instead of overwriting Mavericks. This way, you can play around and test the new operating system without messing with your main setup. Even though you’re installing Yosemite on a new partition, make sure your computer is backed up. Once you’ve taken care of that, here’s how to partition your drive and install Yosemite safely:

  1. Open Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities).
  2. Select your Mac’s hard drive.
  3. Select the Partition button.
  4. Click the “+” icon and decide how large a partition you want (10-30 GB for Yosemite and a few apps should be fine, depending on how much you plan on using it).
  5. Name your partition and click Apply.
  6. Launch the Yosemite installer.
  7. When prompted to choose a disk, click “Show all disks” and select the partition you just created.

That’s it. OS X Yosemite will be installed on the new partition, and you’ll still have OS X Mavericks for when you want your computer to actually work. You can choose which one to launch by holding Option when you start up your computer.

As we’ve discussed previously, life on the bleeding edge can get messy. When software is in beta, it’s not expected to work by the people who make it, so you shouldn’t expect it to either. All that said, it can be a rewarding experience to get in on betas early if you’re willing to report bugs and deal with the problems. Just make sure you give yourself a way out for when you need your devices to actually work.


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  • I installed the ios 8 beta, just like I installed the ios 7 beta, so I knew what I was getting into. It has been surprisingly stable for me, most apps have worked fine (compared to ios7). I have one major bug with Safari that makes it crash but I found a workaround.

    I enjoy getting each new beta and seeing how the OS grows and changes by the time it reaches public release.

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