Dear Lifehacker, I'm not a developer or anything, but I'm really excited about the new improvements in iOS 10 and macOS Sierra. Is it safe to install the betas for them? What’s the experience going to be like if I do? Thanks, Bleeding Edgar
After the announcements last month, we’re pretty stoked about both iOS 10 and Sierra too, but as with most of Apple’s betas, it’s pretty hard to recommend that anyone who isn’t a developer check them out, even if they are called public betas. Let’s start with iOS 10 before moving onto Sierra.
Over the years, Apple has repeatedly shown us that installing beta versions of iOS is always a bad idea. They’re buggy, unstable, hard to use, drain your battery life and make a bunch of your apps unusable. iOS 10 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 10, you’ll likely lose the ability to use a handful of your favorite apps and your phone will be a bit clunky to use.
Aside from the cool new lock screen, the biggest new feature in iOS 10 is new Messages app, which is completely useless unless you’re talking with someone else who also has the iOS 10 beta installed. The rest of the stuff coming in iOS 10, like an improved Photos app, redesigned (but still kind of awful) Apple Music and smarter Apple Maps app are nice to have, but you can probably live without them for the few months until the public release.
However, if you have a secondary device, the beta is pretty stable all things considered. So, if you have something like an iPad that you don’t use often, you can safely check out the beta without too much worry, though we’ll be honest, iOS 10 doesn’t do much cool stuff for the iPad.
If you decide it’s just too buggy for you, you can go back to iOS 9.3.2, but it’ll take a little bit of work. Downgrading will erase all the data on your device and set it up fresh install, so make sure you’re prepared for that:
- Download the iOS 9.3.2 IPSW file for your device (you can find a list of direct links here).
- 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.
- In iTunes, Option-Click the “Restore iPhone” button, select your IPSW file, and wait for iTunes to install iOS 9 again.
After the installation, your iOS device will be back on iOS 9, but all you data will be gone, so you’ll need to wait for it to sync again.
Install Sierra on a Separate Partition
Apple’s a relatively careful company when it comes to their desktop operating systems, so while bugs will certainly be around in the public beta, they’re probably not going destroy your system. Still, public beta or not, it’s still a beta product, so don’t expect it to work smoothly.
All that said, aside from the Siri integration, there’s not much new here, so it’s best for most of us to just wait for the official release. Sierra’s been pretty slow and buggy for us in our limited tested, so it’s really not ready for the primetime on your main Mac.
Regardless, if you’re still itching to check out the beta, you should do so on a partition instead of overwriting El Capitan. This way, you can play around and test the new operating system without messing with your computer. Even though you’re installing Sierra on a new partition, make sure your computer’s backed up. Once you’ve taken care of that, here’s how to partition your drive and install Sierra safely:
- Open Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities).
- Select your Mac’s hard drive.
- Select the Partition button.
- Click the “+” icon and decide how large a partition you want (10-30 GB for Sierra and a few apps should be fine, depending on how much you plan on using it).
- Name your partition and click Apply.
- Launch the Sierra installer.
- When prompted to choose a disk, click “Show all disks” and select the partition you just created.
That’s it. Sierra will get installed on the new partition, and you’ll still have OS X El Capitan 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 talked about before, 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 leave yourself an out for when you need your devices to actually work.
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