Mac OS X Mountain Lion (10.8): Are you ready to upgrade?

Last month, Apple announced that the next version of its operating system, Mac OS X 10.8 (or “Mountain Lion”) would be released in July. Last night, a version was released to developers which, barring last minute tweaks, will be the final version. Also, some sources remember that last year’s update was released the day after their quarterly financials conference call and that there will be another such phone call next week on Wednesday.

Regardless of whether the new version is released in the next two weeks or not, is not terribly important. The fact is that it will be released and will be the current version for the next year or so. So, are you ready to upgrade?

Recent Purchases

According to Apple’s Up-to-Date Program, “The OS X Mountain Lion Up-to-Date upgrade will be available at no additional charge from the Mac App Store to all customers who purchase a qualifying new Mac system from Apple or an Apple Authorized Reseller on or after June 11, 2012.” However, you will need to make your request for the free upgrade within 30 days of the date Mac OS X Mountain Lion is available on the Mac App Store (which you can find in your  menu in the top right corner). If you purchase an Apple computer after Mac OS X Mountain Lion is released and for some reason it still has Mac OS X Lion, you’ll have 30 days from the date of purchase to qualify for the 30 day free upgrade.

But, hey, if you miss the window, it only costs $20 anyway, so it’s no big deal, right? It used to cost between $100-130 for each new version of Mac OS X, but last year it was $30, this year $20, where I think it will stay until there is another major change in the OS.

System Requirements

Basically, you need an Intel-based Mac. For more specific information, go to Apple’s Mac OS X Technical Specs page, but the short version is, if you’re Mac was bought in 2008 or later, you should be fine, although you will want to be sure you have enough memory (RAM) and hard disk space to accommodate it. You can check RAM and Hard Disk by clicking on  > About This Mac and then “More Info….” If you don’t have enough RAM, usually it’s pretty easy and cheap to upgrade. These days, a 2 GB RAM module goes for prices between 20-40 CHF, depending on whether you have a desktop or a notebook and how old it is. I got a 4 GB chip for my Mac laptop (2009) for about 35 CHF just a week ago.

You also need to have Mac OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) installed already. If you do not, then you need to upgrade first. Check “About this Mac” as above. If you have Version 10.6, then just do a Software Update which will bring you to 10.6.8. If you have anything earlier than 10.6, you’ll need to upgrade first. Find someone with Snow Leopard disks, borrow them, install it and then you can go to Mountain Lion.

Time Machine – You are backing up daily, right?

I can’t emphasize this enough, no matter what version you currently have….Please Make Sure  You Have a Current Backup. That means, completed in the last 5 minutes. If you are not using Time Machine, you really should be and this is the perfect opportunity to do so. If you have a single Mac desktop, then get yourself an external hard disk that is at least as big as your internal, plug it in, wait for Time Machine to ask you if you want to use it for backups and click “Yes.” Then wait for the backup to happen. If you have more than one Mac or you have a single laptop, consider buying the Apple Time Capsule. It’s a great investment and will back up your computer(s) wirelessly whenever you are using them! It doesn’t get much better than that, honestly.

I repeat, if you are not actively using Time Machine, do so now. Before you upgrade.

Upgrading to Mac OS X Mountain Lion

In most cases, like 999 times out of 1000, the upgrade is really simple, if lengthy. Open Mac App Store, purchase Mac OS X Mountain Lion, wait for the download (could take 30-90 minutes, depending on your internet connection), and then click the icon in the Dock (that long line of icons that shows you which programs are running) to start the installation and then wait again for it to complete, again possibly 30-45 minutes.

Most times, that’s all. But, inevitably it will go wrong for someone. Maybe a power outage at the wrong time screws something up. Maybe the internet connection is interrupted and corrupts the download. Any number of stupid things could happen and leave you with a system that no longer works.

That’s why you need/want a current Time Machine backup. Because even if something happens, you’ll be able to recover easily. Really easily.

UPDATE: On 24 July 2012, Apple confirmed that Mountain Lion will be released on 25 July 2012. Expect it around 10:00am Pacific Daylight Time, or early evening here in Europe.


About zonkeringeneva

An American with a German son living in Geneva with a new Boxer-Labrador puppy name Xoë. I can be found on Facebook (kicking and screaming!), Google Plus (crickets), (I'm Zonker), and Ask me anything IT related. I'm sure I'll have something useful to say.

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