Don’t upgrade to Mountain Lion until you’ve read this

The recent release of the Golden Master version of Mountain Lion to developers means Mountain Lion OS X 10.8 will be officially released very soon. Before rushing into upgrading though, take a deep breath and consider some of the following to ensure you have no nasty surprises:

Mountain Lion will only upgrade if you’re running Lion OS X 10.7.x or the latest version of Snow Leopard OS X 10.6.8, and you must have at least 2GB of RAM

If you’re unsure about these 2 basic requirements, click on the Apple logo in the top left of your screen and select About This Mac:

If all of the above are correct then consider the following:

  • If you have an older Mac, you may not be able to install Mountain Lion. Apple lists the following models as compatible with it. Anything older will not work:

iMac (Mid 2007 or newer) MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer) MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer) MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer) Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer) Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer) Xserve (Early 2009)

  • You’ll need to obtain an Apple ID. If you’re an iTunes user, you’ll already have one but if you bought your Mac with Lion already installed, you’ll have to create one because Apple release new operating systems via the The Mac App Store.
  • Have a credit card ready. Mountain Lion is the cheapest OS X upgrade yet at just $19.99 ($10 cheaper than Lion). If you don’t have a credit card, you can use an iTunes gift voucher. Note that Apple Gift cards will not work in The Mac App Store.
  • Make sure you have at least 8GB of free hard drive space. If you’re need to clean some space but can’t quite identify which files are taking-up so much room, try DaisyDisk or OmniDiskSweeper.
  • Back up your hard drive. If something should go wrong with the installation of Mountain Lion, it’s essential that you have a backup of your data. Time Machine comes free with OS X and is ideal for this or alternatively, Super Duper! is another excellent backup tool.
  • Note that if you’re still on Snow Leopard, Mountain Lion doesn’t support PPC Macs so Rosetta Apps won’t work with it. If you’re running older versions (usually 6 years or more old) of any of the following and can’t afford to upgrade them to an Intel version, don’t install Mountain Lion as they either won’t work or you will experience problems with them: Creative Suite, Quicken 2007, Microsoft Office 2008, Rosetta Stone Language Software, Freehand and Appleworks. For a breakdown of which major apps are and aren’t compatible with Mountain Lion, check here.
  • Have some updated Printer Drivers handy. Since some older printer drivers require Rosetta to work, you may find that your printer doesn’t work with Mountain Lion. You should be able to find updated drivers on the developer website although if the printer is really old, you’ll be out of luck.
  • Be extra cautious if you use Apple Mail or Aperture. Both applications are particularly sensitive to OS changes as was illustrated with Mail when Snow Leopard arrived. It may be worth waiting at least a few weeks before upgrading to Mountain Lion if you rely on either or both and can’t afford to waste time re-configuring them.
  • Throw away your Magic Mouse and buy a Magic Trackpad (about $69). Well, you don’t have to throw away your Magic Mouse but you’ll probably feel like it if you’ve ever used a Magic Trackpad. Lion has been optimized to be more like using an iPhone so you’ll miss out on many gesture features if you don’t have a Magic Trackpad although it’s not essential.

If you are concerned about teething issues when upgrading, the best single piece of advice is simply wait! Most of the problems with Lion were ironed out within a month or so of the release and so if you’re not desperate to have Mountain Lion on your Mac immediately, take it easy.

There are bound to be issues that arise after upgrading, so if you discover any when Mountain Lion is released, let us know in the comments below.

In the meantime, don’t forgot to check out our lowdown on everything that’s new in Mountain Lion.

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