macOS 10.12 Sierra released

Today Apple released Sierra, the 13th iteration of Mac OS X, now renamed macOS to keep consistent with their OS naming convention (macOS, iOS, watchOS, tvOS). On the surface the changes are rather small, but it does have some great additions that more deeply integrate your computer with iOS devices. Unfortunately for the first time in several years some Mac models are being dropped off of the update list.

Some of the major new features and changes include:

  • Siri capability, similar to Siri for iOS
  • Unlock your Mac without a password if you wear an Apple Watch
  • Apple Pay support for Safari, authorized by Apple Pay on your iPhone
  • Optionally sync your Desktop and Documents folders among multiple Macs using iCloud Drive, or access your files using iOS
  • Copy and paste between your Macs and iOS devices
  • The system can save storage space by deleting obsolete, duplicate, or rarely used files or by optionally moving some files to iCloud
  • Tabs everywhere, even in apps that weren’t designed with tabs in mind

Before you upgrade please back up your computer. The vast majority of OS upgrades go without a hitch, but you don’t want to be the unlucky one that doesn’t go as planned. And if you aren’t aren’t an early adopter you may want to wait for the first patch, 10.12.1, which will likely come out 2 to 6 weeks after the initial release.

Check software compatibility. If you use the basic software such as Firefox, Safari, and Apple Mail, you don’t need to worry about the compatibility. But if you use other programs, particularly older versions of software, you’ll want to make sure that they don’t break. Roaring Apps maintains a pretty extensive list. You may also want to check the blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter pages for the apps you use.

My experience with the update. I have been running the beta software on my own Mac and have installed the final release on several computers. I think this is a very solid upgrade that adds some extremely convenient features. I’ve not heard anyone complain about their computer slowing down, and I have heard a few reports of people saying that their computer runs faster now. Be prepared, however, for a major slowdown for the first several hours of use, especially if you have a large Photos library. The new Photos app does some very deep analysis of the content of your photos, and I’ve seen it chew through the CPU processing for about 12 hours on a 50 GB library. If you have a laptop computer I would recommend using it on power as much as you can for the first day or two. As for the actual install process itself, it takes significantly longer to install than most previous systems. It typically takes 45 to 90 minutes for installation after it has finished downloading from the App Store.

System Requirements.

  • Mac model
    • iMac, MacBook (late-2009 and later)
    • MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Mini, Mac Pro (2010 and later)
  • 2 GB RAM minimum. I normally recommend 8 for most users or 16 if you do heavy work like serious video and photo processing. If you have an SSD you can get by okay with 4 GB as long as you aren’t a heavy user.
  • OS X 10.7 Lion or higher. If you are running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, you will need to install OS X 10.11 El Capitan first. If you are running 10.5 Leopard you will need to upgrade to Snow Leopard and then to El Capitan and then to Sierra. Currently Apple’s link to instructions on how to upgrade to El Capitan now that it has been removed from the App Store doesn’t work.
  • 8.8 GB storage available, though you’ll likely end up with more space free after the update is complete.
  • Some features such as Apple Watch unlock, universal clipboard, and Apple Pay require a Mac with Bluetooth 4.0.

If you’re ready to upgrade go to the Apple menu > App Store > Updates. You’ll see a link there for your free upgrade. Or just follow this link on your Mac.