OS X version 10.9, called "Mavericks," was released in October 2013, as a free update. More information on Mavericks is in John Siracusa's 24-web-page Ars Technica review. This note describes how to update a computer from an older version of MacOS to OS X 10.9 Mavericks.

It may be difficult to obtain Mavericks from the Apple website now that OS X version 10.10 (Yosemite) is available.

Apple released a "Mail update for Mavericks" on 7 November 2013, fixing some issues with Gmail.
Apple released OS X 10.9.1 on 18 December 2013, fixing more Mail problems and performance issues.
Apple released OS X 10.9.2 on 25 February 2014, fixing more Mail problems and a serious security bug.
Apple released OS X 10.9.3 on 15 May 2014, fixing more Mail problems.
Apple released OS X 10.9.4 on 30 June 2014, fixing more problems. Early reports are that performance is improved.
Apple released OS X 10.9.5 on 18 September 2014, fixing more problems.

Several Security Updates have also been released for Mavericks, the most recent being Security Update 2015-008 on 08 Dec 2015.

(6/6/14) According to MacInTouch, some users of older Macs report serious performance problems with Mavericks. Macs without Solid State Disks (SSDs) see longer boot times and slow Finder performance compared to previous versions.

Thanks to Marv Schaefer and Elizabeth Neumann for their reports of experience with Mavericks.

New Features of Mavericks

Apple says there are more than 200 new features of Mavericks. Some users say that the new OS is more responsive and provides better battery life.

The iCloud Keychain lets you save selected passwords on your iCloud account, and use them from multiple devices. You can enter a username/password combination on one Apple device, sync it to all other devices, and have it auto-completed when you need to use it. The new Safari will offer to generate and save long passwords.

Should I Install Mavericks?

Show Stoppers

There was considerable discussion on about poor performance with Mavericks, as mentioned above. I haven't seen any issues.

What you Should Do Now to Get Ready for Mavericks

Who Can Update

Not every Mac can use the new OS version.

Plan your install

When you decide to install Mavericks, do it carefully. You may find that there are issues that affect you: do your homework. Check MacInTouch to see if there are problems with OS X 10.9 that affect you.

Make sure you back up your entire disk before starting to install Mavericks.

Make a list of the hardware you depend on, and search the web to check that each device will work. Older printers and scanners can have issues.

Leave yourself enough time. Upgrading will tie up your computer for a big part of a day. Installing takes an hour or two, but then your computer will want to re-do the Spotlight index and back up to Time Machine.

Finding PowerPC Programs

PowerPC-only programs on your computer will not run on Mavericks. (System Profiler no longer lists the "Kind" of program in its Applications report.) To list these programs, open a Terminal window and type

  system_profiler SPApplicationsDataType | sed -e 's/ *//' | grep -A4 "Kind: PowerPC" | grep Location > ppc.txt

Many of these programs are not problems: they are leftovers from old software installers or previous versions of software. For example /Library/Application Support/Adobe/ If you have questions, contact the manufacturer.

Particular issues before upgrading

Here is a partial list of minimum program versions needed for Mavericks. For other programs, check product websites.

ProgramMinimum VersionNotes
Microsoft Office20082011 Home version is about $110
Parallels9.0$50 upgrade
Quicken2007 "Lion Compatible" version 16.1.4$15 upgrade
Adobe PhotoshopCS5see Adobe site
Adobe IllustratorCS5see Adobe site
Suitcase Fusion5.16.0.4$50 upgrade
Little Snitch3.3$17 upgrade
Apple XCode5.0.1free with registration
Apple OS X Server3.0$19.99

Installing Mavericks

I have not upgraded any computer to Mavericks yet, but I was forced to buy a new one that came with Mavericks, so I have gone through the post-install steps below.

  1. Clean up and update software before installing.
    • (If your mac is running an old version of OS X, you must install Snow Leopard 10.6.8 first. Here is Apple's how to upgrade page.) Download Mavericks from the Apple App Store. It is free. This downloads a large file, the Mavericks Installer, to your disk. You can create a bootable installer volume on a USB key using Apple's instructions. Apple's license terms say you can update all your computers with one purchase.
    • Get the applications on your computer ready for 10.9: apply latest fixes. Remember that PowerPC programs will not work.
    • Delete junk files. Carefully.
    • Delete Safari, iTunes, and Firefox caches, so your backup will be faster.
    • If you have customized your desktop background or screensaver, write down your settings. Some Apple-provided pictures may not be available in the next version.. make a safe copy of anything you will want after upgrading.
    • Empty trash.
    • Repair disk permissions with Disk Utility.
    • Clean up damaged and duplicate fonts.
    • If you modified your Apache configuration, save a copy of /etc/apache2/httpd.conf.
    • If you installed modules via CPAN, Macports, or Fink, make a list of them. In a Terminal window, type
      perldoc perllocal | grep :: > cpan_modules.txt and
      port -qv installed > macports_packages.txt and
      fink list -i | grep -v virtual or dpkg --get-selections | cut -f1 > fink_packages.txt
    • Have your software license keys handy in case you have to re-authorize products.
    • De-authorize Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
    • De-authorize your computer from iTunes.
  2. Backup and prepare.
    • If you use MySQL, backup the database with mysqldump databasename > db.sql
    • BACK UP YOUR HARD DRIVE to an external disk. I used SuperDuper to clone my whole drive.
    • If you installed a third-party Solid State Disk (SSD), check the manufacturer's website to see if you need to update your firmware.
  3. Install
    • If you use a wireless mouse or keyboard, put in fresh batteries.
    • Set screen saver to NEVER, and turn off Time Machine.
    • Dismount and unplug or power off external drives.
    • (Some folks think you should boot from a Mavericks install disk at this point and run Disk Utility to repair the hard disk.)
    • Run the OS X 10.9 installer. It will run for about 15 minutes, then reboot, then run for about an hour, then reboot again. (The "time remaining" will show wildly varying estimates as the installer proceeds.)
    • Select  ► Software Update to update to latest version, then run again to make sure all software is updated. (about another hour) For installers just downloaded from the Apple Store, this step will may find app updates but any OS update will be included.
    • Do a "smoke test" to verify that your computer is working OK. Try out the new applications. Make sure the ones you depend on are still working. If you have trouble, restore your backup and go back to the old OS version.
  4. Recover
    • If you use Little Snitch, you may have to re-enter your license key.
    • If you use Microsoft Office, you may have to re-enter your product key.
    • Re-authorize Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. You may get an error dialogue that says Photoshop CS5 is having trouble starting. This seems to be related to Java. Update the Java SE 6 runtime and this problem will go away. (See Java below.)
    • Re-authorize your computer in iTunes.
    • Wait for Spotlight to finish indexing (may take several hours). Performance will suck till it finishes.
    • Turn on Time Machine and start your backup. Time Machine may complain that it has to discard your old backup and start over, and then do a big backup that takes hours.
    • Repair permissions with Disk Utility again.
    • Reboot. Often this speeds things up.

Post Install Tasks


You will probably want to set up per-user customizations, such as your desktop background and screensaver.


Programming Tools

Mavericks observations

I got a new computer that had Mavericks installed, so I had to move my software from the old failing machine.

New Features

I got a new computer that had Mavericks installed.

Bugs/Gotchas in Mavericks

Several problems are reported in MacInTouch:

I have also noticed several problems.

Planning for the next version: Yosemite

Apple's next version of Mac OS X was released in October 2014 as OSX 10.10, called "Yosemite." (The Mac firmware must be updated for Yosemite.)

Yosemite's interface is more like iPhone and iPad. There are reports that Adobe CS 5.5 apps, Quicken 2007, and Office 2008 and 2011 work OK.

Keep a list of the software and devices you use and depend on, so you can check that they are supported.

Home | FAQ © 2010-2023, Tom Van Vleck updated 2023-11-08 08:53