Apple really outdid itself this time. The words “software sells hardware” never rung more true, and now that OS X Mavericks is free to all, isn’t it about time you got on-board? Absolutely. There’s a lot to love about OS X Mavericks, and much of the improvements aren’t visible until you’ve actually installed the free upgrade.

If you put off installing Mountain Lion then you’ll be even more amazed, so let’s take a look at the how and why regarding Apple’s 10.9 announcement.

Can I Run It?

Before jumping in and getting all excited about a free upgrade, it’s useful to know that your Mac is compatible with OS X Mavericks. As a general rule of thumb, all Macs that are compatible with its predecessor OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion can install the upgrade. So, if you’re running Mountain Lion you can go ahead and download the upgrade.

If you’ve held off on paying for Mountain Lion, happy instead with Lion or even Snow Leopard, then you’ll need a Mac that fits the following requirements:

  • iMac (mid 2007 or newer)
  • Original MacBook (Late 2008 aluminum and early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (late 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (late 2008 or newer)
  • Mac Mini (early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (early 2008 or newer)

If you’ve got an old Mac but you’re not sure exactly how old it is, you can find out by clicking the Apple logo in the top-left corner of your screen, choosing About This Mac and in the window that appears More Info…. The window that appears reveals the model (in bold, at the top) as well as the year of manufacture and your basic hardware specifications too.

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The Mac in question must also be running OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard or later. If you have an earlier version of OS X but are also running a Mac listed as compatible on the list above, you can still buy a copy of Snow Leopard from Apple for $19.99.

In order to install the new operating system your Mac must have at least 2GB of RAM and 8GB of free hard drive space, in addition to the space you’ll need for the 5.29GB installer file.

So Where Do I Get It?

The new upgrade must be downloaded from the Mac App Store, hence the reliance on having an up-to-date copy of OS X Snow Leopard installed. When you’re ready to download, click here and open the link in the Mac App Store. You are also bound to find the upgrade at the top of the screen on the Featured tab for many months yet, as people adopt the new software.

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You’ll need to input your Apple ID password, as ever, to authorise the download. Once the download is complete you’ll find the installer in your Applications folder, under the name OS X Mavericks Installer. Run it, follow the instructions and you’ll be running brand-spanking-new software in no time.

What’s So Great About It?

OS X Mavericks isn’t exactly loaded with brand new features, but that’s what many Mac users have come to expect from yearly updates. It also doesn’t pack a brand new look and feel, à la iOS 7. What it does contain are a handful of new features, number of long-awaited tweaks to existing elements, and a lot of under the hood work.

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One of the most important changes is to Finder, the somewhat antiquated file browser. At long last Apple has introduced Finder tabs, negating the need to have 10 Finder windows open; keeping everything neat and organised. Multiple-monitor support has been bolstered, an area many have felt that Apple has neglected since the introduction of full-screen apps.

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For the first time the Mac gets its own version of iOS favourites iBooks and Maps. iBooks allows you to keep your reading materials synced between your Apple devices thanks to the magic of iCloud. You can also use it to read stuff too, if you want. Maps takes full advantage of the power of your Mac with 3D flyovers and the ability to plan a route then send directions to your iOS device straight from the desktop.

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I’ve not yet extensively tested performance, but initial findings and user reviews suggest that the work Apple has performed under the hood improves the OS X user experience considerably. My mid-2012 Retina MacBook Pro feels slightly quicker and more responsive, and this seems to be mirrored across the board among many Mac users. These benefits might be even more pronounced on less-able and older machines, as Apple’s 10.8.3 and 10.8.4 updates to OS X Mountain Lion quelled many of my initial woes relating to performance.

One of the most understated benefits of OS X Mavericks is that it is an upgrade you’re probably going to want, particularly if you’ve put off upgrading last time round. Those of you still running Lion or Snow Leopard will gain features like iMessage compatibility through the new Messages app, proper notifications with Notification Centre support, AirPlay mirroring and iCloud integration. There really hasn’t been a better time to own a Mac.

The Future Is Free

This is the first time Apple has delivered a free OS X upgrade to Mac owners, and it’s quite indicative of a pattern many have noticed for a number of years now. The lines between iOS and OS X continue to blur, as OS X undergoes somewhat of an “iOSification” with features like the Mac App Store and Gatekeeper yielding mixed results among die-hard power users. Don’t panic: Apple are fully aware that computers are computers, and it’s very unlikely that they’ll cripple their premium desktop hardware with mobile software.

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The flip-side is that as a Mac owner, it’s likely that the next few versions of OS X (and quite possibly its successor, whatever that may be) will also follow this model. Apple has adopted this stance with iOS, delivering free updates to a healthy back-catalogue of devices since iOS existed; and it would be difficult for the company to back-out of this policy without treading on toes now.

Linux users may be fast to point out that their operating systems have been free all along, but this is somewhat of a moot point. Mac OS X is a tailored experience for a relatively small set of computers. Going free is a way for Apple to sell even more hardware, and it’s a policy that is bound to have Microsoft feeling a little vulnerable since they still primarily rely on licensing for their income. Instead, Cupertino has leveraged their ability to maintain healthy profits on desirable computers and app sales, a tactic which is clearly working.

The marriage of iOS and OS X may be even closer than many of us have imagined. Enjoy OS X Mavericks, and let us know what your favourite features are in the comments below.

Categories: Mac

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