Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves episode # 407
Nineteen years ago, Apple moved the Mac from its original (classic) operating system to a more modern UNIX-based operating system known as Mac OS X (pronounced “Mac OS Ten”).
Since then, there have been fifteen major releases. The first 8 releases were named for jungle cats from 10.0 Cheetah to 10.8 Mountain Lion. The next 7 releases were named for California landmarks starting with 10.9 Mavericks through 10.15 Catalina.
Now, after nearly two decades of X version variants, Apple is going to crank the volume up to 11 (sorry, Spinal Tap fans) by introducing version 11.0, aka macOS Big Sur.
Apple has not yet announced the release date of Big Sur. However, history indicates that it will be very soon since the 10.15 Catalina version was shipped on 11 October 2019 and the 10.11 El Capitan to 10.14 Mojave versions were all released in September of their respective years (2015-2018).
Just say “No thanks”
So here’s my advice: don’t install the first version unless you have plenty of time to troubleshoot and research the inevitable problems that inevitably plague the first (or “zero point”) version of most software.
I’ve been using the pre-release versions of Big Sur since June, and while the latest beta didn’t cause any problems, it’s unlikely your Mac and third-party software are the same as mine.
I can’t predict the future. It’s possible that Big Sur version 11.0 ships without bugs, and updating everyone is quick, easy, and painless.
Possible, but highly unlikely.
It is easy to upgrade but much more difficult to downgrade
There is one last thing: if you upgrade a disk to Big Sur, there is no easy way to downgrade to Catalina. You will almost certainly need to wipe the disk, reinstall macOS 10.15 Catalina, and then restore the data from a backup. Unless you have a clone of your startup disk (as discussed in my September column on cloning), you’re going through hours without your Mac.
I’ve been doing this for a long, long time and I can’t remember a single “zero point” version that was totally bug-free. Each new version of macOS fills my inbox with emails from readers I’m sorry they ignored my advice.
So, do me a favor this year and take my advice. When Apple releases Big Sur next month, just say no. Ignore all the annoying notifications, badges and emails you are sure to receive, which extol the virtues of Big Sur and tease you with great new features.
Remember that these great new features will still be available in a month or two when you install version 11.1 or 11.2. By then, the most glaring bugs should be exterminated, and the third-party developers should have eliminated all the Big Sur-related bugs they’ve discovered in the apps you depend on.