Mountain Lion to arrive sooner than expected?

Apple may be gearing up to release Mountain Lion in the next few weeks, so if you plan on upgrading you might consider preparing your system.

For the past couple of months Apple has been teasing the public with its upcoming version of OS X, called Mountain Lion. Earlier this year Apple released a sneak peek of the new Mountain Lion features on its Web site, and has since been releasing builds of the operating system to developers for testing. While Apple has claimed the OS will be released this summer, new developments suggests this date may be earlier rather than later.

In the past when Apple has promised software releases during the summer, it has waited until the very end of summer to release them, but according to AppleInsider, Apple is in the midst of hiring and training a number of new AppleCare employees, which suggests Apple expects the OS release to be ready for public release within weeks, rather than months.

Apple's new OS is a slight turn in a new direction for the Mac OS, where Apple is integrating a number of the iOS-inspired features from its iPhone and iPad devices. These include things like notifications, Reminders, Game Center and Messages. Many of these features are standalone programs, but some such as the notification center and sharing links are system-wide services. In addition to these details, Apple is enhancing security options with its GateKeeper technology, which makes this upgrade more than just a few new tweaks and tools.

When the OS is released, Apple is expected to follow the same avenues it did for Lion, and offer the OS via the Mac App Store. Currently there is no information on whether or not Apple will provide it on physical media as it eventually did with Lion, but this is a possibility as well.

As the OS release date nears, if you are planning on upgrading, then you might consider some preparation before doing so. As we've recommended for past OS upgrades, you can often avoid odd problems with an update or upgrade by taking a few precautionary steps.

  1. Backups
    Be sure you have a good backup of your system, which means have one that not only backs up your entire system, but does so in a way that it can easily be restored. To do this, you can make use of the Time Machine technology Apple provides in OS X, but there are also system cloning tools and other third-party backup systems that can do the same thing. Part of setting up a backup system is to test it and ensure it is backing up your system properly. Therefore, try booting off of your system clones, or boot to the OS X installation DVD or recovery partitions and try accessing your Time Machine backups from there.
  2. Backup the installer
    Along with backing up your current OS installation, be sure you back up the Mountain Lion installer that you download from the Mac App Store. With OS X Lion, the installer would download to your Applications folder and then be deleted once you installed the OS; however, many found the need for the installer to either reinstall the OS, or install it on another system they owned. While you can quit the installer when it automatically launches and then copy it from your Applications folder to a thumb drive or another safe location, another option you have is to create a bootable installation drive from it that can be used on any supported Mac. I expect the steps for doing this will be very similar to those outlined for creating an OS X Lion installation disc.
  3. Clear up current problems
    If applications are constantly crashing, your system is experiencing frequent kernel panics, or it is hanging and showing you the spinning color wheel frequently, then try addressing these problems first before installing the new OS. You can get help for doing this by contacting the support services for your software's developer, or get help on the Apple Discussion boards.

    Keep in mind that the problems to address are large ones such as the inability to perform functions you ought to be able to perform (authentication, logging in, opening applications, shutting down and starting up, etc.), since often times more minor problems like slowdowns or wifi connectivity issues may be fixed by OS updates.
  4. Run a general maintenance routine
    Often odd problems and slowdowns can happen from corruption in temporary system files (caches, logs, and other configurations), and clearing these out can offer a boost in performance. You can perform a simple maintenance routine by rebooting into Safe Mode (hold Shift at startup) followed by using Disk Utility to run permissions fix and drive verification routines. If you would like to perform a more in-depth cleansing of the system, you can do so by following our general maintenance recommendations for OS X.

Even though problems with an OS upgrade may happen for a number of reasons, by following these steps before and during the upgrade process, you will better ensure the upgrade goes as smoothly as possible.

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