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5 reasons to upgrade to Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan

By Alvin Soon - 30 Sep 2015

5 reasons to upgrade to Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan

The newest version of Mac OS X, 10.11 or ‘El Capitan’, will be available later today, for free. While last year’s update OS X 10.10 Yosemite brought an obvious visual overhaul to the Mac, making it look more like iOS 7’s flat visuals, El Capitan makes most of its changes under the hood. These are the Macs which meet El Capitan’s minimum system requirements (not all of the Macs will get all of the new features, however):

  • iMac (Mid-2007 or later)
  • MacBook (13-inch Aluminum, Late 2008), (13-inch, Early 2009 or later), (12-inch, Early 2015)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2009 or later), (15-inch, Mid/Late 2007 or later), (17-inch, Late 2007 or later)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or later)
  • Mac Mini (Early 2009 or later)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or later)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)


Should you upgrade to OS X El Capitan? What do you have to look forward to if you do?

The short answer is: Yes, you should upgrade, but not before doing a full Time Machine backup, just in case. El Capitan is short on features, but big on performance, stability and security. You won’t find a lot of new toys to play with, but you’ll have a Mac that’s fine-tuned and stabilized.

Here are five longer reasons to upgrade to Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan:

1. If you’re still on OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion or earlier

If you’re still running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, or earlier, our recommendation is to upgrade to El Capitan. Apple usually supports the newest OS X, as well as the two previous versions, so with 10.11, support for 10.8 is likely to be dropped.

That means Mountain Lion will no longer be getting security and stability updates going forward. If you’re on Mountain Lion or even earlier (like Lion, or Snow Leopard), you can update straightaway to El Capitan without updating step-by-step.

2. It’s easier to read text on El Capitan

This will either be the most or least obvious change to your Mac when you upgrade, depending on how much you care about fonts. This change is system-wide, which means you’ll see it everywhere.

El Capitan replaces the system font Helvetica with San Francisco, an in-house font family designed by Apple. It’s already the system font for the Apple Watch, and for iOS 9, as well as the font in use for the keyboards on the new MacBooks.

Compared to Helvetica, which was designed in a pre-digital era for print, San Francisco is designed for digital screens, and especially for eligibility at smaller sizes, a known weakness for Helvetica. San Francisco also scales well, with Display, Text, and Compact variants for different text sizes.

3. Windows are easier to manage on El Capitan

Finder and app windows are easier to manage on El Capitan, which comes with a new Mission Control view and Split View mode.

Mission Control lets you see all your windows at a glance, and it’s a little cleaner as well as more organized in El Capitan. Your desktop thumbnails aren’t shown at the top, unless you mouse over, which leaves more space to display your open windows. Windows from the same apps are no longer stacked together, instead they’re displayed separately.

Windows now self-organize around the same area as they are on the desktop when Mission Control is activated, instead of flying around the screen.

Split View lets you arrange windows much like the new Split View for iPads running iOS 9 (and yes, like the Snap to edge feature in Windows 7).

If you long-click the green button on the top left of a window, OS X will ask you to drag it to the left or right half of the screen. A selection of other open windows will appear on the empty half, and you can click on the app or window you want to occupy that half.

4. El Capitan performs better

According to Apple, El Capitan has been optimized to launch apps 1.4x faster, switch apps 2x faster, and open PDFs in Preview 4x faster.

One of the ways that Apple has improved El Capitan’s performance is to import Metal, a graphics API first developed for iOS, over to OS X. Metal helps offload processing work from the CPU over to the GPU, and while it’s mainly for graphics-heavy work like gaming and professional apps, Metal also helps with animation performance on the OS X desktop.

(Not all Macs will get Metal, only Macs from 2012 and after meet Metal’s hardware requirements.)

The key thing to know about Metal, however, is that developers will have to use the new Metal APIs for the app to take advantage of it. Adobe has already announced that it will be adopting Metal in all of its OS X apps, so graphics professionals will have one key reason to update to El Capitan, at least when Adobe updates its Creative Suite.

5. El Capitan is more secure

El Capitan introduces a few features to make the Mac more secure. System Integrity Protection (SIP) limits the changes that can be made to the Mac’s operating system, which helps to protect the OS from malware attacks. More technically; SIP removes many of the root privileges previously given to admin accounts. They can no longer modify system files, install into system locations, or install code into system processes.

Another new feature, App Transport Security, lets developers use Apple’s network frameworks to ensure that data is securely being transmitted between their apps and the internet.


How to update to OS X El Capitan

Updating to OS X El Capitan is easy, just launch the Mac App Store, and click on ‘Updates,’ and click on the El Capitan update when it’s available. Here are some suggestions for updating to El Capitan.

1. Complete a Time Machine backup

Apple’s updating process has become simpler and more stable through the years, and hiccups are becoming less likely, but they’re still possible. Before doing the upgrade, we always recommend you do a full backup first.

Apple’s built-in backup solution, Time Machine, is the easiest way to backup your Mac. Just plug-in a big enough external hard disk, and choose “Use as Backup Disk” when asked if you want to use it with Time Machine.

2. Wait a few more days if you’re not sure

If you don’t need to have the latest and shiniest OS X version around, you can wait a few more days to see if any major problems crop up for early adopters and spare yourself the pain.

If no major problems are being reported, either online or on Apple’s support forums, then you know you can update safely. If you’re running a work machine with work-critical apps, then it might be more prudent to wait a few days, and search online to see if El Capitan has problems running those apps.

3. Wait for the next 10.11.1 update if you’re really not sure

If you’re content to wait it out, then just wait for the next 10.11.1 minor update that will fix any bugs found on 10.11. By then, Apple should have discovered and worked out any big bugs experienced by the first wave of El Capitan adopters.

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