How to prepare yourself for the OS X El Capitan update

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OS X El Capitan is almost ready to be released into the wild– it’s going to be a big upgrade for many people, and Apple claims that there are a lot of performance improvements that will make your computer snappier and more responsive.

All of this is great, but you don’t have to be passive in your pursuit of improved computer performance. What can you do to prepare your computer for the impending release? Follow our guide here to see how to make sure your computer is running just like the day you bought it.

How can you prepare your computer for OS X El Capitan?

1. Back up your data

Backing up your data is an integral component of any major computer update. Honestly, regular backups are a good idea for anyone who happens to use a computer, and if you’re reading MachMachines, you probably have a computer. Backing up your data can save you from major headaches in the future.

Apple spends a lot of time and money making sure the upgrade process is as quick and painless as possible, but things can still go wrong. Back up important files in another location so nothing can be lost if you have any critical computer issues. Here are some backup choices:

Thumb Drive/Hard Drive

A simple thumb drive might be enough depending on how much data you need to store. You might need to spend a bit more money depending on how much you need to store. However, the cost of flash storage keeps dropping–Even a 64GB thumb drive is less than $20 at this point,  so you might be able to get away with a fairly cheap option. This is mostly if you’re not looking to backup your entire hard drive and only want to store critical files.

External hard drives will be necessary if you’re looking to store more than 64GB of data. 

You can have upwards of 1TB of storage for a very competitive price. We’ve provided buying guides on what to look for in an external hard drive in the past, and a list of some of the best Mac-focused external hard drives if you’re looking for a good backup option.

Cloud Storage

Services like iCloud, Google Drive, or Dropbox can be used as a way to back up your important files depending on how much you have to deal with. Each service provides a free tier of service, usually giving 10-15GB of space before you must pay for more. This might be enough if you’re only dealing with text files, but it won’t be enough for a full data backup.

There are some drawbacks here. You’ll have to pay a monthly fee for any higher levels of storage, and upload/download speeds can be fairly slow. It would take you a very long time to upload 400GB of video, and you’ll have to download it again if you lose your files. This is offset by the ease of use– all you need to do is download a program and choose the folders to sync. Furthermore, there’s no fear of mechanical failure (unless something happens to a huge data center, but then we have bigger problems.)

No matter what you choose, backing up your data is a critical part of modern computer usage. Spend some time up front to help you save lost time from data loss!

2. Memory Overhead = Faster Computer

Apple works to improve their operating system’s RAM consumption with each additional release, and they achieved a great deal of improvement with Yosemite. Expect a continuation of this trend with El Capitan. Sometimes, software improvements can’t fix a lack of RAM, so what can you do?

There is a very simple software fix– you’ll need to free up memory space on your computer. Though there are manual ways to do this, but we would recommend that you use software like CleanMyMac 3 to handle the task. CleanMyMac 3 is an excellent piece of software to handle basic system maintenance on your Mac.

CleanMyMac 3 is available for download here.

3. Repair Disk Permissions 

In some cases, repairing disk permissions can help speed up your slow mac and prepare yourself for the El Capitan update. To repair your disk permissions, simply follow the steps below.

  1. Restart your Mac
  2. Press the “Option” key as soon as you hit restart
  3. When prompted, select “Disc Utility Option”
  4. Select the partition where you previously installed OS X Yosemite
  5. Click “Fix Disc Permissions”
  6. Restart your Mac normally
  7. This should have an effect on the speed of your computer.

4. Run System Resets

For some people, simply performing a SMC and PRAM reset can help fix performance issues, and these resets will help your computer be just as quick as the day you bought it.

The System Management Controller is a piece of hardware in your computer that coordinates battery and heat management, LED lights, and other parts of the hardware. PRAM (Parameter RAM) stores the default values of some core system settings such as your alarms, mouse settings, start up programs, and speaker volume. Sometimes these two parts of the computer can get bogged down and slow down the rest of the system.

We have provided instructions on how to carry out these resets in a post about fixing MacBook Pro’s performance issues. The post talks specifically about MacBook Pros, but the instructions will work for any Apple computer.

5. Re-install OS X Yosemite

This might not be necessary, but it might be a good idea to make sure everything goes smoothly on September 30th. You’re removing many parts from the equation– the only thing your computer has to do is “swap out” the operating systems.

You may want to wait until right before you upgrade to do this, as you’ll have to restore backed up files and applications.

Note: Going through with this process will delete all of your data! Back up data and applications that you don’t want to lose!

How do you re-install OS X Yosemite?

  1. Restart your Mac
  2. As your Mac restarts, hit ⌘ (command) + R, together
  3. When prompted, choose and connect to your choice of Wi-Fi network
  4. Select option called Re-Install OS X Yosemite
  5. Re-Install OS X Yosemite on the same OS X Partition that you previously installed it on
  6. Wait it out (It can take several hours, so take this into consideration)
  7. Restart after the re-installation!

6. Clean up/Prepare Safari for the Update

Clearing cache

Clear out your Safari’s cache in order to make sure everything goes as according to plan once the update hits. It also feels great to have everything be clean, neat, and new as if the computer is fresh from the Apple Store.

To clear your Safari cache, go to Safari -> Preferences -> Privacy -> Remove all website Data. If you have never cleared out your cache before, this might significantly speed up internet browsing.

The whole idea of browser caching is to actually help speed up your browsing experience. Your browser downloads small objects like logos from websites that you visit often, and they’ll load back up the next time you visit the site. However, beyond a certain point, excessive caching can actually lead to problems as there might just be too much locally downloaded content that doesn’t sync up with websites that are continually modified or updated on a daily basis.


We’re excited to see the El Capitan update release into the wild, and we want your computer to be ready for the upgrade. Software releases such as this can be great “spring cleanings” of sorts. Periodic computer cleaning will help the computer last longer and runs quicker for the entirety of its life.

One more thing– you might want to pick up some computer duster

 to keep your computer physically clean to match the effort you put into the software side.


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About the Author
Michelle, author at Mach Machines. A tech lover and an insatiable latte drinker. Michelle blogs about improving the personal computing experience.

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