Although we’re cautious about recommending that people upgrade to the latest major release of macOS, we think Apple has done a good enough job with macOS 14 Sonoma that anyone who wants to upgrade can do so now. That doesn’t mean you have to upgrade immediately, but there’s no major reason most people need to delay.
Our confidence comes from our positive experience working with those who have upgraded to Sonoma and the fact that Sonoma has received only three updates so far. None included significant bug fixes:
- macOS 14.1 fixed two bugs that could reset the System Services settings within Location Services and prevent encrypted external drives from mounting.
- macOS 14.1.1 came with generic release notes, but the community discovered that it fixed a bug introduced in 14.1 that affected Photoshop and another that could prevent a new M3 24-inch iMac that shipped with macOS 13 Ventura from upgrading to Sonoma.
- macOS 14.1.2 focused on fixing two WebKit-related security vulnerabilities that were exploited in iOS.
Apple will likely release another update before the end of the year, probably macOS 14.2, with some promised features, a few more bug fixes, and the usual handful of security improvements. After that, the company will continue with an update every month or so to address newly discovered bugs and security vulnerabilities.
That said, you can put off the Sonoma upgrade as long as you’re running macOS 12 Monterey or macOS 13 Ventura and are staying current with Apple’s security updates. Earlier macOS versions no longer receive security fixes, rendering them more vulnerable to attack. Possible reasons to continue delaying include:
- You’re too busy. The upgrade process will take a few hours, plus some additional time to configure everything properly afterward. When you are ready to upgrade, aim for when a little downtime will be convenient.
- You rely on incompatible software. The jump from Monterey or Ventura to Sonoma isn’t a big one, so most modern apps should have been updated by now. But if you’re still running macOS 10.14 Mojave or earlier with 32-bit apps, you’ll lose access to them if you upgrade. There’s nothing new here—32-bit apps stopped working in macOS 10.15 Catalina in 2019. Rather than delaying, consider running Mojave and your 32-bit apps in a virtual machine using VMware Fusion or Parallels Desktop.
- You need consistent versions for workflow reasons. We’re unaware of any examples here, but it’s conceivable that a coworker could be stuck on an older version of macOS and older versions of shared productivity apps. If your upgrade would force you to update those apps and introduce compatibility issues when collaborating with that coworker, you may have to wait until your coworker can upgrade as well.
Sonoma won’t transform your experience of using a Mac, but it has new features you might appreciate. The most noticeable is probably desktop widgets that provide updated information at a glance—you can even add widgets from your iPhone. Sonoma also lets you turn websites in Safari into standalone apps, enjoy aerial screensavers from the Apple TV, create a video overlay of yourself on video calls when sharing your screen, autofill PDF forms, and use the keyboard while dictating.
Before You Upgrade
Once you’ve decided to upgrade to Sonoma, you have three main tasks:
- Update apps: Make sure all your apps are as up-to-date as possible. If you regularly put off updates, now’s the time to let them complete so you have Sonoma-compatible versions.
- Clear space: Sonoma may need as much as 25 GB of free space to upgrade, and the Sonoma installer itself is about 12 GB, so we recommend making sure you have at least 37 GB free. Don’t cut this close—you should always have at least 10–20% free space for virtual memory, cache files, and breathing room. Check in Ventura by choosing System Settings > General > Storage; in earlier versions of macOS, choose About This Mac from the Apple menu and click Storage. System Settings provides quick ways to free up space. Another easy one for iCloud Drive users is to Control-click large folders and choose Remove Download to “evict” the local versions of those files temporarily; Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive have similar features.
- Make a backup: Never, ever install an update to macOS without ensuring you have at least one current backup first. In an ideal world, you’d have an updated Time Machine backup, a duplicate, and an Internet backup. That way, if something goes wrong, you can quickly revert.
After completing those tasks, ensure you won’t need your Mac for a few hours. There’s no telling exactly how long the upgrade will take, so never start an upgrade if you need the Mac soon.
Initiating the upgrade is just a matter of opening System Settings > General > Software Update in Ventura (System Preferences > Software Update in previous versions of macOS), clicking the Upgrade Now button, and following the instructions. If you’d like more handholding, check out Joe Kissell’s ebook Take Control of Sonoma.
After You Upgrade
Part of the reason to set aside plenty of time for your Sonoma upgrade is that there are usually cleanup tasks afterward. We can’t predict precisely what you’ll run into, depending on what version of macOS you’re running now and what apps you use, but here are a few situations we’ve noticed in the past:
- macOS may need to update its authentication situation by asking for your Apple ID password, your Mac’s password, and if you have another Mac, its password as well. Don’t worry that your Mac has been compromised by malware—it’s fine.
- Some apps may have to ask for various permissions even though you previously granted them. Again, that’s fine and won’t happen again.
- If you use your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac and apps (and you should, it’s great!), you may need to re-enable that in System Settings > Touch ID & Password (or Login Password on a non-Touch ID-enabled Mac (previously, it was in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General).
- If you use Gmail, Google Calendar, or other Google services, you may need to log in to your Google account again.
- Websites that usually remember your login state may require that you log in again. If you’re using a password manager like 1Password, that’s easy.
- You may have to re-enable text message forwarding to your Mac. You do this on your iPhone in Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding.
With all that housekeeping done, it’s time to check out all the new features in Sonoma!
(Featured image by Apple)
Social Media: When should you upgrade to macOS 14 Sonoma? There’s no need to install it today, but we think it’s now safe for those who want to take advantage of the new features and integration with Apple’s other operating systems.