For some Mac users, macOS 10.15 Catalina is no longer a choice. That’s because the new 16-inch MacBook Pro and the 2019 Mac Pro that Apple released late last year ship with Catalina installed and can’t run any previous version of macOS.
But for most people, it’s time to consider an upgrade to Catalina. Most backup software now works with Catalina’s bifurcated drive approach that puts the system on a separate, read-only volume from your data and apps. We’ve all had several months to come to terms with the fact that old 32-bit apps won’t even launch in Catalina. And Apple has shipped several updates that bring Catalina to version 10.15.3, addressing most of the complaints users had with the initial release.
If you are ready to try Catalina but still want to use 10.14 Mojave, we have some advice for how to make that happen. This could be the case for someone who has purchased a new Mac that does support Mojave but came with Catalina installed, for someone who wants to test Catalina while still using Mojave, or for someone who wants to move on to Catalina but has a 32-bit app that they aren’t ready to say good-bye to.
Downgrade from Catalina to Mojave on Some New Macs
Apple has started installing Catalina on new Macs other than the 16-inch MacBook Pro and 2019 Mac Pro, but since these older Macs can still run Mojave, it’s possible—if a bit tricky—to downgrade them to Mojave.
System engineer Armin Briegel has worked out a way of downgrading new Macs to Mojave. First, you create a Mojave Installer USB drive. To use that drive to boot a Mac with a T2 security chip, you must allow external booting from the Security Utility on the Recovery partition. Once you’ve booted from your Mojave Installer drive, use Disk Utility to erase the entire internal drive. Then install Mojave.
Use Virtualization to Keep 32-bit Apps Running
For some people, what’s keeping them on Mojave is a single 32-bit app that will never be updated in an appropriate fashion. Quicken 2007 falls into this category, as does the ScanSnap Manager app for the ScanSnap S1300, S1500, and S1500M scanners. Sure, you can get a current version of Quicken, but it may not do precisely what you want, and Fujitsu would be happy to sell you a new ScanSnap scanner that does come with 64-bit software, but then you’ll have to figure out what to do with your old scanner.
So if you’re ready to upgrade to Catalina in general but need to maintain access to one or two apps, one solution is virtualization software: either Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion. Both apps let you run nearly any operating system—including older versions of macOS like Mojave—in a virtual machine. In essence, they fool the guest operating system, whether it’s Mojave or Windows, into thinking it’s running normally on a computer when it’s actually running in a virtual environment.
These apps cost about $80, and while there’s a bit of work in setting them up (the screenshot below shows the option for installing Mojave in Parallels Desktop during setup), once you have them configured, it’s easy to run older apps alongside newer ones with little or no performance hit. This approach is also perfect for a 16-inch MacBook Pro or Mac Pro that can’t run Mojave in any other way.
Install Catalina and Mojave on Separate APFS Volumes and Switch Boot
Finally, there’s one other option that lets you switch back and forth between Mojave and Catalina, assuming your Mac supports Mojave. You can create an APFS volume on your internal drive and install another version of macOS on that. It’s easy, and Apple provides full instructions. The only problem with this approach is that you’ll have to restart to switch operating systems, whereas both are available simultaneously with the virtualization solution.
First, make sure you have at least one current backup of your Mac, since it’s foolhardy to adjust your drive structure without one. Next, in Disk Utility, select your internal drive, choose Edit > Add APFS Volume, and click Add. We recommend naming the drive such that it will be clear what’s on it.
Command-R reinstalls the latest version of macOS that was installed on your Mac.
Command-Option-R upgrades to the latest version of macOS that’s compatible with your Mac.
Command-Shift-Option-R reinstalls the version of macOS that came with your Mac, or the closest version still available.
Choose Reinstall macOS from the macOS Utilities window and proceed from there.
Once the installation is complete, to switch from one version of macOS to another, open System Preferences > Startup Disk, choose the desired volume to boot from, and then click Restart. Or, press Option at startup and select the desired volume from the Startup Manager screen.
Needless to say, the decision about when and how to upgrade to Catalina isn’t a trivial one, so feel free to contact us to discuss your particular situation or to get help with any of the procedures that we’ve described in this article.
AirDrop has become a fast and reliable way to transfer data from one iPhone to another that’s nearby. Just tap the share icon and in iOS 13’s activity view, either tap an AirDrop shortcut in the top row or tap AirDrop in the second row and select choose a person or device in the subsequent AirDrop screen. But what if your iPhone doesn’t appear for the person who wants to share with you? Assuming Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both on, the fix is generally to go to Settings > General > AirDrop and select Everyone. If you’re concerned about unwanted transfers, switch to Contacts Only afterward.
For unknown reasons, Apple redesigned the toolbar in the iOS 13 version of Mail. Such things happen, but this time, Apple made a big mistake and moved Mail’s Trash button to where its Reply button used to be. Lots of people who have become accustomed to tapping Reply are now finding themselves deleting messages inadvertently, since a tap in the same location in iOS 13 deletes the message. It’s hard to retrain muscle memory—the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought—but if you find yourself deleting messages accidentally, you’ll need to slow down and remember to tap the new location of the Reply button.
If you’re experiencing a sporadic problem with your Mac, the sort of thing that happens often enough to be annoying but not so frequently as to be reproducible, allow us to suggest one little-known troubleshooting tip. Malfunctioning USB devices—keyboards, mice, hubs, printers, etc.—can sometimes cause truly inscrutable problems ranging from startup issues to kernel panics. USB-caused issues aren’t common, but when they do happen, they can be challenging to track down. If you’ve tried everything else, disconnect all unnecessary USB devices and, if possible, swap your wired keyboard and mouse for another set. Then see if the problem goes away.
Does it seem like that red badge on the Settings app indicating that there’s a new iOS 13 or iPadOS 13 update pops up at least once per week? You’re not imagining things—Apple has been frantically squashing bugs in its mobile operating systems since its release in mid-September.
If you haven’t yet upgraded from iOS 12, there’s no harm in waiting until the new year to see if things have settled down. (Well, no harm as long as you don’t receive a pair of Apple’s snazzy new AirPods Pro as a holiday gift since they work only with devices running at least iOS 13.2, iPadOS 13.2, watchOS 6.1, tvOS 13.2, and macOS Catalina 10.15.1.)
That said, given Apple’s generally reliable record with major iOS updates, many people have upgraded to iOS 13. You shouldn’t feel bad if you have done so, either. Despite Apple’s flurry of bug fix updates, the overall user experience with iOS 13 has been generally acceptable.
Even if you haven’t noticed problems with iOS 13, it is important that you keep installing all these smaller updates, because they fix problems that could be serious. More important yet, if you do have trouble with your iPhone or iPad, and you’re not running the latest version of iOS or iPadOS, updating is the first fix to try.
To hammer home why you should stay up-to-date with iOS releases, here’s a brief timeline of Apple’s fixes so far:
iOS 13.0 (September 19): This was the initial release of iOS 13 for the iPhone, with oodles of new features… and lots of bugs. Apple promised iOS 13.1 and the first release of iPadOS 13.1 for September 29th, with additional features and bug fixes.
iOS 13.1 (September 24): After iOS 13.0 received scathing reviews in early iPhone 11 reviews, Apple moved the release date of iOS 13.1 up by five days. It added more features and addressed numerous bugs with Mail, Messages, Reminders, Notes, Apple ID sign-in, the Lock screen, and more.
iOS 13.1.1 (September 27): This quick Friday release the same week as iOS 13.1 fixed bugs that could prevent an iPhone from restoring from backup, cause batteries to drain too quickly, reduce Siri recognition accuracy, bog down Reminders syncing, and allow third-party keyboard apps to access the Internet without your permission.
iOS 13.1.2 (September 30): The next Monday brought iOS 13.1.2, which ensured that the progress bar for iCloud backups would disappear after a successful backup, addressed bugs that caused the Camera app and flashlight to fail, and improved the reliability of Bluetooth connections in some vehicles.
iOS 13.1.3 (October 15): After a two-week breather, this update addressed bugs that could prevent incoming calls from ringing, block meeting invites from opening in Mail, cause incorrect data in Health after daylight saving time changes, prevent apps and voice memos recordings from downloading after restoring from iCloud Backup, stop an Apple Watch from pairing successfully, and cause Bluetooth connection problems with vehicles (again) and hearing aids.
iOS 13.2 (October 28): With this update, Apple delivered additional promised features, including support for the HomePod, Siri privacy options, HomeKit Secure Video, new emoji, Deep Fusion in the iPhone 11 Camera app, and AirPods Pro support. It also fixed a bug with password autofill in third-party apps, resolved an issue that prevented swipe to go home from working on the iPhone X and later, eliminated a problem that caused saved notes to disappear temporarily, and ensured that manual iCloud backups completed successfully.
iOS 13.2.1 (October 30): As it turned out, iOS 13.2 could brick HomePods during installation or after a reset. This HomePod-exclusive update fixed that bug.
iOS 13.2.2 (November 7): This update stomped a big bug that could cause apps to quit unexpectedly in the background, potentially causing data loss and draining the battery more quickly. It also addressed two bugs that could cause an iPhone to lose cellular service.
iOS 13.2.3 (November 18): This release resolved one bug that could cause searches in Mail, Files, and Notes to fail and another that prevented photos, links, and other attachments from displaying in the Messages detail view. It also addressed problems that could prevent apps from downloading content in the background and prevent Mail from fetching new messages and including and quoting original content when replying.
With luck, you never ran into any of these bugs—they weren’t universal. But the problems were real, and they inconvenienced plenty of people. Just like with vaccinations, staying current with your iOS updates is the best way to keep the bugs at bay.
Confession time. If there’s one topic we can’t stop talking about, it’s backups. Backups are essential, since no one can guarantee that your Mac or iPhone won’t be lost or stolen, be caught in a flood from a broken pipe, or just fail silently. It happens.
You should have a good backup strategy that ensures backups happen regularly, but it’s not paranoid to make double extra sure when you’re doing something that’s more likely to cause problems than everyday activity. And by that we’re thinking about upgrading to a major new operating system, such as macOS 10.15 Catalina or iOS 13.
The reason is simple. As much as Apple tests the heck out of these upgrades, so many files are in play that all it takes is one unexpected glitch to render the entire Mac or iPhone non-functional. Wouldn’t you like to be able to revert instantly if something does go wrong?
Mac Backups before Upgrading
On the Mac side, most people should be using Time Machine. It ensures that you can not only restore your entire drive if necessary, but also easily recover a previous version of a corrupted file. The other advantage of having Time Machine backups (and a bootable duplicate, discussed next) is that you can use either to migrate all your apps, data, and settings back to a new installation of macOS, should that become necessary.
As useful as Time Machine is, a bootable duplicate made with SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner is the best insurance right before you upgrade to Catalina. If an installation goes south, you can also boot from your duplicate and get back to work right away.
Finally, although it’s not directly related to backing up before upgrading, we always recommend an offsite backup made via an Internet backup service like Backblaze. This is because a fire or flood would likely destroy your backup drive along with your Mac.
So please, back up your Mac before something goes wrong. It’s fast, easy, and inexpensive to get started, and we’re happy to help.
iOS Backups before Upgrading
Although upgrade-related problems are less common with iPhones and iPads, they can still happen. It’s more likely that you’d drop your little friend accidentally while juggling groceries or forget it after your workout at the gym, but regardless, a backup ensures that you don’t lose precious photos if you’re not using iCloud Photos or My Photo Stream, and backups make migrating to a new device like a fancy new iPhone as painless as possible.
With iOS, though, you don’t need extra software or hardware to make a backup. Apple provides two ways of backing up your iPhone or iPad: iTunes and iCloud. We generally recommend backing up to iCloud if your backups will fit in the free 5 GB of space Apple provides or if you’re already paying for more iCloud space. If you’re not a fan of the cloud or don’t have space, there’s nothing wrong with iTunes backups, though they’re a bit fussier to set up and manage.
There’s also no harm in using both, with iCloud for nightly automatic backups and iTunes for an extra backup just before upgrading to iOS 13 or to a new iPhone or iPad. A second backup can be useful—we’ve seen situations where an iPhone would refuse to restore its files from iTunes but would from iCloud.
To back up to iCloud, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Backup, turn the switch on, and tap Back Up Now. For backups to happen automatically in the future, you must have sufficient space in your iCloud account (you can buy more), and your device must be on a Wi-Fi network, connected to power, and have its screen locked.
To back up to iTunes, connect your device to your Mac via a Lightning-to-USB cable, launch iTunes, and click the device icon to the right of the media menu.
Then, in the Backups section, click the Back Up Now button. If you’re prompted to encrypt your backups, we encourage you to agree since otherwise your backup won’t include passwords, Health information, or HomeKit data. For automatic backups via iTunes, select This Computer. After that, every time you plug into your Mac, it will back up.
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that we’re not talking about how to restore if something goes wrong during an upgrade. That’s because it’s impossible to predict exactly what might happen or what state your device will end up in. So if you’re unfortunate enough to have such problems—or to have some other catastrophic failure—get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.