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Upgrading to Catalina: Tips for Video Pros

Apple has just released macOS 10.15, “Catalina”. Big OS upgrades always present a bit of a dilemma for folks in the video industry. New versions of macOS bring lots of exciting updates, better performance, and new features. But they can also create compatibility problems, and there’s always a risk that things could go wrong. Here are a few of our tips on upgrading.

Before the Upgrade

First things first, WAIT. Seriously, just ignore it. Go about your business. Come back to it in a month or two. If you’ve got a personal machine that you don’t need for production projects, upgrade that one first. Even for development work, we’re finding that Catalina isn’t quite ready for prime-time on launch day.

When you’re ready to do the upgrade, there are a few preliminary tasks you should perform. First, check for compatibility with your critical apps. Generally, you’ll want to wait for an “all clear” from the vendors that you rely on. Some apps, like Avid, can take a bit before this happens, because they need to validate many hardware configurations. EditReady is fully updated for Catalina as long as you’re running the latest version. We’re still wrapping up our new ScopeBox release, so if you’re a ScopeBox user, you’ll want to hold off until version 4.0 is released.

Make sure you update any drivers for hardware devices like capture cards or storage arrays. It’s generally best to update these before the upgrade, because a bad driver could potential cause a “crash on boot” situation, which is much more difficult to recover from.

Finally, check your backups. Have they been completing successfully? Are you confident that you can restore from them? Many users like to use a tool like SuperDuper to make a bootable backup, just in case. That makes recovery a lot easier if something does go wrong. This is especially important if you primarily rely on remote backups (like Backblaze or Crashplan), because those can dramatically extend the time it takes to restore a Mac.

Performing the Upgrade

Now you’re ready to do the upgrade. Nowadays, this is pretty simple – you start it via the Mac App Store app, then just walk away for an hour or so. That said, don’t start the upgrade if you’re crunching on a project and need to deliver your output by the end of the day. If all goes according to plan, you’ll have a fresh system, with minimal interruption. If things go wrong, you might need to restore from a backup or do other troubleshooting. It sounds silly, but we’ve heard from more than one customer that’s done a major system update right before a critical deadline. Don’t do that.

Some users prefer to do a “clean install,” which involves wiping your harddisk entirely and doing a fresh install. In the early days of macOS this was done frequently, as the upgrade process was less reliable. Nowadays, most users don’t need to do a clean install, and we’d generally recommend against it. That said, an upgrade is a great time to clear out old “cruft” from your Mac – for example, apps you no longer use.

Once you’ve finished the upgrade, do a check to make sure all your important apps launch and behave properly. Apple often releases updates in quick succession after a big release like this, so keep an eye on your System Preferences “software update” section.