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Historically, if you wanted to get the new Windows, you should always wait until Service Pack 2 if you want a stable OS.

So, how is it with Apple OSes? Should we get Lion right away or wait for 10.7.2 or something? I'd bet most people (specially fan boys) will say to get it now. "Simple".

edit: What you guys have to say now that Lion has been around for a while? Is my current accepted answer still the rule? I see sooo many bad reviews as never before from any apple release (other than Final Cut X).

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Always a good idea to wait at least a reasonable period of time before upgrading. (Oh, and have a good backup before doing the deed!) –  Kerri Shotts Jun 7 '11 at 4:47
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I've NEVER waited for a Service Pack to come out in order to use Windows. –  Jason Salaz Jun 7 '11 at 8:47
    
Definitely do a back-up before you do the deed as @Kerri suggests. –  boehj Jun 9 '11 at 10:06
    
@Jason you must have loved those blue screens of eternal death. –  Cawas Jun 9 '11 at 14:21
    
The concept of a "stable OS" seems to invite so much subjectivity - what exactly are you hoping to have a definitive answer for the long run? –  bmike Aug 8 '11 at 17:47
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7 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

As an IT-service company we use several OSes. We use Freebsd on our internet servers, and Linux, Windows and OS X on desktop clients. I'm personally an OS X user since 10.1(Puma) and have never used Mac OS 9 (I have a strong unix background).

OS X's stability and upgrading smoothness is unmatched by either Windows or Linux! Only Freebsd is comparable.

We usually upgrade live servers with freebsd and clients with OS X immediately after release, and have never had any problems. (I mean any.) This is probably because we don't use any "special" applications, just common Apple products like iWork, iLife, and Omnigroup products, etc.

OS X (the system) runs immediately without any flaws. There can be some problems (as @boehj told above) with third party applications, but 95% of the applications usually work without problems, because developers build them in advance. You can already see applications that are Lion-ready.

So, if you are not a hardcore OS X user, ofc, you can wait a while "to make sure", but from my experience: it is enough check how your application run under Lion (by visitng the developer site) and if they are ok, simply upgrade & go. :) Forget the "windows service-pack" syndrome :).

As Kerri said above - ofc, backups are good. Not just when upgrading, but "just because". In 10 years I have never needed to restore anything because of an upgrade. Ofc, we restored when we moved from PPC->Intel and when switching to new Mac models, but never "just because the upgrade went wrong". I'm pretty sure that apple decided selling Lion ONLY as a download via the AppStore (without media) that the upgrade process would be well tested.

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Thanks, someone with years of experience is exactly whom I was hoping to hear from! –  Cawas Jun 7 '11 at 12:49
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This "wait for service pack 2" or "wait for 10.x.2" stuff isn't very helpful imo.

What might be more helpful is planning your upgrade process - remember your computer should be working for you instead of the other way around.

  1. To me, this means that if you enjoy playing with new OS features above all else then yes, upgrade as soon as possible to start enjoying them.
  2. If you use your computer for leisure and aren't interested in how it works, as long as it does, then upgrade reasonably swiftly if there is a new feature you think will improve your use of your computer.
  3. If you use your computer "professionally" - e.g. you make your living from using FCP, or Logic, or CS5 or whatever on your Mac then it would be prudent to wait until the people who make the application(s) you use professionally have certified them for use on the new OS, released any patches, etc.

And in all of those cases, but especially the last one, make a good backup before upgrading (ideally a disk image with something like Carbon Copy Cloner if you're in the 3rd category above) so that you can roll it back if you have trouble.

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M-Audio's FireWire Solo drivers (and others) didn't work out-the-gate with Snow Leopard. There are extensive forum threads on this (if they haven't been deleted by M-Audio yet). I seem to remember getting sound card functionality (i.e. drivers from M-Audio) around 10.6.2.

If you don't have anything in particular like in this case, you'll probably be OK (see caveat).

My personal view is to wait and let the 'proper' beta testers do the hard work for me - this applies to any software - before I jump in.

There can be no absolute answer here unless you use a specialized piece of equipment that requires drivers and those drivers aren't ready yet.

CAVEAT

When Snow Leopard was released there was a very significant bug related to guest accounts and deletion of data, where "logging into a guest account and then logging out [could] delete user information on all accounts." This was only fixed in 10.6.2. (Snow Leopard also shipped with an "an obsolete and exploit-vulnerable version of Flash".)

Apple referred to the bug in the 10.6.2 release as "an issue that caused data to be deleted when using a guest account".

Now, I'm not saying this will happen to you. But I am saying that it's often wise to wait a little while for major bugs such as this one to be ironed out before you jump on a new release.

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I tend to wait about one week before upgrading to a new version of Mac OS X. That's usually enough time for any glaring troubles to be revealed and for workarounds to be found for any that might affect me.

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By and large - the QA of Mac releases is so good for general consumers, that there rarely is a show stopper that causes mass pain. For most, waiting a day or a week or a month is no different than jumping on day zero.

The answer to your question is much more a factor of how much customization you make on your mac and what software you NEED to have running.

Professionals that can't afford down time usually clone their boot drive so they have a known and fixed amount of time to get back to the last version if the upgrade doesn't go so well for whatever reason.

(So - it takes minutes to shut down, connect the external and boot from it and get back to work - and it takes hours to wipe the new OS from the internal drive and go back to the saved version. Disk Utility and Super Duper / Carbon Copy Cloner all make this "undoing" of the upgrade easy for non-professionals and professionals alike.)

It's easier to generalize about having a backup, a plan and time to upgrade than trying to pigeon hole what bugs might cause some few people trouble.

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My advice over the years to customers is always to wait until the ".1" or ".2" updates arrive from Apple. For example, right now the version you can purchase is Mac OS X 10.7.0. While it is quite stable, in a few weeks, Apple will probably release an update to 10.7.1 and it will come with some bug fixes and improved implementation of some new features. If you wait, you will likely have fewer problems to contend with.

That being said, I have been testing 10.7.0 and I'm quite impressed with how stable and useful it is right now. But I still have a full system installation on 10.6.8 on another disk partition, and I can dual-boot into either one if I need to work with a program that I already own that is not fully Lion-compatibile.

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With Apple OS updates, I stick to this advice a bit closer. This is similar to each new Windows release too. If you have lots of non-apple hardware and driver specific devices you depend on or use often, wait until the manufacture of the device supports the new updates with new drivers or states their hardware is compatible. Like beohj, my experience with this was with some M-Audio products (Sound card, recording interface, etc.). This was with the release of 10.5 I think. I jumped the gun on upgrading, but it was a couple months before I could use my audio equipment properly when new drivers were released.

If you don't have any aftermarket driver dependent hardware or own all apple hardware, upgrades will go pretty smooth for the most part. Apple does a decent job of making sure all their hardware will continue to work. If you run into issues with anything aftermarket, it might be months before you see updates, so proceed with caution.

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