How to get Apple’s latest software before everyone else

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Get the public betas for iOS and Mac before your friends do.
Get the public betas for iOS and Mac before your friends do.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Want to get your hands on the latest, greatest iOS and OS X features for your iPhone, iPad, and Mac before anyone else does? Do you love checking out all the new stuff in iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan so you can be the first to comment on them?

All you need to do is sign up for the Apple Beta Software Program, and you’ll be able to access the public betas of these flagship operating systems before they’re available to the rank and file.

Here’s how to sign up for (and install) Apple’s latest public betas.

First a word of caution: Like all pre-release software, Apple’s public betas are not quite ready for prime time. They’ve been tested by developers, who can access them even earlier than public beta testers, but installing beta versions of iOS or OS X can lead to glitches and unexplainable weirdness. Some features might not work as you expect (and some might even disappear, only to be replaced in a subsequent version of the software).

In other words, if you install Apple’s public betas, you’re playing guinea pig. The good news is you get the latest, greatest software from Apple — and you get to help Cupertino’s coders by reporting any problems you encounter. Still, if you’re allergic to bugs, you might not want to load up Apple’s latest software on your only Mac or iPhone.

Ready to take the plunge? OK, let’s do it.

Enroll your Mac

First, head on over to the Apple Beta Software Program page and sign in with your Apple ID.

Use your Apple ID here.
Use your Apple ID here.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Next, you’ll want to backup your Mac and then download the OS X El Capitan public beta access utility, found in step two of the Apple page here. (You’ll need to already have the current stable version of OS X El Capitan installed on your Mac.)

The update panel will keep your public beta install up to date.
The update panel will keep your public beta install up-to-date.
Photo: Apple

Double-click the .dmg file that you just downloaded, then double-click on the package file, and then follow the onscreen instructions to install the latest public beta. Once you agree to all the software licensing agreements and such, the Mac App Store will open and show the Updates panel. Simply click the Update button to get the latest public beta for El Capitan on your Mac. If there are no updates to install, you’ll get a notification the next time there is.

Enroll your iPhone or iPad

Again, you’ll want to backup your iPhone, either with iCloud or iTunes, before you get started.

On your actual iOS device (iPhone or iPad), navigate to beta.apple.com/profile, sign in with your Apple ID, and then download the profile based on the prompts your device gives you. If you’ve got two-factor authentication on (and you should), enter the one-time code that Apple will send you. Follow the onscreen instructions to allow the install.

Install the public beta profile on your iPhone or iPad.
Install the public beta profile on your iPhone or iPad.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Once you click through to install the profile, you’ll need to restart your iOS device — tap on the Restart Now button that appears to make that happen.

Now, tap open your Settings app, then tap on General. You should see a little (1) icon next to Software Update. Tap that and then tap Install Now. (You’ll need to be plugged into power or have more than 50 percent battery for that to work.)

Agree to the Terms & Conditions and you’re ready to roll. Just wait for your iOS device to verify the update, download the new files, and install. Your iPhone or iPad will likely restart after this process.

Now you’ll have Apple’s latest software on your Mac and your iPhone or iPad (or both!) and you can start bragging to all your friends about your new acquisitions.

Deals of the Day

  • igorsky

    Once the beta phase is over and the official update is released, how do you go about getting the official version? Do you have to take any extra steps if currently using the beta?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Rob LeFebvre

      The last few times I’ve done it, there’s a final beta release that takes you up to the “regular” release. Shouldn’t be different this time.

      • igorsky

        So you mean it’ll be a regular software upgrade just like you would normally upgrade? Do you need to delete the profile?

      • Rob LeFebvre

        It’s been a while since the last time I did it, but I don’t recall having to delete a profile.

  • Ramón van Geytenbeek

    Great advice to tell people to install beta software. Most people do not understand that this means buggy software which isn’t ready for its big release. That it’s public only means that people get to “test” it. Next article: how to uninstall those buggy betas!

    • Rob LeFebvre

      It’s a public beta – it’s much less likely to be buggy or damaging. But yes, it’s still beta. I’ve not had any troubles with the public betas the last couple of iterations, myself.

      • Ramón van Geytenbeek

        I had once, but I also know what I’m doing, so wasn’t that big of a deal… Most people would freak out though…

    • http://www.cultofmac.com/ Lewis Wallace

      We’ve update the post with a bit of caveat emptor, Ramón … thanks for mentioning.