How to Install the macOS Big Sur Beta Right Now
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How to Install the macOS Big Sur Beta Right Now

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You can install the macOS Big Sur beta on your Mac without a developer account to test the new macOS Big Sur features well ahead of the public release date this fall. Apple offers up a developer beta and a public beta that you can install on your computer to test out. This is aimed at developers and IT professionals, but you can also try it on your Mac today if you don’t fall into these categories.

We’ll show you how to make a safe backup of your Mac that you can go back to if you have any problems, as well as how to download the macOS Big Sur beta and then how to install it. We cover two install options so that you can make sure you’re covered.

How to Backup Your Mac The Right Way

Make sure you backup and then keep that backup from being overwritten with a macOS 10.15 backup.

Make sure you backup and then keep that backup from being overwritten with a macOS Big Sur backup.

Before you install the macOS Big Sur beta, you need to back up your Mac and you should make sure that you create a second backup that you won’t accidentally overwrite. This captures a snapshot in time that you can go back to if you decide to downgrade from macOS Big Sur to macOS Catalina. I prefer to keep this backup on a separate USB hard drive, but you can put it anywhere you want. If you have enough space on your backup drive you may not need to do this, but better safe than sorry.

  1. Plug your external hard drive into the Mac.
  2. Click on the Apple icon the upper left.
  3. Choose System Preferences in the menu.
  4. Find and click on the Time Machine option.
  5. Click Add or Remove Backup Disk.
  6. Choose the new disk and click use disk.
  7. Allow the Time Machine to start a backup.

Once this is done, unplug the backup and keep it in a safe place. This will give you an easy way to go back to macOS Catalina if you have problems with the macOS Big Sur beta.

How to Download the macOS Big Sur Beta

Developers can easily find the beta in their Apple Developer account. Average users should wait for the public Apple Developer Beta to arrive in July or later. If you don’t fit either group, you can download the beta now, but you will need to work around these options.

To join the public macOS Big Sur beta, you need to visit the Developer Program website or Apple Beta Software Program website and sign up. This allows you to sign up and then you can download the macOS Developer Beta Access Utility. If you want to install this on a second partition, you can do that with the instructions down below.

If you are a developer, you can download the macOS Developer Beta Access Utility directly from Apple. Here’s how to do that.

  1. Go to the Apple Developer Website.
  2. Click on Develop and then on Downloads.
  3. Sign in with your Apple ID.
  4. Scroll until you see the macOS Big Sur beta 1 listing.
  5. Click on Download to start downloading the macOS Developer Beta Access Utility.

If you aren’t an Apple developer, you can find the macOS Big Sur Developer Beta Access Utility download on Beta Profiles. This will allow you to directly download the same file without signing up. This is outside of Apple’s terms and conditions, so you may want to simply wait for the public macOS Big Sur beta.

Once you have the file downloaded continue with the directions below;

6. Double click on the macOSDeveloperBeta16AccessUtility.pkg.
7. Wait for the installer to finish and open the Mac App Store Update section.

We are seeing the Big Sur beta listing in System Preferences, but not yet in the Mac App Store. We will update as we find a link to the app store.

From here, you should see the macOS Big Sur installer that you can download to your Mac. When it finishes downloading it will prompt you to install the beta, which we cover below. There are a few ways to install the macOS Big Sur beta depending on your setup

How to Install the macOS Big Sur Beta

Users that want to install the macOS Big Sur beta on their Mac as the only operating system can do so very easily. This is best on a spare Mac, since it overwrites the macOS Catalina installation. If you have trouble you can still downgrade, but it is not as easy as just switching back.

Once the macOS Big Sur developer beta downloads, it will prompt you to start the installation. If you cancel it, you can find it in the downloads or in your apps on your Mac.

  1. Once the Installer is running, click Continue.
  2. Agree to the Terms and Conditions.
  3. Click Install.
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

Over the next 30-45 minutes, your device will restart at least once to complete the macOS Big Sur installation. If it appears to freeze or pause, just wait for it to resume. You should be plugged into power during this process. When your Mac restarts, follow the instructions and if needed sign back in with your Apple ID and Password

How to Install the macOS Big Sur Beta on a Partition

Use a partition to install the macOS 10.15 beta alongside macOS Mojave.

Use a partition to install the macOS 10.15 beta alongside macOS Mojave.

If you don’t have a spare Mac to install the macOS Big Sur beta on, the best thing to do is create a partition on your Mac’s hard drive and install it there. This will keep your main macOS Catalina installation in place and make it easy to switch back and forth. You will need to make sure that you have enough space. The minimum amount of space is 30GB, but if you can spare 50GB for the partition you will run into fewer issues.

Before you start the installation, you need to make a second partition on your Mac. Here’s how to do that.

  1. Open Disk Utility
  2. Choose your Mac’s drive. (Usually Fusion or Macintosh HD)
  3. Click on the Partition Section.
  4. Click the + button.
  5. Make a Partition that is 30-50GB in size.
  6. Name the Partition.
  7. Click Apply and wait for the changes to save.

If you are already on APFS, which is very likely, you can also just create a new Volume in Disk Utility.

  1. Open Disk Utility
  2. Choose your Mac’s drive. (Usually Fusion or Macintosh HD)
  3. Click the + button above Volume.
  4. Name the Volume Beta
  5. Click Create

Now that you have a partition to install the macOS Big Sur beta on, you can go back to the installation options.

  1. Open the macOS Big Sur Installer.
  2. Click Continue.
  3. Agree to the terms.
  4. When you see a disk, click Show All Disks.
  5. Click on the Partition you just made.
  6. Click Install.

This process will take some time, but it will complete and you will have a clean installation of macOS Big Sur on the partition so that you can test with it without it touching your primary macOS Catalina installation. These instructions also work if you want to install the macOS Big Sur beta on an external hard drive.

When you restart your Mac, you can press and hold the option key, which will bring up a Startup Manager so you can choose if you want to boot into macOS Catalina or macOS Big Sur. You can also go into System Preferences -> Startup Disk -> and choose the preferred startup disk if you want to primarily use the macOS Big Sur partition.

10 Things to Do Before Installing the macOS Big Sur Beta

Learn About macOS Big Sur

Learn About macOS Big Sur

Before you jump into the macOS Big Sur beta, you should get familiar with what it includes. This means learning the compatibility, what the new features are, and reading up on what new features are and aren't in the early betas. 

Not everything Apple showed off on stage is in this beta, and some of the new features may not arrive until the first official release or even a follow-up release. 

If you are installing the macOS Big Sur beta for a single feature, wait to see if it is there before you jump in. 

Apple delivers support for a lot of older devices, so there is a good chance that even an older Mac that you own will work, but be wary of jumping right in if it is your only Mac. Let someone else test those waters. 

We're working on a list of the new macOS Big Sur features to help you understand what you will get, and you can use that and information on social media and forums to learn more about this update. 

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