Five reasons to stay away from Apple's OS X beta seeding program

Why you may want to stay away from Apple's new OS X beta seeding program

Apple's letting the general public test pre-release OS X Mavericks software. There are good reasons not to sign up, however

Apple on Tuesday announced a beta seeding program that enables anyone — not just registered developers — from gaining access to pre-release OS X Mavericks software and applications from Apple. There are some good reasons to get involved, but there are an equal number of reasons to stay away from it. Here are a few.

1. It's pre-release software

Alpha, beta and other pre-release software generally has bugs or other shortcomings that can cause problems. Sometimes those problems are complete show stoppers that will shut you down hard.

Some problems that you're currently having may actually get fixed by pre-release software; after all, bug fixes and maintenance updates are a big part of what goes on with these things. But other problems may be introduced that you wouldn't otherwise experience with actual release software, because other beta participants have already reported the issues, which Apple has fixed.

2. There's no support

During your participation in the Seeding Program or in a particular seed, Apple is not obligated to provide you with any maintenance, technical or other support for the Pre-Release Software.

Good luck getting help if you need it, should you run into trouble with the pre-release software you're testing. You're potentially creating a headache for yourself and, if you're in a business or institutional environment, a headache for your IT support staff. In fact, depending on your institution's policies, you may not be allowed to install pre-release software, so if this is on a work or school computer, check with your IT staff before doing so.

That also means that you're unlikely to get a lot of help from the local Apple Genius at your Apple retail store or from AppleCare, if you give them a call. Bottom line: You run into problems, you're likely on your own.

3. You're not allowed to talk about it

Except as expressly permitted in this Section 6, you agree that you will not disclose, publish, or otherwise disseminate any Confidential Information to anyone other than individuals who are enrolled in the same individual seed as you, or as otherwise expressly permitted or agreed to in writing by Apple.

This is probably the least enforced — and least enforceable — clause in the agreement. People have routinely run their mouths about Apple beta software for years — witness the avalanche of details that emerge about iOS and OS X during and after every WWDC — and Apple really does little, if anything, to stop it, except to say nothing when asked directly.

Still, according to the letter of the agreement, you're only allowed to talk about it with other beta seed participants. Apple makes blabbing about it sound ominous, too:

Accordingly, you agree that Apple will have the right to seek immediate injunctive relief to enforce obligations under this Agreement in addition to any other rights and remedies it may have.

4. This is your only Mac

If you have only one computer you do most of your work from, please don't use it as a guinea pig. If you run into a complete show-stopper that hoses your Mac, you may be completely screwed without having to restore your Mac from a backup. Hence Apple's proviso:

The Pre-Release Software is not intended for use, and should not be used, in production or business-critical systems.

5. You're concerned about privacy

You also give Apple the right to collect diagnostic, technical and usage data from you (you can opt out, but that takes a bit of extra work). None of this data is personally identifiable, according to Apple. But in an era when we're on heightened alert about NSA and countless security issues, some of you may not be comfortable sharing any data with Apple, and need to be wary.

Have you signed up for the seed program? Having second thoughts? Sound off in the comments.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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There are 26 comments. Add yours.

Kyle_Rayner08 says:

Yea definitely signed up last night got some issues now probably gonna take it off tonight

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melvinnn310 says:

how do you take it off after installing it ? if thats possible ..

melvinnn310 says:

I just tried this and it worked. If you download OS X Mavericks again from the iTunes store you go back to version 10.9.2

OlDirtyBastard says:

Is it this?

Opt-out of automatic reporting
Choose Apple >System Preferences, click Security & Privacy, and then click Privacy.
Deselect “Send diagnostic and usage data to Apple.”

Peter Cohen says:

Security and Privacy system preference, Privacy tab, uncheck Send diagnostic & usage data to Apple.

DikaiaKnight says:

What's the process to roll back to TE official release if you install a beta build and decide to go back. Is it basically just restoring a back up or can you just revert the OS?

Peter Cohen says:

Yep - you basically just have to restore from a backup.

lkrupp says:

Really, if you have to ask that question you shouldn’t be installing a beta release.

DikaiaKnight says:

Really, if you're just going to be an ass, you shouldn't bother replying.

lkrupp says:

Just speaking the truth. Any user who doesn’t know how to back out of an installation shouldn’t be messing around with beta software in the first place. It implies a lack of basic knowledge about how computers and software work together. You see it all the time on actual release versions. People update, don’t like what they got, or experience problems, don’t know how to troubleshoot, and don’t have a clue how to restore. Amplify that with beta software. You’re the one asking how roll back.

khobia2 says:

Was going to and decided to hold off. Have only one Mac so taking your advice. Still on a learning curve with this thing and while I like to get a peek at the latest and greatest not worth the trouble yet. Does this seed program have a cut off date. If not I probably will pick up a Mac mini later just to get my feet wet on this stuff.

MT36000 says:

I too have only one Mac ! What you really need is one external drive that you will need to clone your main volume and use to update the system you already have to the beta system you want to try.

makeintosh says:

Bad blanket advice.

5 reasons - true, but aren't these the same reasons why some should avoid all beta testing? Remember Siri? Did we all stay away from her too because she was Beta?

Some, for the reasons you mention, should stay away from all beta software if they don't understand risks of, or recover from problems they may encounter. Others who do understand and are competent enough to handle consequences SHOULD install this and send results. It only helps make the final product better for all of us. Just install it on a secondary Mac and leave your primary computer clean. There will be problems - it's beta. Just know what you're getting into.

Avoid it completely? Really? I keep beta anything off my daily "production" MacBook bit I WILL install this on my old MacPro and help make this better.

lkrupp says:

"Avoid it completely? Really? I keep beta anything off my daily “production” MacBook bit I WILL install this on my old MacPro and help make this better."

Well that’s the rub isn’t it. Users who shouldn’t have anything to do with beta releases will be installing this on their primary machines expecting it to fix their favorite, perhaps non existent, bug only to find out they are now hosed. They WILL scream bloody murder, they WILL expect Apple to “fix” it for them, the WILL be yelling at a Genius in an Apple store. Oh, and these types NEVER have backups, EVER.

Look at this very thread. We have several asking how to go back if they don’t like what happens. If they have to ask then they should not do it in the first place.

makeintosh says:

Natural Selection is a wonderful concept.

I'm absolutely certain Apple will have an answer for users who don't know what they are getting into.

Take backups - lesson learned.

JDHatman says:

Daily machine - no.
Test VM - definitely
If it screws something up, I'll restore a snapshot.

Andrew Murray says:

At first glance I found the headline and stern warnings a bit alarmist, but on second thought I realized I'm probably not the target audience, and if it causes just one curious, yet reckless person to think twice before bricking their un-backed-up Mac, then rage on.

I hope the intake mechanism (human, machine or otherwise) is ready for the avalanche of junk and noise they're going to get submitted... :)

davjaxn says:

AppleCare will provide phone support to beta testers in this instance.

Don Squires says:

Ran beta for a day. Had to take it off because computer would not wake up from sleep. Luckily I was able to put it on my spare Mac.

cgreen3317 says:

Downloaded it last night, not a single issue. Running great....

DavidNielsen says:

I have a developer account despite not actively developing for OS X precisely to get access to beta builds so this. So if it extends to the pre-releases of major versions and not just early access to point release updates it would save me money.

I do install this on my only Mac and I do so knowing it can explode (so things are backed up at all times). I do it mainly to get new shiny but also because I enjoy beta testing and like interacting with developers via bug reports. I break my stuff so it hopefully won't break yours.

I hope a public beta program in combination with the new static analysis and continuous build technology will lead this to be less risky than it has been. Apple are fairly good at managing regressions and bugs, combined with the knowledge that these changes will now hit a lot more real data and usage I hope they will learn how to correctly roll out updates that just work.

I am excited and eager to help break stuff in the name of progress.

rdubmu says:

I am not going to fuck up my computer is the reason why. With Ms I can count on timely updates and have no issues trying beta

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