Mavericks OS 10.9 – to hell and back


Mavericks is quirky!

I upgrade to Mavericks (OS 10.9.0) from Snow Leopard (10.6.8) and I had a really ugly shock. The upgrade left my work setup paralysed and unusable.. at least for a while. For those of you with not much time and not much RAM, increase your RAM to 8GB and double check what apps you might have that are not compatible (not Intel architecture).

Here’s a summary to help others through the tough times.

Disclosure: Why I did it?

I found that more and more apps needed 10.7+ to work. My last straw was wanting to use intel XDK to build web and iPhone apps. It was also a nice thought to go from 10.6.8 to 10.9 and jump up 3 versions. I was also hoping for better photo-stream support in iPhoto but I found out that iPhoto is a paid upgrade for users with iLife 09 installed. Like most others out there, I had held out a bit longer due to the initial issues with 10.7 and the major shift in the user interface.

Summary of bugs after upgrade

  • Mail failed to update message database. Worked the second time.
  • An account (via OS X “Internet Accounts”) failed to add the first time. Worked the second time.
  • Google Chrome was incredibly slow (many issues logged on this, Safari was much faster).
  • IPv6 issue. App store app didn’t load properly. I’ve seen this on my iPhone when I changed internet provider. The solution is to set DNS to another source like a public provider.

Usability issues

  •  LaunchPad is useless. Way too many apps to clean up and arrange. See starting from scratch solutions**
  • “All my files” view took too long to load. Disabled it.
  • Many apps were marked incompatible. Downloading new ones from the developer websites could not be opened because of Mac OS X security restrictions (Gatekeeper). Disabled it (“Open any app” in security prefs).
  • ALSO, the mavericks installed did warn me of 2 incompatible apps but not the 20 it turned out to be (most minor). Perhaps because I organise my Applications folder and they were in sub folders.
  • Alias’ are now ridiculously big! Can be the same size or even bigger than the original file. Installed a services plugin to “make symbolic link” instead.


I have a backup checklist that I follow each time I backup. I’ve taken extra care to use more cloud services where possible so that I don’t have to care about things like: contacts, calendars, email & notes. I used dropbox for some quick backups of config related files. I used an external HD for dragging large folders across (esp. iPhoto and iTunes libraries). I spent about 2 hours to prepare and manage the backup. If you’re not a backup pro then budget 4 hours.

Downloading 10.9 didn’t take too long (given the size) and just ran in the background via the App Store app.

My Specs

  • MacBookPro5,3 (MB985) :
    15 Inch MacBookPro mid 2009 (2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo)
  • 10.6.8
  • 4 GB RAM 1067 MHz DDR3 (upgradable to 8GB RAM)
  • 320 GB HD (but I only had 20GB available for the install which worked)


This was a 2 hour job. The time remaining counter lied as usual. “39 mins” was 2 hours. There was some pre and post time as well. There is an optimisation process that can take some time but it’s survivable. The worst is the spotlight re-indexing time. This took almost 8 hours. I left the computer on overnight to do this. The computer was basically unusable in this time.

Points of Pain

Initially I had suspected that there is an issue with 10.9 being memory performant and that I needed to upgrade to at least 8GB RAM. I struggled to run the OS, Chrome (15 tabs) and Mail (1 account) at the same time. Safari was WAY out-performing Chrome in efficiency at this point. I had to consider leaving all the things I love about Chrome behind in exchange for using Safari.

Cleanup notes

This was rather frustrating but long overdue. I had apps from at least 10 years ago still installed. Here’s what I did to reclaim space and therefore improve basic computer performance:

  • empty iPhoto trash
  • group all apps into a “sort out” folder that needed either updating, deleting or somehow replacing (note that some apps don’t like being moved around and may not open if not directly in Applications/)
  • install Disk Inventory X and GrandPerspective to examine hard drive space usage (basically resulted in deleting lots of movies that were not organised)
  • Install the free App cleaner app
  • Install the free Monolingual app (to get more HD space by removing unwanted languages)
  • Install the free Memory Clean (great tool to regain memory that is unnecessarily tied up)
  • Cleanup downloads and desktop folders
    Interestingly, the more icons you have on your desktop, the more RAM they will take up and slow down the initial startup.

A Happy Ending

I am now a happy Mavericks user after surviving the worst OS X upgrade experience I have ever had (I’ve been through 20? since 1994). I installed 8GB RAM, cleared out my HD to have at least 40 GB free and deleted lots of old apps that were either not needed anymore (Adobe Flash CS4 etc.) or were already incompatible. I was able to find updates for all my apps that I still wanted to keep to make them usable again.

After a bit of playing and configuring, all my accounts (mail, icloud, gmail, twitter, facebook…) are nicely setup and working well. Chrome has updated a few times and is fast again.

It was a big update and forced a RAM upgrade (for < 100 EUR or 150 AUD) which was quite easy to install my self. Just needed the right screwdriver, and about 15 mins to clean the piles of dust out of my laptop and install the RAM. It also forced me to clean up what’s on my laptop (to get more space back) and perform a backup. All good things.

Further Resources:

For the uninitiated:

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