How to Install the New macOS High Sierra Beta

I’ve always enjoyed working with the latest releases of the Mac OS. Although Apple tends not to release new major versions of the Mac OS until the fall of each year, that doesn’t mean we have to wait till then to take a new OS out for a spin.

Apple has long provided developers with early beta versions of OS X and macOS, but only started providing betas to the general public a few years ago. The public betas have the advantage of letting you try out macOS before the general release, giving you the opportunity to participate in finding bugs, check out new features, or just make sure important software you use every day will work with the upcoming version of macOS. (Related: Check out our WWDC 2017 coverage here.)

(macOS High Sierra offers new desktop images to use.)

macOS High Sierra
The latest version of macOS, which will enter public beta sometime in late June, is macOS High Sierra. This version of macOS has quite a few new features and capabilities, including APFS, which, for the first time, will be used as the default file system on the Mac, replacing the very old and long in the tooth HFS+ file system. (Related: See our First Impressions of ‘High Sierra’.)

I’m anxious to find out if some of my older software will still run under macOS High Sierra. Microsoft has said, when referring to the 2011 version of Office, “Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Lync have not been tested on macOS 10.13 High Sierra, and no formal support for this configuration will be provided.” So, I may end up looking for new office apps to use with High Sierra. But it’s not just older versions of Office that may not run correctly on macOS High Sierra, so finding out in advance which apps will work and which are in doubt is one of the many reasons to enroll in the Apple Software Beta Program, aside from just wanting to check out the new OS, that is.

Installing macOS High Sierra Beta
Before you begin installing macOS High Sierra beta, a few words of warning. It’s a beta, which means anything can happen, including crashes, lost data, and apps not working. At the extreme, it could cause data loss across an entire drive due to the new APFS file system that’s installed by default, and which will convert the drive you’re installing macOS High Sierra on to the new file system.

(The target drive for macOS High Sierra will be converted to the APFS file system. You can use Disk Utility to convert additional drives to the new format.)

So, be sure to back up your Mac before continuing, and be sure to read the How to Get Ready for macOS Beta article. Most of all, remember this: DO NOT install the beta on your Mac’s current startup drive.

Note: This install guide will be updated when the public beta of macOS High Sierra is officially released. In the meantime, it’s based on earlier developer betas, though I don’t expect any major changes other than a few file names.

OK, let’s get started.

Download the macOS High Sierra public beta. You need to be a member of the Apple Beta Software Program. Once you’re a member, you’ll be able to download macOS High Sierra beta to your Mac. Follow the download instructions provided by the Apple Beta Software Program.

Once the download is complete, the macOS High Sierra installer will automatically start. At this point, it’s a good idea to quit the installer and perform a few housekeeping tasks before continuing.

Create a bootable copy of the installer on a USB flash drive. I highly recommend creating a copy of the installer on a USB flash drive. This will allow you to perform a clean install of the OS on any drive, including a Mac’s startup drive, or in a virtual environment, such as Parallels.

You can find details on creating the bootable flash drive in the article: Rocket Yard Guide: How to Make a macOS Sierra USB Installer Drive

The above guide was originally created for macOS Sierra, but it will work fine with macOS High Sierra, with just a small change to the installer name (originally “Install macOS Sierra Public Beta”; now “Install macOS High Sierra Public Beta”). Otherwise, the process is pretty much the same.

You’ll find instructions for using the flash-based installer in Parallels at the end of this guide.

Installing on a Drive Dedicated to macOS High Sierra Beta
During the beta process, installing macOS High Sierra on a drive dedicated to the beta is one of the preferred installation methods. You can use either a clean install process, which includes erasing the target drive and then installing the macOS High Sierra beta, or an upgrade install, which allows you to install the beta over an existing macOS or OS X drive.

(The macOS High Sierra Beta installer supports a number of installation options.)

Because this is beta software, I don’t recommend installing the macOS High Sierra beta over your existing startup drive. Instead, you can create a clone of your current startup drive to use as the destination for the install. This will allow you to run macOS High Sierra with all of your current apps and data, a good way to check compatibility while keeping your beta software and your everyday work environment completely separated.

For the clean install, start by erasing the drive you will use for hosting macOS High Sierra; remember, this will destroy all data on the drive. The drive should be a separate drive, not the one your current version of macOS or OS X is installed on.

If you choose to perform an upgrade install so you can test compatibility with your existing apps, start by creating a clone of your current startup drive, then use the clone as the upgrade install target.

Once the target drive has been erased, or the clone created, launch the Install macOS High Sierra Public Beta installer, located in your /Applications folder. This is the same installer you quit from earlier in this guide.

Click the Continue button in the Install macOS 10.13 Beta window.

The software license terms will be displayed; click the Agree button.

A sheet will drop down asking if you really agree to these terms. Click the Agree button.

The installer will display your Mac’s startup disk as the default target for the install. Do not click the Install button; instead, click the Show All Disks button.

(Remember to select a destination drive other than the Mac’s current startup drive.)

The installer will show a list of all drives that can be used as targets for the installation. Select the drive you wish to use (either the drive you erased or the clone you created in the steps above), and then click Install.

You’ll be asked to supply an administrator password to allow the installer to add a helper tool; the helper tool is required to complete the installation process. Supply your password, and then click the Add Helper button.

The install process will begin by copying files to the target drive and then rebooting. The initial copying process can take a few minutes, so be patient. The restart will happen automatically but you can speed things up slightly by pressing the Restart button when it appears.

After your Mac restarts, you’ll see a process bar with a best guess as to the remaining time to complete the install. Don’t believe it for a minute; go have lunch, take in a movie, get some work done; it doesn’t matter. From this point on, the install process is automatic and doesn’t need any input from you. Once the install completes, your Mac will restart and launch the Setup Assistant to walk you through creating your administrator account.

Installing macOS High Sierra Beta in Parallels

  • Mount the bootable USB flash drive containing the macOS High Sierra Beta you created earlier.
  • Launch Parallels (I tested this on Parallels Desktop version 12.2.0).
  • Create a new virtual machine.
  • Select the “Install Windows or another OS from a DVD or image file” option, and then click Continue.
  • Place a checkmark in the Continue Without a Source box, and click the Continue button.
  • Select macOS as the type of operating system to install.
  • Give the virtual machine a name and verify the location where the vm will be created. Click the Continue button.
  • If the vm starts up on its own, select Actions, Stop from the menu to turn the vm off.
  • Select the new vm in the Parallels Control Center, and then choose Actions, Configure from the menu.
  • In the Configuration window that opens, select the Hardware tab.
  • In the Hardware sidebar, select the Boot Order item.
  • Place a checkmark in the Select Boot Device on Startup box.
  • Close the Configuration window.
  • Start the vm.

(The key to successfully installing the macOS High Sierra beta in Parallels is to make use of the Boot Manager options.)

  • As the vm is starting up, place your cursor into the vm window, and then wait till you see the phrase “Press any key to enter the boot device menu.” When you see this phrase, click once to enter the vm window, and then press any key on your keyboard to enter the Parallels boot device menu.
  • Press the escape key.
  • Press the control and option keys to release your cursor from the vm window.
  • Select Devices, External Devices, and then select the bootable USB flash drive you created earlier.
  • Place your cursor back in the vm window and click once.
  • Use the arrow keys in Parallels to select Boot Manager, and then press the return key.
  • Use the arrow keys to select EFI USB Device, and then press the return key.
  • The vm will boot from the USB flash drive that contains the macOS High Sierra Beta installer. The process can be a bit slow, so be patient. After the boot up is complete, the installer will start automatically, asking you to select the language to use for the installation. Make a selection, and click the right-facing arrow.
  • The macOS Utilities window will open. Select the Install macOS item, and then click the Continue button.

At this point, the standard macOS High Sierra installer will begin to run. You can follow the instructions above for installing on a separate disk, beginning just after the point where the installer is launched.

After the macOS High Sierra beta is installed, you can dive in to see what’s new and which apps still work. If you find an app that isn’t working and is important to you, be sure to leave feedback with both the app developer and Apple, using the Feedback Assistant (located in the Dock).

You can also leave a comment here, letting others know how the beta is working for you.