Skip to content
Thoughtful, detailed coverage of everything Apple for 33 years
and the TidBITS Content Network for Apple professionals
31 comments

Apple Opens Public Betas for macOS 14 Sonoma, iOS 17, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, tvOS 17, and HomePod Software 17

Want to help Apple find bugs and get a glimpse of the future in the process? You can now install public betas of Apple’s forthcoming 2023 operating systems: macOS 14 Sonoma, iOS 17, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, tvOS 17, and HomePod Software 17. For our favorite features, see “12 Compelling Features Coming to Apple’s Operating Systems in 2023” (5 June 2023) and “Another Dozen Compelling Features Coming to Apple’s Operating Systems in 2023” (7 June 2023).

Apple's 2023 public beta operating systems

You will need compatible hardware; for the specifics, see “The Real System Requirements for Apple’s 2023 Operating Systems” (19 June 2023). I strongly recommend installing only on dedicated test hardware. You would be nuts to run one of these betas on a device you rely on for, well, anything. You’re likely to run into incompatibilities and bugs—that’s the entire point of a beta program.

Although I always recommend making a backup before installing an update to any operating system, you shouldn’t install these betas on anything you can’t erase at the drop of a hat without fear of data loss.

To be safe, avoid connecting your primary iCloud account with the betas to avoid a bug causing an upstream problem. You wouldn’t want beta iCloud Drive code to corrupt important data you use on your everyday devices.

If it sounds like I’m trying to dissuade you from installing the public betas, I am. If you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, you could lose data or waste a lot of time recovering from problems. Conversely, if you’ve done this before and are comfortable with the technical implications, have fun! I certainly intend to.

To try one or more of the betas, go to Apple’s public beta page, read the FAQ, and sign up for the beta program. Once you’re in, you enroll your devices, after which the betas appear in Software Update.

Finally, remember that the main reason to test public betas is so you can report bugs, so revisit David Shayer’s advice in “How to Report Bugs to Apple So They Get Fixed” (17 June 2020).

Subscribe today so you don’t miss any TidBITS articles!

Every week you’ll get tech tips, in-depth reviews, and insightful news analysis for discerning Apple users. For over 33 years, we’ve published professional, member-supported tech journalism that makes you smarter.

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA. The Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Comments About Apple Opens Public Betas for macOS 14 Sonoma, iOS 17, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, tvOS 17, and HomePod Software 17

Notable Replies

  1. This should always be the case for any beta of any product.

    Although beta releases are usually stable enough to be useful, there may be (and in the past have been) system-killing bugs that can corrupt or delete your documents or (in one case I can remember) even brick your system.

    Never ever run beta code a production system (that is, anything you rely on for anything important). If you don’t have a spare computer that you can afford to completely wipe (in the event of a system-killing bug), don’t attempt to run beta system software.

  2. Although I’m firmly in your court on this, the majority of those I know well who are involved in OS testing rely on multiple backups in layers to recover from such tragedies. All have had to wipe their computer/device, re-install or roll-back and restore data at least once over several years.

  3. While that’s a great plan, one has to be extra careful beta testing watchOS. There is no way for a user to roll back watchOS to the current stable version, and when the beta version is the next major release, it will only pair to the latest beta version of iOS. Beta testing watchOS should really only be done by developers or users with a spare watch and phone, or someone willing to risk the issues that may arise. (Generally beta versions when release is close are safer.)

  4. Been bitten here before. Won’t be rushing to check it out. On my laptop I’ll go for the second release and my main work iMac a good while after that, when things settle.

  5. I’ve always installed the OS beta as soon as it became available. It’s sort of an obsession with me to try out new things. I install it on my main computer and go for broke. I’m retired. I got lots of time. Besides, a little excitement is good for my aging heart.

  6. Frankly I fail to understand why anyone would agree to run Beta versions of their software and report bugs to Apple without getting paid to do it. One of the reasons many companies offer Beta versions for users to test is that it offers companies the chance to get their development software tested for free instead of paying employees or contractors to do it as they should. This is one-way companies use to increase profits, most often for executives and stockholder dividends. Apple software is released buggy enough without users having to run products that are known to be buggy, sometimes resulting in data loss, before release.

    As an example, ~4 years ago, I purchase a MacPro 7.1 2019 Desktop computer running Catalina. Within a month of operation, it crashed almost every time I shut it down. Apple consistently blamed me for the issue, citing Apps, or added hardware despite me suggesting to them it was a MacOS bug. Then ~ 3 months ago, despite using the same hardware and software, other than MacOS, the issue went away with a MacOS update and has not reappeared. Despite over 850 hours of troubleshooting and over a 100 hours on the phone to no avail, Apple claimed it was my fault and refused to look at MacOS. In essence it took them 2 additional versions of MacOS (now running Ventura) and almost 4 years to finally examine and fix the issue.

    So, there is no way I would ever consider running beta versions of their software unless I was paid to do it as I was when I once worked for them in tech support and testing.

  7. As an end user? I agree. Maybe there’s the hope that the bugs will get fixed before the release date, but that’s all I can think of. And your experience shows that it may not necessarily solve anything.

    As a developer, it’s a different matter altogether. Developers need pre-release systems in order to ensure that their apps remain compatible after the OS’s release. If there are app-breaking bugs, Apple needs to know so they can be fixed by the release date. And if Apple can’t fix them quickly, then the developers need time to work-around the bugs in the app so they can tell customers that they can fix the problem by getting the latest version.

  8. When I a few months past my first birthday my mother dragged me on two NYC subway trains + one bus so I could be a beta tester for the polio virus. Polio was running rampant in the city and suburbs at the time; and quite a few relatives and friends thought she was nuts and putting me at dangerous risk. But in addition to wanting to protect her baby daughter, she felt that she was benefiting people across the globe by helping to determine if the vaccine was effective and safe.

    Although beta testing of computer hardware is completely different than medical research, determining whether or not a new variant of software is effective and safe is is still very important. And if it is, the tester will have early experience, and a chance to keep the new software before it is released into the wild.

  9. I understand the need for developers to be running beta version and have no issue with that. However, I would invite them to focus on those items that can affect their product and not other issues. They do need to report bugs that limit or affect their product but I see no reason to waste their time and money on other beta issues. That is Apple’s responsibility and they are in business to make money and not to be volunteer testers for Apple.

    Unfortunately, how I was treated seems to be how Apple also treats its developers, other than price gouging them on the Apple Store. I know of one developer who has attempted to get Apple to fix an MOS bug for the past year or more, that results in a notification error message to the user, that the user cannot turn off, every time the machine is booted. So far, the developer has had no success in getting Apple to fix this. Not a big deal but a constant annoyance as the notification has to be acknowledged before it goes away.

  10. I do not beta-test MacOS for Apple because they want me to. I do it simply because I enjoy it and always like to try out new things. I find it exciting, and yes, I understand all the risks involved in doing so. I think of it as a hobby and look forward to it every year.

    In this day and age when millions of households have Macs, it’s nearly impossible for Apple (and any software company for that matter) to test every scenario by just using their employees and contractors. Having many people beta test before its official release will hopefully improve the quality of the software. They’re simply trying to cover as many bases as they can regardless of their profits and dividends.

  11. How’s that working for them so far?

  12. I would judge, relatively well. Many, if not most of the bugs reported are eventually fixed before production release. Admittedly some are not when the promised calendar date for release rolls around and some new ones are found by those who use macOS in a manner that testers have not. There have even been a small number of times when a last minute change that no outsider tested was released, creating a short period of havoc (e.g. Ventura 13.4.1 (a)).

    There are also some long-standing bugs, going back years that have never been fixed. Apple apparently feels they aren’t important enough to apply engineering resources toward.

  13. Software reliability/quality has been one of the largest complaints with Apple among pro users. There is no denying that these days they don’t have a good grip on tracking/fixing bugs or getting their software into whack such that it provides a reliable platform.

    We all know what their software used to feel like and what it feels like now. We used to make fun of MS for all their inconsistencies and yet, despite growing complexity, they managed to significantly improve their game, while Apple has been slacking off in spite of $250B sitting in the bank.

    Not few would argue all of us are already using beta software when we rely on the “production” code Apple releases.

  14. About the same. I’ve been using Macs for decades and the level of bugs has always been pretty consistent, at least in my estimation. So has the complaining, now that I think about it. Folks have always complained about the quality & reliability of the operating system. It’s one of those entertainingly constant things.

  15. The pendulum swings both ways. Us old-timers remember Classic Mac OS crashing (those wonderful “Sorry a system error occurred” dialogs that leave you no choice but to reboot).

    For some people (especially those running certain apps or system extensions), this happened quite a lot.

    Then Mac OS X came around, and all these problems went away - to be replaced with a completely different set of problems.

    Since then some releases have been really stable, and some have been buggy.

    But that’s just the nature of the business. Microsoft suffers the same thing. As does the Linux community.

    Could companies ensure that every release is completely stable? Maybe, but it would cost a lot more to conduct the level of testing required while keeping to a reasonable release schedule. And even then, catastrophic mistakes sometimes happen (e.g. some of NASA’s high-profile failures that were linked to software bugs).

  16. Claris the dogcow, we hardly knew you. I still miss you even though I no longer have to repeatedly crawl under my desk to restart my Mac, usually multiple times, after it would inevitably crash on a daily basis, whether at work or at home. I’m so very glad to read about your return:

  17. Pleased to hear that that you are enjoying your hobby despite not receiving any compensation or acknowledgement for volunteering to do the work that others are getting compensation to perform, likely not always to the standards and experience that you have to offer. The issues I have with this is not that they are utilizing users for testing but the ratio and the type of bugs they rely on them for as well as their dedication to fixing them. They seem to be very good at testing for class one and some class 2 bugs. However, for many class 2 and class 3 bugs they seem to rely on volunteer testing for this level of SQA which I find concerning. Not only that, such reports are frequently ignored or deferred for years.

    First consider my example that took them 4 years to fix, that the consistently blamed on me, and the one I mentioned regarding the developer has been an issue since Ventura was first released and still has not been fixed in the current release. I find this inexcusable. While I am not a developer or no longer a coder or tester, my educated guess is that it was related to the serial port software not shutting down properly on shutdown that may have been triggered by Apple’s removal of Faxing support that resulted in some code corruption. Everything worked fine on my MacPro 5.1n desktop up through High Sierra and only appeared on my new MacPro 7.1 2919 Desktop with the same phone dialer software, updated for Catalina I was using before.

    I use an App called Phone Amego and a USB fax modem to dial phone numbers on my landline from phone numbers displayed on my computer screen or that I type into the App on my machine. Apple no longer supports faxing other than from 3rd party hardware or software, which I believe was a moronic decision as healthcare providers and financial institutions still use faxing due to its high level of security.

    In fact, one of the main reasons I run virtual Windows on my Mac is so I can continue to fax from my computer using the fax modem as Windows still supports faxing. Right now, I run Windows 11 in the free personal version of VMWare Fusion just fine.

  18. I tend to only use betas on my ipad that is so messed up from a currently released OS that it can’t be any worse. I don’t remember but it seemed like it was iOS 11 or something that made my ipad almost unusable. Granted, I tend to hand onto my ipad for many years. I used the 1st gen 12.9 for 7 years before it was so glitchy I had to upgrade. No way would I think of using beta on my phone or mac mini. Just no.

  19. I’ve been running OS betas (on the Mac) since the early days of Mac OS X (well before public betas were available) and never suffered from 99% of the “bugs” people always complained about. I think it’s a matter of knowing your system, what the software you have installed does beneath the hood, and also how much of that software is 3rd party vs. Apple’s.

    macOS has been almost issue-free for me upon release of the shipping version for many years.

    I would never run a beta on my iPhone or iPad – it’s too difficult to overcome any issues that may pop-up and quite frankly I just don’t care as much about the newer features on iOS.

  20. From what I remember at the time, Apple stopped supporting on device faxing because it requires an extra, rather heavy, big and clunky built in dedicated modem. One of the biggest reasons people love Macs is that their devices are slim, sexy, super speedy and lightweight. And the rise in email did very significantly reduce the amount of faxes that get sent every day.

    There are a number of apps in the App Store that enable faxing. But we still use our almost million year old fax machine when needed. There are also libraries, drug stores, and other outlets that will fax per copy at low prices.

  21. Not necessarily the case. You are speaking of the external Apple box for Apple’s own product. The software also support 3rd party fax modems such as the US Robotics I still use which is about an inch square and around 3 inches long with an attached usb cable and hanging off the back of my machine. It is working fine with Virtual Windows 11

  22. I’m amazed that anyone is using fax machines in the US! There are far more secure ways to communicate electronically. Healthcare and banks over here have secure online communications, no one would accept a fax even if I could send one.

  23. You’d be surprised. It’s not about what’s actually secure. It’s about what some authorities and companies consider “secure” and thus require. Total farce. And just wait till you see how we in this country pay our bills or deal with “wire transfers”, let alone international . Really, you’d be surprised. The same country that put a man on the moon. :laughing:

  24. From what I’ve heard, there are many different applications doctors and hospitals use, and pretty much all of them don’t work well with one another, if at all. The US government did make a gargantuan effort years ago to morph to enable digital sharing over time, but unfortunately, it was unsuccessful.

    My guess is that doctors and hospitals probably think that digital transfer will enable patients to change providers more easily. IMHO, this really is a terrible shame.

  25. Faxed documents can have in many jurisdictions the same legal status of a contract they are a copy of. They are still used in entertainment industries for this reason.

  26. This is the case for many financial institutes. Either a fax or mail a hard-copy.

    At my bank, it was only recently (within the last 5 year) that they started allowing an e-mailed scan of a signed document.

  27. IOS8 bricked my iPad (I think it was the Air 2) and it took Apple four releases to fix it. I am now very cautious about adopting any Apple release.

  28. I wish there was this level of planning and attention behind it. Instead, it’s just that the regulations are so arcane and complex – while doing little or nothing to improve interoperability or privacy – that everyone just defaults to historically-accepted old tech. In fact, even though e-prescribing has been mandated in California for the last couple of years, in many cases the electronic prescriptions are then delivered to the pharmacies… via fax. Thus negating any security or privacy advantages of the e-prescribing mandate, but creating a financial boon to a very small number of incumbent e-prescribing systems who have managed to pull up the ladder behind them by making entry into the market a regulatory nightmare.

    The lack of interoperability doesn’t really affect patients either way. The only lock-in going on is to make it difficult for provider organizations to migrate away from the current crop of horrendously bad EMR, prescribing, and communication systems.

    I have stories.

    <sarcasm>I’m sure the so-called AI systems that everyone is currently grafting on to point-of-care software will fix everything.</sarcasm>

  29. Only installing on devices that you can dedicate to testing clearly makes sense in many ways, but I tossed caution to the winds and installed the developer beta on my only iPhone. I’ve never done that in the past and I’m not sure why I did it this time, but so far, I’m glad I did.

    And, I have found several bugs and dutifully reported them using the Feedback app. One observation is that I am pretty sure I would not have found these bugs if I was not using the Beta on the device I use all the time.

    None of the problems I have seen are show-stoppers. iOS has evolved to the point where there are almost always several ways to skin a cat, and if my usual method doesn’t work due to a bug, there’s likely another way to do it. Plus, I have a Mac and an iPad on official releases that I can use as a fallback. For example, it appears there have been bugs in searching for Reminders on iOS 17, but I can always use my Mac to find them if I really need to.

    Obviously, the big risk is that a bug in the beta software will corrupt something important that I have stored in iCloud. If I saw any hint of that, I would back away very slowly and carefully, but I have not. And, I like to think Apple is taking extra care to make sure something like that doesn’t happen. I’m sure many Apple employees are using the beta software the same way I am.

    I should add that I am retired, so, in theory, I have some spare time to deal with problems. I used to work in healthcare and if I was still doing that, I would not take this chance.

    Please do not misconstrue this as encouragement to join me on this leaky raft. Use your freedom of choice wisely.

Join the discussion in the TidBITS Discourse forum

Participants

Avatar for ace Avatar for Simon Avatar for ron Avatar for tommy Avatar for silbey Avatar for alvarnell Avatar for jzw Avatar for lcarl Avatar for schwartz Avatar for LarryR Avatar for ddmiller Avatar for GraphicMac Avatar for ryoichi Avatar for MMTalker Avatar for jweil Avatar for Shamino Avatar for harriska2