Apple announced at WWDC 2014 that, for the first time, it's letting the public test the upcoming new version of the Mac operating system OS X 10.10 Yosemite as part of its new, free beta program.  Here's how to sign up to Apple's new OS X Beta Seed Program for Yosemite. See: OS X Yosemite FAQ

The program will let you download and run the current version of OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and future versions as it irons out the bugs and glitches. Those who register for the OS X Beta Seed Program can download the software, and begin giving feedback to Apple to help the company perfect the update before it's released to the public in autumn.

Although the public has been able to sign up to the program since June, we've had to wait for Apple's email to inform us that the OS X Yosemite Beta is available for download. If you've signed up, you should have received an email from Apple with a redemption code that will allow you to download the beta. Emails began to arrive on 24 July, and we got ours on 25 July.

Apple has limited the beta program to the first million registered users, so if you do want to sign up, you'll need to get in quick. As of 1 August, the beta programme is still open for new users. See: OS X Yosemite preview

This is the first time Apple has ever opened a Beta Seed Program like this one. The company did release a Public Beta of OS X in 2000, but those who wanted to download it had to pay $30 for the privilege. Registered Apple Developers are able to download pre-release versions of most of Apple's software too, but it costs $99 per year to sign up.

Will your Mac run Yosemite? Check the requirement here.

The risks of Apple's OS X Beta Seed Program

It's worth noting that participating in Apple's OS X Beta Seed Program is not a light undertaking, so you should consider whether it's really right for you before downloading and installing the pre-release software. After all, being pre-release software, it's bound to have bugs and issues that could cause things to go spectacularly wrong with your Mac, which isn't helped by the fact that Apple is not obligated to provide any support for pre-release software.

If you only have one Mac, and you're intending to run the pre-release software on that machine, you might want to reconsider. Apple suggests that you should run the pre-release software on a dedicated Mac, not a Mac that you use for business or production purposes.

There's also the important matter of privacy. By agreeing to test the OS X beta software, you're essentially giving Apple permission to collect diagnostic, technical and usage data from you, unless you go through the process of opting out.

The first beta version of OS X Yosemite comes with several known issues, including problems in Safari while trying to access Netflix content, iPhoto, Photo Stream and iCloud Photo Sharing problems, iCloud Drive issues and AirDrop issues.

See also: Safely install the Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite beta by dual-booting.

If you're still interested in signing up to the OS X Beta Seed Program, here's what you'll need to do.

How to sign up to the OS X Yosemite Beta Seed Program

First, you'll need to go to the OS X Beta Seed Program website. From there, you can find out more about the program by clicking Learn More or FAQ.

You must be aged 18 or older with a valid Apple ID, and you'll also need to be willing to accept the Confidentiality Agreement, which means you agree not to share information or screenshots of the update.

By clicking 'Join Now' and then 'Get Started' on the OS X Beta Seed Program website, you'll be taken to the 'Sign In' page. If you don't already have an Apple ID, you can create one by clicking 'create one now' in the grey box on the left. If you do have one, however, you can go ahead and sign in using the password you normally use for your iTunes and other Apple services.

Next, you'll be taken to the OS X Beta Seed and Confidentiality Agreement. You'll need to read the agreement (you can view it as a PDF if you prefer by clicking the link beneath the scroll link) and then click accept. Unless of course you don't agree with the terms in which case you'll want to stop the registration process now.

Apple then advises users to make a backup of their data and files before installing any beta versions of OS X. You can find out how to use Time Machine to back up your Mac here.

Once you've backed up, you can download the Beta Access Utility. You'll need to have OS X Mavericks installed and have 2GB or more of memory with 8GB or more of available space.

Click the blue 'Download Beta Access Utility' button to download it, and then click on package that has been downloaded onto your Mac to install it. This will launch the Mac App Store, which will now show you the updates available. Any updates that have not yet been released to the public and are therefore part of the OS X Beta Seed Program will be labelled 'Pre-release'.

You can now click update to install those pre-release versions of software.

How to provide feedback to Apple through the OS X Beta Seed Program

Now that you've signed up to the OS X Beta Seed Program and have installed the OS X Yosemite beta, you'll be able to provide feedback to Apple about bugs and other issues that need to be fixed.

You'll find the Feedback Assistant in your Dock (it's a purple circle with a speech bubble within it, as shown above). Click it and then sign in with your Apple ID to begin providing feedback to Apple using the form that the Feedback Assistant provides.

You can read all about the new features in Yosemite over in our Yosemite Topic Zone. Including the following: