macOS 10.13 High Sierra is available to everyone now, but the beta program is still running so if you'd like to try out new features before everyone else gets to, you can join the public beta and get a first look. Here's how.

If you want to download and install the final version of High Sierra read this article, which includes information on the steps you should take before installing if you want to avoid any problems or data loss. Read about the latest version of macOS High Sierra here.

Apple lets developers have beta versions of its operating system so that they can make sure that their software works - and so they can use new tools in the next version of the macOS to enhance their own programs ready for launch when the final version of macOS is ready.

It's not just developers who get a look in though. Back at WWDC 2015 Apple announced that it was going to let members of the public test the upcoming new version of it's Mac operating system as part of a new, free beta program. 

The beta program will let you download and run betas of the latest version of MacOS (Sierra) as well as versions of the next big version of the Mac operating system (High Sierra).

Those who register for the MacOS 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 the autumn.

If you want to be a Public beta tester, you can sign up to join the Apple Beta Software Program here. There's more information on signing up below.

If you are after the beta because you are an Apple Developer this is where you need to go to enrol in the program - here. We have 's more information on signing up below.

How to sign up to the macOS Beta Seed Program - developer

Registered Apple Developers are able to download pre-release versions of most of Apple's software too, but it costs $99 per year to register as a developer.

To register as a developer head over to the Apple Developer Program registeration page and click Enroll. Registering as an Apple developer will give you access to support materials, and enable you to register Macs and iOS devices with Apple so you can use them to run your software.

You can sign in with your own Apple ID (recommended if you're a single developer), or you can create an Apple ID just for the developer account (recommended if you are developing for a company).

You don't have to pay Apple to register as a developer. You can sign up and gain access to all the developer tools. The basic registration is fine for developing and testing an app, although you will need to sign up with Apple for membership (£69 per year) if you want to download the developer previews.

How to sign up to the macOS Beta Seed Program - public

If you are a member of the public your copy of the beta comes a little later than the developer version.

To sign up you'll need to go to the macOS 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 'Get Started' on the macOS 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 macOS 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.

Once you are registered for the Apple Beta Software Program you will need to enroll your Mac here in order to be able to get the updates from the Mac App Store. You will have to re-enroll your Mac if you had previously been a tester.

You will find a download link and you redemption code on that page. Click on the link and enter your code to download the latest beta.

But hang on, there are a few things you should do first, not least be absolutely sure that you want to run the beta...

How to download and install the beta of High Sierra - developer

Here’s how to download and install the beta version of High Sierra on your Mac:

Before you do anything else, back up your Mac! You would also be wise to read the advice we have below about the risks of using the beta.

We also have details of how to join the beta program if you are a developer or if you are a member of the public below, so skip down to that section if you are yet to sign up.

  1. Go to developer.apple.com
  2. Click on Develop
  3. Click on Downloads
  4. Log in to your Developer account
  5. Click the Download button beside macOS 10.13
  6. You will find macOS High Sierra Developer Beta Access Utility - macOSDeveloperBetaAccessUtility.dmg - in your Downloads folder, double click it and the installer will run. You need this before you can access the developer betas on the Mac App Store.
  7. The Mac App Store should automatically open in the Updates tab. If it doesn’t, open the Mac App Store and go to Updates
  8. Click on Download and the public beta version of High Sierra will download and install
  9. Finally your Mac will restart
  10. The software has downloaded but you still need to install it. Click Continue
  11. Agree to the Terms and Conditions
  12. Click Install
  13. The wizard will help you install the beta software
  14. Once it’s finished installing, click on Continue
  15. Sign in with your Apple ID and password

How to download and install the public beta of High Sierra - public

Apple made the public beta version of High Sierra available at the end of June 2017. The installation process is similar to that above.

NOTE: Since this is beta software it might cause problems with your Mac such as freezes and crashes, plus your apps may stop working. If you want to install it we recommend that you don't do so on your primary Mac. If your business would suffer if you were unable to use your Mac due to issues caused by the beta don't install this beta! 

Follow these steps to install the public beta of High Sierra

  1. Before you install the beta make sure you back up your Mac - if you decide to stop using High Sierra you will need to revert to this back up version
  2. Go to this Apple webpage to sign up for the beta
  3. Click on Sign up and sign in using your Apple iD and password
  4. Read and agree to the Apple Beta Software Program Agreement
  5. Choose the macOS tab (if you want to sign up to iOS 11 and tvOS here you can do that too)
  6. Click on enroll you Mac
  7. Click on the Download the macOS Public Beta Access Utility button
  8. Open the download in your Downloaded items folder, it's called macOSPublicBetaAccessUtility.dmg
  9. Double click on the dmg file and go through the steps to install it, including signing in to the Feeback Assistant
  10. Once you have downloaded the Beta Access Utility you will be able to download the beta of High Sierra from the Mac App Store. (Here's an App Store link to the High Sierra beta).
  11. Click on Download and the public beta version of High Sierra will download and install
  12. Finally your Mac will restart
  13. The software has downloaded but you still need to install it. Click Continue
  14. Agree to the Terms and Conditions
  15. Click Install
  16. The wizard will help you install the beta software
  17. Once it’s finished installing, click on Continue
  18. Sign in with your Apple ID and password

The public beta weighs in at 4.9GB.

Once you have the Beta Access Utility installed you will receive a notification when the next update to the beta is available. You can then click update to install those pre-release versions of software.

The risks of Apple's macOS Beta Seed Program

It's worth noting that participating in Apple's macOS 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 macOS 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.

For example, the first beta version of Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite came 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, so beware.

The best way to avoid this sort of risk is to partiton your Mac and install the Mac OS X beta by dual-booting.

If you install the beta and then think you made a mistake, here's how to remove revert to an older version of OS X.

How to get your Mac ready for beta updates

Apple gives clear instructions about how to prepare for the install on the Enroll your Mac page.

First Apple advises users to make a backup of their data and files before installing any beta versions of macOS, stating: "Always back up your data and files before installing beta versions of OS X. If you have multiple Macs, we recommend installing the Beta on your secondary computer. Backing up files on a Mac is easy with Time Machine, the built-in backup utility in OS X."  You can find out how to use Time Machine to back up your Mac here.

You'll need to have the latest full version of macOS installed and have 2GB or more of memory with 8GB or more of available space.

What does being a beta tester involve?

The purpose of the beta program is to provide Apple with feedback about the upcoming OS. If you experience bugs or other issues, report them to Apple using the Feedback Assistant app. And don’t just say something crashed, explain exactly what you were doing when the crash happened and try and reproduce the crash to see if you can identify what steps lead to it.

Don’t just tell Apple that you don’t like the ‘flat’ look of the user interface. Your purpose as a beta tester is to provide feedback on bugs, not try and assume Jony Ive’s role.

That said, it won’t always be bugs you need to provide feedback on. Perhaps you can’t work out how to do something and a user interface tweak is required.

You can also provide feedback if third party apps aren’t working as they should - there is actually a 3rd-party Application Compatibility category in which to submit feedback.

Bugs in the beta

Expect there to be bugs and issues in the beta - the versions of macOS available through the Beta Software Program are not finished products, by installing it you are agreeing to become a tester.

How to send feedback to Apple

Should you come across an error or a bug you should use the Feedback Assistant app to provide feedback to Apple. Launch the app and follow the appropriate steps, selecting the area about which you’re providing feedback and then any specific sub-area. Then describe your issue in a single sentence, before providing a more detailed description, including any specific steps that reproduce the issue. You’ll also be able to attach other files.

You’ll also have to approve permission for the Feedback Assistant app to collect diagnostic information from your Mac.

It won’t always be obvious whether something is a bug or just not as easy to use as you might have hoped. Either way, if your feedback is that something appears to work in an illogical way, Apple will want to know that.

If you are having trouble with a third party app you can let Apple know by reporting it thought the 3rd-party Application Compatibility category in the Feedback Assistant. However, we’d suggest that you also provide feedback to the app’s developer who will no doubt be grateful.

Public vs developer preview - what's the difference?

The public beta is not the same as the beta being released though the developer program. it is likely that developers will receive more frequent updates including new features not in the public beta.  

What's the latest version of the MacOS Beta?

Developer beta versions

Apple has been rolling out developer beta updates faster than usual: betas five to eight have come out at weekly intervals (7, 14, 21 and 28 August), hinting that we are getting closer to the final Gold Master version. Changes from now on are likely to be mostly fixes for bugs that have been spotted by beta testers and relatively minor tweaks, rather than new features.

Beta 5 fixed a bug that caused apps to quit when printing to Canon printers. An issue that caused QuickLook to force a MacBook Pro to switch to a discrete GPU when previewing items was also fixed.

The fifth developer beta was released on 7 August. Beta 5 introduced a new option to capture Live Photos while using FaceTime, a feature previously added to the iOS 11 beta. Reports suggested there was an issue with APFS volumes, which means that High Sierra APFS volumes can't be selected as a Startup Disk on Macs running older versions of the OS.

The fourth version of the beta was released to developers on 24 July, the third version of the beta was released to developers on 10 July, the second developer beta was released on 21 June, and the first developer version of the beta arrived straight after the WWDC keynote on 5 June.

Public Beta versions

The public beta version of High Sierra became available to download on 26 June; six more have since followed.

Public beta 7 was released shortly after the corresponding developer beta 8 rolled out on 28 August.

Public beta 6 appeared a week earlier, and public beta 5 rolled out on 15 August, just after the sixth developer beta appeared (see above).

Public beta 4 rolled out on 8 August, the day after the fifth developer beta appeared (see above for more info), and two weeks after Apple released the previous Public Beta. Changes that version of the Public Beta included alterations to the icons for Settings and Camera and changes to widgets in the Control Centre.

Public beta 3, rolled out on 25 July, corresponds with the Developer Beta 4 released the day before. Public beta 2 was made available on 12 July, and public beta 1 was made availabe on 26 June.

Will I be able to update from the beta to the final version?

Beta users will be able to install the final build of the OS on release day without needing to reformat or reinstall.

Can I talk about the beta publicly?

According to Apple and the license agreement all beta testers must agree to, the beta is “Apple confidential information.” By accepting those terms, you agree not to discuss your use of the software with anyone who isn’t also in the Beta Software Program. That means you can’t “blog, post screen shots, tweet, or publicly post information about the public beta software.”

However, you can discuss any information that Apple has publicly disclosed; the company says that information is no longer considered confidential.

How to revert back to the previous version of macOS

You can always revert to an earlier version of macOS, though depending on how you back up, it’s not necessarily a painless process.

Start by making sure the data on your drive is backed up, then erase the drive and install Yosemite. When you first startup your Mac you can use the OS X Migration Assistant to import your data from the backup. Here's a more detailed tutorial on reinstalling.