I have held back on adding this review as I had significant issues with the automated upgrade published through Apple and wanted to do my best to work through those first to give this OS release a more thorough and accurate review.
I would; however, like to discuss the upgrade issues I encountered in hopes that it might help others who would like to upgrade but have been reluctant. The first thing I had to resolve was upgrading any 32 bit apps I was using as Catalina only supports 64 bit apps. Most of them I had were just utilities or ones I no longer used anyways, so this requirement was not that big of a deal for me.The only ones I had to purchase to upgrade was Quickbooks and Microsoft Office. I deleted most of the others. I was then “ready” to let the upgrade do its’ thing. I downloaded it and let it launch the installer. It ran for about an hour and then restarted presenting me with the typical welcome screen. I answered all the requisite questions and proceeded to poke around testing access to everything I typically use.
It’s probably worth noting what type of equipment I have for reference:
- iMac 27″ (late 2012)
- 32GB RAM
- 2TB Fusion drive (fused with the onboard 128GB PCIE SSD) yielding 2.12TB combined. Note – I upgraded the original 1TB internal traditional HDD with a 2TB Samsung SSD earlier in the year.
Catalina requires a separation between the OS and Data/User files, so it will create a separate partition for the data…..this is where I think Apple fell short with their upgrade process.
Within a day of the upgrade I started getting disk full errors while using Apple’s built in Mail client just checking emails from my google IMAP account. I would also get disk full errors while trying to perform an iPhone backup to the Mac. All of these errors seemed out of place since I showed to have over 1.9TB available. Time Machine backups were not working as expected either. At first I thought the issue was due to the time machine snapshots that get created. Every time I would delete the snapshots, the issue would disappear for a short period of time….very short. I ended up downloading a third party time machine scheduler called TimeMachine Editor that allowed me to schedule only one backup per day without snapshots. In conjunction I used a tool called CleanMyMac that had a maintenance utility to thin time machine snapshots. Using these two utilities worked for a short period of time, but the issue continued to manifest itself. As a shot in the dark I contacted Apple Support and they worked with me over chat to try and identify large files that could be consuming space, ignoring the fact that I was showing so much free space. We identified about 132GB of files in my home directory that they said was the problem….They were virtual machine files I use for Vmware Fusion. As I mentioned before, Catalina separates the OS and user data. I tried to move the files to a new folder on the drive, but you do not have permission to create folders in the OS partition (even as admin). I ended up making a home for them in the shared user folder. This brought temporary relief, but soon started seeing the dreaded disk full errors again.
I opted to try a fresh install and start over, accepting the fact that I would lose everything and have to reinstall all of my apps like it was anew Mac. I created a Catalina boot disk using instructions commonly found on the internet. An example can be found here. The install prompted for the desired installation location. I selected my fusion drive and let it do it’s thing. After it finished I set up the mac and reloaded all my apps. Shortly after, the same errors started popping up again. At this point I was extremely frustrated and started hitting some of the same forums I had previously been in looking for something I might have missed. I found a reference to a similar issue and a resolution. It required yet another re-install, only doing a rebuild of the fusion drive first. Evidently, the upgrade process only adds a new partition for the user/data files, which does not properly identify all the hdd storage to the system. The solution I used can be found here. After configuring as a new mac and reinstalling all my apps, everything has been functioning as I would expect it….even time machine. I no longer have a need for either of the third party apps I was using.
Overall, I have been very happy with the new Catalina OS after all the upgrade issues were resolved.