How to get Apple's iOS 12 or macOS 'Mojave' betas

If you want to be on the cutting edge of Apple software this summer, you can sign up for the company's developer program, or get the public betas of the OSes as they are released. Here's what to do and where to go.

Apple earlier this month issued previews for this year's upgrades to iOS and macOS, its two most popular operating systems, at the firm's annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

The betas of iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 - the latter was labeled with another California place name, "Mojave" - were initially delivered only to registered developers. But  anyone who wants to run the rougher code can do so, starting with the iOS 12 public beta released today.

Apple operates its beta programs differently than Microsoft, the enterprise king. The Cupertino, Calif. company's processes cant, as its overall business strategy does, toward individuals, not collectives. To corporate IT, the whole iOS/macOS preview situation must seem ad hoc and fly-by-the-seat-of-one's-pants.

That's where answers to the most common questions about Apple's betas comes in. If everyone is on their own, more or less, everyone needs to know how to grab a preview.

What are the two ways to get the iOS and macOS betas?

You heard right. There is a for-a-fee path to Apple's previews as well as one that doesn't cost a dime.

The former is by registering as an Apple developer, a process that takes just moments but costs $99 each year to maintain membership. Registered developers may download previews, utilize Apple's APIs and submit products to the company's App Store and Mac App Store.

Individuals do not need to actually develop iOS or macOS apps, or even know the difference between code and cake. All that's required is an Apple ID - the username/password combination for accessing iCloud works - bits of personal information, like name and mailing address, and a credit card to pay the $99 fee.

To register as a developer, start on this page. Once registered, you can download the iOS 12 and/or macOS 10.14 (Mojave) betas from the Downloads page of Apple's Developer website.

Apple's Public Beta costs nothing, and requires an Apple ID, such as the username/password authentication used to log into iCloud. Register with the beta program here, where a click of the "Sign up" button starts the process.

A single sign-up gives individuals access to both the iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 (Mojave) betas.

How do I install the iOS beta?

Whether the developer preview or the public beta, the iOS sneak peek gets onto an eligible iPhone by heading to the Downloads section of the Developers website (for the dev preview) or beta.apple.com/profile (for the public beta) with the to-run-the-beta device. From that location, you download the "Configuration Profile" to the device. Once the profile has been installed and the device restarted, tap Settings, then General and finally Software Update. The preview should be offered. Download it OTA (over the air) as with any update or upgrade.

Beta updates will be offered regularly, just as production-quality updates are throughout an iOS edition's lifecycle. Approve each as you would any other update, and the iPhone or iPad will download and install the newest iOS 12 version, then restart to complete the process.

Need more help or information? Steer here: "iOS beta Software Installation Guide." Don't let the references to iOS 11 fool you; this is good for iOS 12, too.

How do I install the macOS beta?

Not surprisingly, the procedure is similar to previewing iOS.

Each Mac must be "enrolled" in the beta by downloading and installing the "macOS Developer/Public Beta Access Utility," available from the Downloads section of the Developers website (for the dev preview) or beta.apple.com/sp/betaprogram/ (for the public beta).

Once a Mac has been enrolled with the installation of the access utility, launch the Mac App Store - if it does not do so automatically - and navigate to the Updates Pane. Click the Update button to install the macOS beta.

Future updates will be offered to the enrolled Mac automatically, just as are non-preview updates and upgrades in the normal course of things.

What to know before you venture into BetaLand

The usual running-preview-code caveats apply to both iOS and macOS betas.

If possible, choose a device that you don't rely on for critical chores. We know, that's not always feasible - or for the adventurous, not even fun - but we had to put it out there.

(On a Mac, the preview can be placed on a secondary partition of the drive. Check out these instructions on how to do that in macOS 10.13, aka High Sierra.)

Second, back up the contents of the device so that if necessary, you can restore it to its pre-preview state. If the only time you hear the words "back up" is when your car passenger screams at you to shove it into reverse, read up on backing up an iOS device here, a Mac here.

Can I configure multiple Macs or iPhones for the betas?

No.

Unlike, say, Windows Insider, Microsoft's public preview program, there's no way for an IT administrator to set multiple Macs, iPhones or iPads so that they can access, download, install and run the Mojave and IOS 12 previews. Each user must enroll their device(s) using their own Apple ID.

An admin's best bet would be to craft an email that points employees to the appropriate URLs, such as the registration and enrollment pages. Also, Apple's Organization and Enterprise memberships to the developer program - as opposed to an Individual membership - can cover multiple people in the company, all of whom can download the non-public previews.

Has Apple issued public betas yet for iOS 12 or macOS Mojave?

Yes and no. Until today, only registered developers had access to the previews.

Apple released the iOS 12 public beta today; the "Mojave" public beta is likely this week. In 2017, Apple issued the iOS 11 public beta four days before one for High Sierra, so expect the same iOS-then-macOS order this year. Computerworld correctly posited that, if the Cupertino, Calif. company followed the same schedule as in 2017, it would release the first public beta of iOS 12 around June 25 – and do the same for macOS Mojave on June 28.

How many betas will Apple release for iOS 12 and macOS 10.14?

Even Apple doesn't know for certain.

In the past four years, Apple released six (High Sierra, 2017) seven (Sierra, 2016), six (El Capitan, 2015) and six (Yosemite, 2014) public OS X/macOS betas, with an updated version appearing, on average, every two weeks. Developer betas were issued more frequently - and often they were different snapshots-in-time than public previews - with, for example, nine for High Sierra delivered last year.

The total tally will be less important, much less, than the quality of the builds. Near the end of the preview process, for instance, Apple has at times released one "gold master" - a term reserved for an almost-there final - after another in quick succession as it and testers have found bugs. Other years, a single gold master, or at most a pair, have been enough.

What about support? Where do I go for that?

The usual documentation and peer-to-peer support forums are available to registered developers from Apple's website, which is a big part of the return for your $99 per year membership fee.

You're on your own with the public beta, though.

Apple doesn't offer support, not even a dedicated user-to-user discussion group, for iOS or macOS previews, where queries to more experienced hands can be posted. Compared to Microsoft, which publishes several Windows 10 preview-related blogs and hosts multiple Insider-specific discussion groups, Apple runs a bare bones beta.

How do I get off the iOS or macOS beta trains?

Easily, it turns out.

On a Mac, pick System Preferences from the Apple menu, then click the App Store icon. Click the Change button next to the line "Your computer is set to receive beta software updates," then confirm by choosing Do Not Show Beta Software Updates in the ensuing dialog.

On an iPhone or other iOS device, navigate to Settings > General > Profiles, and tap iOS Beta Software Profile (the one downloaded to enroll the device in the preview). Tap Delete Profile toward the bottom of the screen, confirm by tapping the Delete button. (You may be asked for the device passcode.)

After finishing those tasks, the Mac or iOS device will stop receiving beta builds.

When Mojave and iOS 12 release in September or October, you can install the final from the Mac App Store or App Store without having to revert to the version that ran the Mac or iPhone/iPad before the public beta was applied.

Need more information? Head to this pageof Apple's support site.

How do I get rid of the beta and revert to what I had?

That's why you backed up the iPhone or Mac. Right? You did back it up before you went beta. Right?

Apple's support site walks you through the restoration process in case the beta left a bad taste. Do what it says.

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