How to Get the OS X El Capitan Public Beta

Along with the slew of phones, tablets and TVs announced recently, Apple also quietly revealed that the next version of its operating system, OS X El Capitan, will be available for all on September 30. The public beta of El Capitan went live back in July, allowing Mac developers and users to play around with new features like split-screen mode to their hearts content. If you just can't wait until the end of the month, you can still download it by going to and following the step-by-step instructions.

The newest version of OS X does more than improve multitasking. It also offers a smarter Spotlight search feature, a more intuitive Mission Control for switching apps, and a more powerful Notes app. 

Apple also promises swifter performance, whether you're opening PDFs or playing games (thanks to Meta for Mac support). However, because this is beta software that's still in development, Apple recommends that you load El Capitan on a secondary Mac.

We tested the developer preview version of El Capitan, but Apple has been busy adding new features heading up to the public beta. These include the ability to sort albums by date or title in the new Photos app, as well as adding location to images. Plus, developers now have access to editing extensions.

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Other additions in El Capitan include iTunes 12.2 (with Apple Music) and a strikethrough option in the Mail format bar. But the most welcome enhancement is a change to the Spaces bar, which now lets you take an app out of full screen mode or two apps out of Split View.

We weren't blown away by El Capitan during our initial testing, but all of the little changes - even shaking the cursor to make it bigger on screen - add up to a better experience for users.

Quick Tips from Apple

  • Backup your Mac before installing.
  • There will be periodic updates to the OS X El Capitan beta, and you will be able to upgrade to the final version of OS X El Capitan when it ships this fall.
  • Use your Mac as you normally would, and if you encounter any issues, use the built-in Feedback Assistant app to report them.
  • Visit the OS X Beta Program guide for the latest information about the El Capitan beta and how to submit feedback.

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Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.