When Apple announced that it would be releasing its latest operating system, OS X Mavericks, free of charge, fans must have felt it was a dream come true. They were so psyched that, according to Angela Moscaritolo from ITProPortal, 5.5% of Mac users downloaded it within 24 hours. Apple’s Mountain Lion OS took four days to reach that level of adoption. Not only were fans looking forward to a no-cost upgrade, but they were also looking forward to the improved memory, extended battery life, and host of new apps that Mavericks promised. Unfortunately for some, things didn’t go quite as planned.

Jamie Hinks, also from ITProPortal, reported that Mavericks has at least one significant flaw – it causes external hard drives to break down. The situation is such that Western Digital recommends that people don’t download the new operating system until it and Apple have figured out exactly what is causing the problem, and have come up with a solution to ensure the safety and integrity of external drives.

What’s happening?

According to Hinks, problems include hard drives not mounting and not even appearing after Mavericks has been downloaded and installed. According to Jonny Evans, from ComputerWorld, some users are losing all of the data on their external drives, although the likelihood of this is reportedly low.

The problems seem to be most commonly experienced with Western Digital (WD) My Book devices, and WD Drive Manager, WD Raid Manager, and WD SmartWare apps. As a result, Western Digital has actually taken down the apps and advised users to uninstall them before downloading Mavericks, or to hold out a little longer before getting Mavericks.

Western Digital is not the only had drive manufacturer experiencing the problems, however. Hinks says that Seagate and LaCie have also reported episodes of hard drive failure, and apparently any external storage device that uses an USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt connection is at risk.

Data loss is not the only risk Mac OS X poses to Western Digital drives, as some users have also reported sound loss when their Macs go into sleep mode. Fortunately, the problem seems to be temporary (albeit annoying), as it can be fixed by restarting the computer.

It’s not all doom and gloom

Evans says that the lost data can be recovered fairly easily – provided users stop using the device immediately after the upgrade and invest in some third party recovery software. Obviously, this isn’t an ideal solution, but it does give some hope to those who may be panicking because vital business documents or treasured family photos have gone missing.

The other good news, according to Western Digital, is that the problems seem to arise only when a “specific set of conditions and timing sequences between the OS and WD software utilities occur”. Even with the low rate of occurrence, however, Western Digital says that users should still take the recommended precautions. If problems do occur, then it’s recommended that you contact WD customer service before you try anything else, like recovery software.

Mavericks still has plenty of benefits

Glitches with external drives aside, OS X Mavericks still offers users plenty of new benefits, some of which are not entirely well known. Macworld’s Keir Thomas has written an article listing his top five ‘unknown’ built in apps, three of which include:

  1. Keychain Access, which allows you to store login details, and which will remind you of any details that you may have forgotten. You’ll find it in the Utilities folder under Applications.
  2. Stickies, which are effectively Post-it notes for your desktop. You’ll find it under Applications.
  3. Migration Assistant, which allows you to transfer data from a variety of Mac and PCs on a shared network. You’ll find it in the Utilities folder under Applications.

By and large, Apple fans have no reason to be disappointed in OS X Mavericks, nor do they have any reason to fear it. However, they should exercise care when downloading the operating system to external drives.

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