Should you upgrade to Ventura early, then?

Over two weeks ago, I considered whether you should upgrade to Ventura early, and drew attention to four major changes that could be good reasons. Over the period since then I have looked in more detail at each of those in turn:

  • Stage Manager, the most significant change yet in the macOS human interface,
  • Passkeys, the eventual replacement for passwords,
  • System Settings, controversially replacing the chaos of System Preferences,
  • Rapid Security Responses (RSR), bringing small urgent security fixes between formal macOS updates.

Of those, only Passkeys are now supported by earlier versions of macOS, in Safari version 16, although it’s expected that support for Passkeys in Ventura will be better than that in Monterey with that new version of Safari. Stage Manager, System Settings and RSR are all expected to be confined to Ventura alone.

One significant improvement that I haven’t explored yet is the integration of new anti-malware protection (in XProtect Remediator) into Endpoint Security. This means that third-party security software using Endpoint Security will be able to monitor and report the results of macOS malware scans, and alert the user if malware is detected or removed. Prior to Ventura, that’s only possible by inspecting log entries, as performed by my free XProCheck.

What isn’t changing

It’s also perhaps worth noting some of the significant architectural features that aren’t expected to change from Monterey:

  • File systems – Apple hasn’t announced any changes to APFS, although further performance improvements and bug fixes should be expected, nor should there be any reduction in the availability of HFS+. If you still prefer to use HFS+ on external disks, particularly rotating hard disks, then you shouldn’t encounter any problems in doing so.
  • Boot disk layout – there’s no indication of any change from Monterey’s boot volume group with a paired Recovery volume.
  • Secure Boot – for T2 and Apple silicon Macs, this appears unchanged apart from the addition of support for RSR.
  • iCloud – the only significant change here, iCloud Shared Photo Library, has been postponed to a later version of Ventura.
  • Kernel extensions – despite rumours of Apple preventing the loading of third-party kernel extensions, there appears be no change in the current procedures required to install and authorise them.
  • Rosetta 2 – remains fully supported on Apple silicon Macs, and is now accessible within GUI Linux lightweight virtualisation too.

Apple silicon Macs

Apple silicon Macs aren’t expected to have any changes in their Secure Boot or Recovery Mode, other than accommodation for RSRs. However, M1 and M2 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models have Accessory Security, allowing you to decide whether to permit the connection of USB and Thunderbolt peripherals to that notebook. This hasn’t been reported to pose any problems to peripherals, and can be disabled in any case.

Virtualisation on Apple silicon Macs is greatly improved, with near-native speed support for running Monterey and Ventura in lightweight virtual machines, although there’s no support for running Big Sur. Virtualising GUI Linux is new for Ventura, and impressive. With suitable configuration, a virtual machine running a compatible ARM Linux distro can also use Rosetta 2 to run x86 binaries.

Overall impression

All the indications are that there’s a high level of compatibility between late versions of Monterey and Ventura, such that the great majority of apps that are fully compatible with Monterey should work fine in Ventura.

There’s just one snag that might cause the occasional unexpected glitch: Ventura is more thorough in its checking of code signatures, performing the same thorough check at launch that used only to be performed on first run. That could catch old self-updating apps, which may not leave an updated app correctly signed. The workaround for that is to download a fresh copy of the latest version of that app, which should be correctly signed and pass signature checks again.

If you’re currently running Monterey and find any of Ventura’s new features attractive, upgrading early makes good sense. As usual, the further your Mac is from Ventura to start with, the more daunting the prospects of upgrading become, but there seems little point in upgrading to Big Sur or Monterey rather than going the whole way to Ventura. That’s down to good pre-upgrade preparation.