Apple for the first time in the company's history is letting the general public beta test its latest operating system, OS X Yosemite, ahead of the final release later in the year.

Following in the footsteps of Microsoft who for the last couple of versions of Windows has allowed the general public to play before the real deal becomes available, any one who wants to see what's in store for them later in the year can download a beta version of the software for free.

READ: Our preview of the new Yosemite beta

The Yosemite beta will be available via the Apple Mac App Store from the 24 July.

But before you press the download button there are some things to bear in mind before you get started.

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Public beta tips:

1. This is beta software that is still in development, which means some applications and services may not work as expected so don't go whinging to Apple that something doesn't work as expected, or that it crashes occasionally.

2. Apple recommends installing OS X Yosemite Beta on a secondary Mac if you can.

3. Make a back up of your Mac before installing so if installation does go wrong you haven't lost years of photos, documents, or other important stuff. Services like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft's OneDrive are really good to help you with this.

4. Some features require iOS 8, which is not being offered as part of the OS X Beta Program so not everything will work, particularly the new Continuity features.

5. There will be periodic updates to the OS X Yosemite Beta, and you will be able to upgrade to the final version of OS X Yosemite when it ships this fall meaning things can only really get better.

6. Use your Mac as you normally would and if you encounter any issues, use the built-in Feedback Assistant app to report them. That right the whole point about the beta programme is to help Apple make a better product. You get the software for free, but it wants you to help them out when you can.

7. Visit the OS X Beta Program guide for the latest information about the Yosemite beta and how to submit feedback. If you've got a question, Apple should have most of the answers.