Dear Lifehacker, Mountain Lion is out, and I'm seeing it has some pretty cool new features! Should I upgrade? Thanks, Eager Beaver
Good question! Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is officially out, and you're right -- it does include some really interesting new features. Whether you should upgrade, however, depends on a couple of things: most notably what kind of Mac you have, the applications you run, and how you interact with your computer. At $20.99, it's a cheap upgrade, and that alone may be convincing enough for you, but let's look at the pros and cons first.
First, Check If Your Mac Is Supported
Before you whip out the credit card, you should make sure your Mac can handle the upgrade -- many Macs that you may have thought would be able to upgrade actually can't, so tread carefully. We tackled the basic system requirements in our guide to prepping your Mac for Mountain Lion, but if you missed it, here's what you'll need:
Apple's general system requirements are:
- OS X v10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) or later
- 2GB of memory
- 8GB of available drive space
Apple also lists the models which support Mountain Lion:
- iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
- MacBook (Late 2008 aluminium, or Early 2009 or newer)
- MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
- Xserve (Early 2009)
- MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
- Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
- Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
To find out which model of Mac you have, clicking the Apple logo in your menubar, select "About this Mac" and click "More Info..." You'll see your Mac's model and release date, as well as the amount of memory installed. (Click the Storage tab to see if you have enough free space.) Hackintosh users should check Tonymac's blog post on getting ready for Mountain Lion for notes about additional requirements or potential issues.
If your Mac won't support Mountain Lion, never fear: there are ways to get the best features in Lion without actually upgrading.
Next, Check If Your Apps Will Run
The vast majority of your apps should run in Mountain Lion without any special updates or tweaks. Developers have had a long time to work on updates, and in our testing, even some of the beefier, more problematic applications (think Photoshop) have worked flawlessly. If you have a favourite OS tweaking tool however, that may need to be updated before it is compatible with Mountain Lion. Head over to RoaringApps' Comatibility Checklist to see if your most frequently-used programs are supported.
What Version of OS X Are You Running Now?
If you're running Lion, Mountain Lion won't feel like a huge bump to you. Some of the new features, like Notification Center, will make themselves known right away but a lot of the other features, such as Twitter and Facebook integration, might not be apparent unless you go looking for them. Behind-the-scenes improvements like Power Nap and Auto Save will definitely save you time and hassle, but you may not even know they're there.
If you're still running Snow Leopard, on the other hand, Mountain Lion will be a bigger jump for you -- one that will come with many more features to explore. Considering it's only $20.99 to skip over Lion and get everything it comes with too, it's hard to say no.
Are There Features Are You Looking Forward To?
- As Apple rolls in core features that used to be former apps, they get better. For example, if you love Growl you'll probably love Notification Center. Notification Center brings in system-wide alerts, makes them always viewable in a side panel, organises them so they're easy to sift through, and even includes apps that weren't very Growl-friendly.
- If you're wedded to the Apple ecosystem, the new cloud and messaging features will fit right in. Even if you already use Dropbox or Google Drive, iCloud's new document sync will work for you -- it's seamless and in the background. If you and your friends all use iMessage, the ability to get and send those messages right from your Mac will probably appeal to you.
- Mountain Lion brings new utilities that make working with your computer easier. Apple's Power Nap, which updates your system, does backups and syncs your documents and files to iCloud in the background while your Mac is sleeping, is a great feature. Dictation, which allows you to speak to your Mac in an almost Siri-like manner to open app and work on documents, could change the way you work with your system.
- Many Mountain Lion features are already available. The best features, like iCloud syncing, notifications, auto-save, notes and reminders are all already available in other apps that do the same things, and in many cases (Notes and Reminders, for example) those other apps do it much better.
- None of Mountain Lion's features are really revolutionary: Mountain Lion definitely has a lot of features, but few of them are really "can't live without" features or utilities. As we said earlier, If you skipped over Lion and are still running Snow Leopard, it will be a big jump, but if you're running Lion, you really won't feel like you're running a whole new OS.
The Verdict: Do You Have $21 to Spare?
At the end of the day, if you have $20.99 to spend and your Mac is capable, we can't argue a big case against getting Mountain Lion. If you see some of the features in Mountain Lion and think "that would be pretty awesome to have" or "I'll definitely use that", then upgrade without delay. If you're still on Snow Leopard, it's a good upgrade for you. It's affordable, solid, stable and a really quick install -- it only took me about 30 minutes, and afterwards all of my apps worked without issue. But if you already have Lion and you don't see what the fuss is about, or like your Mac the way it is, you may want to hold off.
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