Whether you've seen it in action or received more than a few intrusive notifications from Apple, you've probably been directed to install the company's new macOS High Sierra on more than one occasion. Features such as improved photo management and the Apple File System are definitely enticing, but, as with many of the company's upgrades, the operating system isn't exactly optimised to run on the Mac you acquired back in 2012.
If you're curious about whether or not you should upgrade your Mac, here are a few factors to consider (as well as a way to make using your updated Mac a bit more appealing.)
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When upgrading, it's better to be safe than sorry. That means doing your research into any potential compatibility issues or prevailing bugs that may affect your experience. In Apple's case, the company has been dealing with quite a few bugs in their updates as of late. The latest High Sierra update, 10.13.1, effectively disabled a security patch released by Apple earlier this week, yet again exposing users to a potentially devastating security flaw. It has since released another patch to fix the first one and finally sort out the root login issue, but if you're worried about unseen flaws, maybe holding off on a major update until it's been put through its paces is a good idea.
Beyond the current snafu, here are more general guidelines to keep in mind about pulling the trigger on Apple's latest OS or iOS rollouts:
Who Should (Or Shouldn't) Upgrade
Who should upgrade? The short answer is that if your Mac was released within the last five years, you should consider making the leap to High Sierra, though your mileage may vary in terms of performance. OS upgrades, which generally include more features than the previous version, are often more taxing on older, underpowered machines. Your 2010 Macbook, with its Core 2 Duo processor, can't exactly handle the same workload last year's MacBook can. More recent Macs, such as those with at least 8GB of RAM, or solid-state drives, are better equipped to handle the change, but even those may need some hardware updates beforehand.
The same is true for Apple's smartphones. You know the feeling if you've ever upgraded a two or three-year-old iPhone to a brand new version of iOS. Things seem to move a bit slower thanks to the extra bells and whistles that were meant to take advantage of the company's new hardware (and not your ageing iPhone 6).
If you're rocking a MacBook or iOS device as old as a Year 1 student, you should probably avoid upgrading your operating system. Devices over five years old are considered vintage by Apple, and are ineligible for support from the company (except in California, and Turkey). Devices made over seven years ago are considered obsolete.
Curious to see whether or not your machine is eligible for macOS High Sierra? You can consult this short list of compatible Macs:
- iMac models from late 2009 or later
- MacBook models from late 2009 or later
- MacBook Pro models from mid 2010 or later
- MacBook Air models from late 2010 or later
- Mac mini models from mid 2010 or later
- Mac Pro models from mid 2010 or later
What To Upgrade Before You Upgrade
Just because your Mac is eligible for an upgrade doesn't mean it's properly equipped to handle it well. You can see the hardware specifications of your Mac by clicking the Apple logo in your menu bar and selecting "About this Mac". There, you'll see an overview of your system, including its release date, RAM, hard disk type and serial number.
If you're dealing with a Mac that's lacking in memory, or still using a hard disk drive, you should make a few hardware changes before you make the leap. Upgrading internal components will keep your machine running smoother, and better equip it to handle the increased demands from the new operating system.
Hard Disk: If you have yourself a traditional spinning hard disk, you should ditch it. By virtue of its spinning nature, it's the slowest component in your machine, and is responsible for the time you spend tapping your fingers on the table while your Mac boots up, or slowly loads your holiday photos. Instead, open your device and replace it with a solid-state drive (or just bring it to your local electronics repair shop for the service).
With no moving parts, SSDs are multiple times faster than hard disk drives, and will greatly improve the performance of your Mac. Your machine will boot in seconds rather than minutes, your media will load instantly, and your Mac will draw less power.
Memory: When your Mac runs out of RAM, your computer starts to slow down, storing data in your sluggish hard disk drive. Even if you replace that spinning disk with a solid-state drive, that data management process still means you're waiting on your tiny amount of RAM to handle your workload.
Installing an app such as MenuBar Stats 2 will let you see how much RAM and processing power you're using at any given moment. Increasing your memory makes switching between apps or browsing the web much faster thanks to the increased amount of available storage. Installation is similar in difficult to solid-state drive installation, but you can always bring it to an electronics repair shop and have them do it for you for a price similar to a hard drive replacement fee. You'll be able to manage more photos at a time, edit larger video files more quickly, and use more apps at once.