How Is Your macOS Catalina Experience on Your Older Mac?

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

New versions of macOS usually mean better performance on Apple’s latest hardware, but your experience on older Macs — especially if you’ve installed the latest macOS on an unsupported model — might be spotty.

We’re one week away from when Apple will surely announced macOS 10.16 CaliforniaName, so we thought it would be good to take one last look at macOS Catalina and see how that’s treated you over the past year. Just as a reminder, macOS Catalina is compatible with the following desktop and laptops:

  • MacBook introduced in early 2015 or later

  • MacBook Air introduced in mid 2012 or later

  • MacBook Pro introduced in mid 2012 or later

  • Mac mini introduced in late 2012 or later

  • iMac introduced in late 2012 or later

  • iMac Pro (all models)

  • Mac Pro introduced in late 2013 or later

One significant difference with compatibility between macOS Mojave and its predecessor, macOS Catalina, is that macOS Mojave supported mid-2010 or mid-2012 Mac Pro models with a recommended Metal-capable graphics card, Catalina does not, nor does it allow you to use 32-bit apps — which might have presented some issues for your setup.

As for how well macOS Catalina works on older Macs, we’ve seen a few reports that users with older systems (2012–2015) are experiencing equal or better performance on Catalina versus Mojave. At least, most haven’t experienced major issues with the upgrade. Catalina’s quirks don’t appear to be specific to older machines.

Reddit user Miguimike reports that Catalina is running “smooth as butter” on a 2012 MacBook Pro:

“I was hesitant to update because newer OS updates have made my Mac run slower in the past but I’m on a retina MBP 2012 16GB ram and it’s actually running smoother than the previous update (forgot name).”

On MacRumors, user Jack Neill reports solid performance on an older machine:

“On unsupported macs and 1 supported mac I have tried, it actually feels a bit snappier than Mojave, but I would say its rather even and the island has nothing on the desert in terms of being stable.”

That said, this experience isn’t universal, as MacRumors commenter mrjohnnyglass describes for a 2012 Mac mini:

“Tried to upgrade my Mac Mini as well last night, and when it opened up, Finder would crash every single time, and no programs would open. Made a bootable USB installer of Catalina, and it did the same thing. Installed Catalina on a fresh install, and same issue. Downloaded from the App Store.

Went back to Mojave, and I have no issues. Anyone else have this issue?”

Plus, while some users say that while Catalina “feels snappier” than Mojave, you may not see any measurable performance gains depending on the age of your system and what apps you typically use.

If you have an older Mac, what has your Catalina experience been like? Are you eager, or afraid, to upgrade to whatever Apple has been cooking up in the meantime? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to tell us what Mac you’re using.

This piece was originally published in 2018 and updated on May 15, 2020 by Emily Long. Our updates include the following: significant rewriting to focus on the latest macOS version, updated user comments, and a new header image.

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