Which Mac operating system is the best is a topic of numerous debates among Apple fans.

  1. Is Mac Os Sierra Still Supported
  2. Mac Os Sierra Download
  3. Mac Os Sierra Latest Version
  4. Mac Os Sierra Release Date

R 4.1.1 binary for macOS 10.13 ( High Sierra) and higher, Intel 64-bit build, signed and notarized package. Contains R 4.1.1 framework, R.app GUI 1.77 in 64-bit for Intel Macs, Tcl/Tk 8.6.6 X11 libraries and Texinfo 6.7. The latter two components are optional and can be ommitted when choosing 'custom install', they are only needed. The first release of the new OS — Mac OS X Server 1.0 — used a modified version of the Mac OS GUI, but all client versions starting with Mac OS X Developer Preview 3 used a new theme known as Aqua. Aqua was a substantial departure from the Mac OS 9 interface, which had evolved with little change from that of the original Macintosh operating.

Since the mission of this blog is to refute myths and legends around Macs, it’s time for me to provide my 2 cents about the issue on hand. While everything below is just my opinion, as a long-time Mac user and veteran software engineer, I hope my opinion worth something.

The best Mac OS version is the one that your Mac is eligible to upgrade to. In 2021 it is macOS Big Sur. However, for users that need to run 32-bit apps on Mac, the best macOS is Mojave. Also, older Macs would benefit if upgraded at least to macOS Sierra for which Apple still releases security patches.

How to Tell Which macOS You Are Running

To find out which macOS is currently running on your Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Click on Apple logo in the top left corner of the menubar
  2. In the dropdown click on the first item: About This Mac
  3. The first line in the Overview tab is the name of the current OS.

What Version of OS Can My Mac Run?

Not all Macs can be upgraded to the latest OS version. For instance, old Macs powered by PowerPC CPUs cannot run OS intended for Intel-based computers. Also, some versions have hardware limitations.

For instance, Mojave cannot be installed on MacBook Pro earlier than Mid 2012 model.

Check below to know exactly what version of OS your Mac can run.

Which OS is Best for my Mac

Anytime someone asks me which OS is best for them I always suggested going with the latest. Things have changed recently, however.

Should I Upgrade to macOS Catalina or Big Sur?

While personally I like macOS Big Sur and have it installed on my MacBook Pro, it comes with serious breaking changes.

The first issue is compatibility.

Big Sur is a transition OS which is designed to help Apple to move from Intel processors to their own chips on ARM.

After I installed Big Sur on my MacBook Pro mid 2020 (pre-Silicon), most of my apps, including Microsoft Office, were working as expected.

However, my VMWare Fusion 11 does not start anymore, so I have to purchase a new license if I want to keep using it (or roll back to Catalina). Luckily, I took a full backup before the upgrade.

The second breaking issue is the lack of 32-bit app support.

macOS Catalina and Big Sur can only run 64-bit apps.

If you wondering whether you should upgrade to macOS Catalina or Big Sur, first verify that you don’t have any 32-bit apps. But first, take a back up, so you can go back in case something breaks after the upgrade.

For instance, I had to remove uTorrent after upgrade. And I didn’t know that uTorrent is 32-bit!

How to Know If App is 32-bit or 64-bit

To find out whether the app on your Mac is 32-bit or 64-bit follow these steps:

  1. Click on Apple logo in the top left corner of the Mac screen
  2. Click on About This Mac option
  3. Click on System Report button in Overview tab (first one)
  4. Scroll down to Software -> Applications
  5. Find the app and check Kind

Which macOS Should I Use

If you have an older Mac which is not eligible to upgrade with some latest software or hardware, I’d suggest upgrading at least to Sierra (or better High Sierra) for the following reasons:

  • Sierra is still supported by Apple, and it gets security updates
  • APFS file system is available
  • It supports Siri
  • Significant security improvements

The most important point when choosing the best OS is the ability to get security updates. While Apple generally does not announce the OS end of life dates, it is possible to know when they stop releasing security updates from this page.

For instance, according to the page, the last security update for OS X Yosemite was released on September 12, 2017. The last update for OS X El Capitan was in July 2018, and Carnegie Mellon University confirmed that El Capitan’s end of life date was August 2018.

Date

Snow Leopard Myth

I know that some users on forums believe that the best OS version for Macs was Snow Leopard. But that is a myth. And I know how such myths get created.

Once I worked in the company, which was selling a 20-year old product. And customers were still using and didn’t want to switch to new versions, because the old one was rock solid.

I then talked to the engineer who worked on the project, and he revealed that the product was a total disaster when it was first deployed. Engineers had to work on-site for almost a year in order to fix all bugs.

After five or so years of polishing the product, it becomes virtually bug-free, and nobody now remembers how bad it was when it was first rolled out. A similar thing happened Snow Leopard, and it was recognized as best mac os version after some time.

How to Update to the Latest Version

There are two ways to update to the latest OS version on Mac:

  • From the Software Update section in System Preferences
  • Use a download link

Using Software Update

This is by far the best option, but it only available if you have Yosemite, or later OS installed already. If you enabled automatic updates, then Mac will inform you that the next macOS is available.

Just open System Preferences, go to Software Update and click on the Upgrade Now button.

This method is also best if wondering how to check if you have the latest version of OS installed on your Mac. Only the version compatible with your hardware will appear here.

Is Mac Os Sierra Still Supported

For instance, my the latest version for Mac Mini 2012 is Mojave, I can’t install anything newer than that.

If you are having problems with updates or having issues post-upgrade check my post about troubleshooting macOS.

Using download links

For older systems or in case you need to downgrade, you have to download a standalone installer in DMG format. DMG stands for disk image, similar to ISO, just different formats.

After downloading the installer, just double click on it and follow instructions. Again, do not forget to take a backup before the upgrade.

Mac OS Comparisons: Requirements, Features, Compatibility, Download Links

Following is a high-level description of all Mac operating systems as early as Mountain Lion.

Mac Os Sierra Download

You can refer to those descriptions when deciding which operating system is best for your iMac, Mac Pro, Mac mini, or MacBook.

With each OS description, I included a list of Macs supported. However, you can use Mac OS compatibility checker for more detailed information.

macOS 11 Big Sur

macOS v11 (codename Big Sur) is the latest version of the operating system for Apple computers.

Release date: October 13, 2020

Hardware Requirements: RAM requirement 4GB. Big Sur is the first OS to support new Macs using ARM technology (in the future).

Features

  • The biggest design refresh since macOS X.
  • Support for new ARM processors.
  • Safar improved performance and power consumption.
  • Time Machine supports backup to APFS volumes.
  • One-click translation for 7 languages.
  • Redesigned maps

Software Compatibility Issues

Only 64-bit apps are allowed to run on Big Sur.

How to install

There are two ways to install Big Sur: enable automatic updates in System Preferences or download by using the following link.

Or check my post with tips on installing macOS on unsupported devices.

List of Apple computers compatible with macOS Big Sur

  • MacBook (2015 and later)
  • MacBook Air (2013 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (2013 and later)
  • Mac mini (2014 and later)
  • iMac models (2014 and later)
  • iMac Pro (2017 and later)
  • Mac Pro (2013 and later)

macOS 10.15 Catalina

Release date: October 7, 2019

Hardware Requirements: RAM requirement increased from 2GB to 4GB.

Features

  • Introduced Sidecar, which allows for Macs to use an iPad as an external display.
  • iTunes was replaced by separate apps: Music, Podcasts, and TV.
  • Find My Mac and Find My Friends have merged into one app.

Software Compatibility Issues

macOS Catalina is the first Mac operating system that does not support 32-bit applications. Only 64-bit apps are allowed to run on Catalina.

How to install

There are two ways to install Catalina: enable automatic updates in System Preferences or download by using the following link.

List of Apple computers compatible with macOS Catalina

  • MacBook (Early 2015 or later)
  • MacBook Air (Mid 2012 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2012 or later)
  • Mac mini (Late 2012 or later)
  • iMac models (Late 2012 or later)
  • iMac Pro (All models)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)

macOS 10.14 Mojave

Release date: September 24, 2018

Hardware Requirements: 2GB RAM and 18.5GB free space on disk

Features

  • The main feature of Mojave is “Dark Mode”
  • FaceTime adds group feature which allows chatting with up to 32 people
  • News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home apps were ported from iOS to Mac.

How to install

If your Mac is eligible to update to Mojave, then the easiest way to install it is by enabling automatic updates. Downloading a standalone Mojave installer could be a little tricky.

List of Apple computers compatible with macOS Mojave

  • MacBook (Early 2015 or later)
  • MacBook Air (Mid 2012 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2012 or later)
  • Mac mini (Late 2012 or later)
  • iMac (Late 2012 or later)
  • iMac Pro (All models)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013 and 2010-2012 models with upgraded GPU)

macOS 10.13 High Sierra

Release date: September 25, 2017

Hardware Requirements: 2GB RAM and 14.3GB free space on disk

Features

  • APFS (Apple File System) becomes the default file system in High Sierra. It’s a significant upgrade from the older HFS+ in terms of speed, size, and security
  • iCloud support of Messages which allows sync messages of the account across multiple devices
  • Mail app uses 35% less storage space due to optimizations

List of Apple computers compatible with macOS High Sierra

  • MacBook (Late 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2010 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Mid 2010 or newer)
  • iMac (Late 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)

How to install

Here is a High Sierra download link.

macOS 10.12 Sierra

This is the first macOS version. Previous OS versions for Macs were called OS X (X stands for 10).

Release date: September 20, 2016

Hardware Requirements: 2GB RAM and 8GB free space on disk

Features

  • Siri was introduced to Macs
  • Optimized storage with iCloud sync
  • Auto-lock feature allows unlocking MacBook with paired Apple Watch
  • APFS preview available
  • Disk Utility can manage RAID sets again
  • Significant security improvements

How to install

Here is a Sierra download link.

List of Apple computers compatible with macOS Sierra

  • MacBook (Late 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2010 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Mid 2010 or newer)
  • iMac (Late 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)

OS X 10.11 El Capitan

Last OS X version.

Release date: September 30, 2015

Hardware Requirements: 2GB RAM and 8GB free space on disk

Features

  • System Integrity Protection – a security feature that protects even when the root user executes the process
  • Performance improvements: open PDF files four times faster, Mail is twice faster, launching apps 40% faster
  • Notes app similar to the app in iOS

Macs compatible with OS X El Capitan

same as OS Mountain Lion.

How to install

Here is El Capitan download link.

OS X 10.10 Yosemite

Release date: October 16, 2014

Hardware Requirements: 2GB RAM and 8GB free space on disk

Macs compatible with OS X Yosemite

Mac Os Sierra Latest Version

Same as OS Mountain Lion.

Features

  • Major user design overhaul
  • Introduction of Handoff and Continuity features
  • Photos app replaced iPhoto and Aperture

How to install

Here is Yosemite download link.

OS X 10.9 Mavericks

First free Mac OS. Previous OS versions vary from $19.99 to $129.

Release date: October 22, 2013

Hardware Requirements: 2GB RAM and 8GB free space on disk

Features

  • Compressed Memory feature automatically compresses inactive apps when approaching maximum memory capacity
  • Timer coalescing is a feature that reduces CPU usage by up to 72 percent
  • App Nap puts apps that are not currently visible to sleep

Macs compatible with OS X Mavericks

Same as OS Mountain Lion.

How to install

OS X Mavericks installer is not available on Apple Site. Follow instructions here to install Mavericks.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

Must be purchased. Fixed many bugs introduced in OS X Lion.

Release date: July 25, 2012

System Requirements: 2GB RAM and 8GB free space on disk

Features

  • New apps: Notification Center, Notes, Messages, Game Center
  • AirPlay mirroring allowed to mirror Mac screen to Apple TV
  • Application updates automatically install from the App Store

List of Apple computers compatible with OS X Mountain Lion

  • iMac (Mid-2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)

How to install

Mountain Lion installer is not available on Apple Site. Follow instructions here to install OS X Mountain Lion.

List of older Mac OS Versions

Following Mac OS versions are still running on older Macs, but Apple does not support them anymore, and there is no point to upgrade (or downgrade) to them:

  • OS X 10.7 Lion
  • OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
  • Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard
  • Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger
  • Mac OS X 10.3 Panther
  • Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar
  • Mac OS X 10.1 Puma
  • Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah

Mac Os Sierra Release Date

Updated and republished for macOS 11.6; skip it unless you really really care about all the macOS releases. Originally published on November 14th, 2005.

Below the break is a table showing all major releases of macOS (previously Mac OS X) from the public beta through the latest public version, which is 11.6, as of September 13th, 2021—the 154th release in total.

Note: Click the ⓘ symbol to read Apple's release notes for a given update.

The following was culled from Apple's support downloads page, and as such, some of the dates may be off just a bit. If you know for certain that something is incorrect, please let me know and I'll get it fixed. (Scroll to see all entries.)

Date
Version
Comments
2021Sep 133411.62.64 GB
Aug 111511.5.22.5 GB
Jul 26511.5.12.2 GBⓘ Patch for exploited security issue
Jul 215811.52.9 GB
May 242111.43.1 GB
May 3711.3.13.3 GBⓘ Security update only?
Apr 264911.35.71 GB
Mar 81111.2.32.44 GB
Feb 251611.2.22.17 GB
Feb 9811.2.12.43 GB
Feb 14911.23.25 GB
2020Dec 142511.13.27 GB
Nov 19711.0.12.81 GBⓘ First general release of Big Sur
Nov 12711.012.18 GBBig Sur - 11.0 only shipped on M1 Macs
Nov 54310.15.7 SU11.21 GB
Sep 234210.15.72.86 GB
Aug 122810.15.6 SU13.22 GB
Jul 154410.15.63.35 GB
Jun 1610.15.5 SU11.59 GB
May 264810.15.53.37 GB
May 21--10.14.6 SU4151 MBFixes a launch issue for certain 32-bit apps
Apr 81510.15.4 SU11.38 GB
Mar 245610.15.43.0 GB
Jan 284910.15.33.0 GB
2019Dec 104210.15.23.0 GB
Oct 291410.15.14.5 GB
Oct 15810.15 SU1985 MBNo info page
Oct 71110.154.9 GBCatalina - You need more permission!
Sep 263110.14.6 SU31.32 GB
Aug 262510.14.6 SU21.25 GB
Aug 11010.14.6 SU1949 MB
Jul 227010.14.62.7 GB
May 134910.14.52.5 GB
Mar 256210.14.42.8 GB
Jan 224810.14.32.0 GB
2018Dec 52810.14.22.5 GB
Nov 7810.14.1 SU11.3 GBⓘ For 2018 MacBook Air
Oct 303610.14.13.3 GB
Sep 242710.145.2 GBⓘ Mojave - You need permission!
Aug 283810.13.6 SU21.32 GBⓘ For 2018 Touch Bar MBP…again
Jul 241510.13.6 SU11.31 GBⓘ For 2018 Touch Bar MBP
Jul 93810.13.61.32 GBⓘ AirPlay 2
Jun 16410.13.52.12 GBⓘ Messages in iCloud
Mar 293710.13.42.36 GBⓘ Sortable Safari bookmarks!!
Feb 202810.13.3 SU40.4 MBⓘ Indian character/Messages crash fix
Jan 233310.13.31.97 GB
Jan 83310.13.2 SU633.6 MBⓘ Spectre and Meltdown fixes
2017Dec 63610.13.22.08 GB
Oct 312610.13.11.47 GB
Oct 51010.13 SU915 MBⓘ Addresses two security issues
Sep 256810.134.8 GBⓘ High Sierra - Higher in the mountains?
Jul 196510.12.61.98 GB
May 154910.12.51.57 GB
Mar 276310.12.41.56 GBⓘ Night Shift
Jan 234110.12.31.05 GB
2016Dec 135010.12.21.94 GB
Oct 243410.12.11.36 GB
Sep 206410.124.77 GBⓘ Sierra - Still in the mountains.
Jul 186310.11.6759 MB
May 165710.11.5759 MB
Mar 206110.11.41.58 GB
Jan 194110.11.3662 MB
2015Dec 94910.11.21.4 GB
Oct 212110.11.11.19 GB
Sep 304810.116.08 GBⓘ El Capitan - Go climb something!
Aug 134410.10.51.02 GB
Jun 307510.10.41.09 GB
Apr 16810.10.3 SU1.8 MBⓘ Supplemental Update
Apr 87110.10.31.52 GBⓘ Includes Photos app
Jan 277110.10.2544 MB
2014Nov 173210.10.1311 MB
Oct 162910.105.2 GBⓘ Yosemite - No surfers here.
Sep 177910.9.5139 MB
Jun 304610.9.4283 MB
May 157910.9.3461 MB
Feb 257110.9.2460 MB
2013Dec 165510.9.1243.4 MB
Oct 221910.95.3 GBⓘ Mavericks - All out of big cats!
Oct 32110.8.5 SU19.6 MBⓘ Supplemental Update
Sep 1210010.8.5273.7 MB
Jun 48210.8.4152.0 MB
Mar 1416110.8.3249.0 MB
2012Oct 41510.8.2 SU26.7 MBⓘ Supplemental Update
Sep 192710.8.2665.5 MB
Aug 232910.8.124.2 MB
Jul 257710.84.1 GBⓘ Mountain Lion - App Store only
Oct 41510.7.5 SU2.0 MBⓘ Supplemental Update
Sep 1913310.7.51.1 GBⓘ Released w/ 10.8.2
May 99810.7.4692.7 MB
Feb 111210.7.31.3 GBⓘ Only combo updater available
2011Oct 125610.7.2768.8 MBⓘ Now iCloud enabled
Aug 172910.7.179.3 MB
Jul 192610.74.1 GBⓘ Lion - App Store only (USB stick later)
Jun 239410.6.8453.6 MBⓘ App Store readied for Lion
Mar 217410.6.7475 MB
Jan 65710.6.6143.6 MBⓘ Can you say 'App Store?'
2010Nov 1014810.6.5644.5 MB
Jun 157810.6.4607.2 MB
Mar 2914010.6.3719.2 MB
2009Nov 96010.6.2473 MB
Sep 101310.6.171.5 MB
Aug 282310.62.31 GBⓘ Snow Leopard - First Intel-only release
Aug 58510.5.8274 MB
May 1214810.5.7442 MB
2008Dec 159110.5.6372 MB
Sep 157710.5.5316 MB
Jun 303310.5.488 MB
May 2810710.5.3420 MB
Feb 118810.5.2343 MBⓘ Combo updater only
2007Nov 152010.5.1110 MB
Oct 2612810.52.15 GBⓘ Leopard - First universal binary release
Nov 1414710.4.11128 MBⓘ This '10' goes to '11'
Jun 209910.4.1072 MB
Mar 1316510.4.9160 MB
2006Sep 299410.4.8206 MB
Jun 278510.4.7133 MB
Apr 34810.4.6163 MB
Feb 143510.4.516 MB
Jan 107110.4.455 MBⓘ First Intel-capable release
2005Oct 3111110.4.397 MB
Jul 125710.4.244 MB
May 161710.4.137 MB
Apr 291410.41.78 GBⓘ Tiger
Apr 156510.3.951.3 MB
Feb 95610.3.826.6 MB
2004Dec 154010.3.797 MBⓘ Combo updater only
Nov 58810.3.634 MB
Aug 97510.3.5???
May 267210.3.479 MBⓘ Combo updater only
Mar 158910.3.370 MBⓘ Combo updater only
2003Dec 173710.3.236.9 MB
Nov 101710.3.11.5 MB
Oct 242110.31.54 GBⓘ Panther
Oct 35710.2.840 MB
Sep 2213910.2.7???Only for certain G5s/G4s
May 62610.2.626 MB
Apr 105610.2.581.9 MB
Feb 135610.2.476 MB
2002Dec 193810.2.351 MB
Nov 115410.2.224.4 MB
Sep 182610.2.116.3 MBⓘ Update not available?
Aug 237910.21.03 GBⓘ Jaguar
Jun 54710.1.545.1 MBⓘ Combo updater only
Apr 195710.1.41.7 MB
Feb 216210.1.316 MB
2001Dec 213710.1.229.2 MB
Nov 145010.1.113.8 MB
Sep 259510.1989 MBⓘ Puma
Jun 224410.0.412 MB
May 9810.0.315 MB
May 11510.0.215 MBReleased but replaced (see comments)
Apr 162310.0.14 MB
Mar 2419210.0659 MBⓘ Cheetah
2000Sep 13--10.0β676 MBⓘ Public Beta

Note: The Days column reflects the number of days between releases.

Some entries may appear out of chronological order (i.e. 10.5 is shown on Oct 26, but above Nov 14 for 10.4.11). This is to keep the version numbers in the proper order, even when an older OS received an update after a major new release came out. This has happened a few times over the years.

Some random notes, updated from the original post:

  • Starting with the Public Beta and up through 11.6, there have been 154 macOS releases, both major and minor. This figure includes the one odd macOS X release: 10.2.7. This version was only for the then-new PowerMac G5 and the flat panel iMac G4, and was never generally released.
  • As of September 13th, 2021 (11.6's release date), it's been 7,670 days since the Public Beta was released. So on average, we've seen some sort of update every 50.1 days.
  • The shortest time period between any two releases is six days, which is how quickly the 10.15.5 Supplemental Update 1 came out after the 10.15.5 release.
  • The longest time period between any two minor releases is 165 days, which was how long we waited for the 10.4.9 update. (Tecnically, it's actually the 192 day interval between the Mac OS X Public Beta and version 10.0, but I'm counting from the official 10.0 release.)
  • The smallest update was 10.3.1, at only 1.5MB. The largest (non-combo, non-main OS release) update was 10.15.1 at 5.3GB.
  • The '???' entry for Size on a given release indicates I was unable to find the size. Feel free to contact me if you can help replace any of the '???' entries.

And now, gratuitous graphics…

Releases by version number

Releases by year

A special 'thank you!' goes to Mr. Ziebell (for providing some size values on very-old minor updates), and to Benton Quest (for providing size info on all the major releases up through Snow Leopard). See Benton's comment below if you want a nicely detailed history of those early releases.

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