People are accusing electronics manufacturers of built-in obsolescence: that hardware is designed to stop working or become unusable after a relatively short period of time. Apple has generally avoided that with Macs, by allowing many of its models to receive OS X and macOS updates for five to seven years after the initial release of the computer version. And some people let older systems run indefinitely, as I noted in a recent column that began with people’s love for 10.6.8 Snow Leopard, now over a decade old.
But Apple does not provide a guide as such on the “terminal” version of the operating system that you can install on any computer. That is, how do you like it last version your computer is compatible with?
You can track it down, but you have to work in reverse. Apple has a page for each release that, in older versions of the operating system, describes the features needed in Macs to handle it, and in newer versions, a list of the oldest supported models or a description of each model. There may be additional requirements, such as minimal installed RAM, and one always needs a certain amount of free disk space, often specified.
For example, for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, released in mid-2011, Apple notes that an “Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor” is required, but not which models; 2GB RAM is also required. Fortunately, third-party sites can provide the reverse lookup that helps refine this. EveryMac.com, which is almost 25 years old, has pages with every Mac model per processor. Click on Core 2 Duo and you’ll find that the late 2006 17-inch iMac is one of the first to be upgraded to Lion.
Finding some of these Mac updates is tricky, but our colleagues at Macworld UK have listed how to find downloads for OS X and macOS releases over the past decade. If you can only find an installer that upgrades from an existing OS X or macOS release, you may need to install a later version, often 10.6.8, before you can use the upgrader.
Here are the links to find the system requirements for Lion and later:
This Mac 911 article is in response to a question from Macworld reader Amma.
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