While Apple’s computer hardware lasts a long time, you’ll still have to say goodbye to your Mac at some point. If you’ve had problems with your computer, you might be wondering if it’s time to get a new MacBook or if you should stick with your current one a little longer.
Let’s look at some of the top signs that your Mac is out of date. We’ll take a look at how to work around these problems and consider whether it’s time to buy a new Mac.
How long do Macs last?
Whether you’re taking inventory of your old device or considering the value of a new purchase, you may be wondering how long MacBooks and other Mac models last.
There isn’t an exact number that you can give for the lifespan of a Mac, as it depends on a variety of factors. Someone who only occasionally uses their Mac to surf the web can probably get away longer with the same machine than someone who runs their computer all day doing high-intensity tasks like video editing. The harder you push your machine, the more likely it is that a component will fail.
The definitions off Apple’s old and obsolete products page Give an idea of the longevity of the device. vintage Products are devices that have been sold for no more than five but less than seven years. A product is considered obsolete if it was discontinued more than seven years ago.
Looking at macOS compatibility (see below) shows that most of the time, Macs are eligible to get the latest macOS release for around seven years. Apple generally supports each macOS version for three years.
Third-party apps are a bit more forgiving. As of this writing, Google Chrome requires at least OS X 10.11 El Capitan (released in 2015). For Spotify you need macOS 10.13 High Sierra (2017) or newer. Dropbox works on OS X 10.10 Yosemite (released 2014) and later.
Putting all of this together, let’s say you bought a brand new Mac in 2022. This one would likely receive macOS updates through 2029. The operating system released in 2029 would receive support until 2032 from Apple and most third-party tools that worked on the final version of the operating system would be supported until at least 2035.
This means that, barring unforeseen hardware issues, you can generally expect at least 10 solid years of life from a Mac. Now let’s look at some signs that your Mac has reached the end of its lifespan.
1. You cannot run the latest version of macOS
Every year in September or October, Apple releases a new version of macOS. Mac models of recent years can run it. This means if your Mac is too old to update to the latest macOS version, it will become obsolete.
At the time of writing, macOS Monterey (version 12) is the latest stable release of macOS. The following Mac models are eligible for this update:
- MacBook models from early 2016 and later
- MacBook Air models from early 2015 and later
- MacBook Pro models from early 2015 and newer
- iMac models from late 2015 and later
- iMac Pro (2017)
- Mac Pro models from late 2013 and later
- Mac mini models from late 2014 and later
- Mac Studio (2022)
If your computer isn’t on this list, it’s likely reached the Obsolete status. As mentioned, while you’re no longer getting full macOS upgrades at this point, you can still use your computer as is for a while.
For the time being, macOS Big Sur and macOS Catalina are still supported. Catalina will likely stop receiving updates in October 2022, while Big Sur should stop receiving support in October 2023.
Once this happens, your Mac will not receive security updates for your current macOS version and third-party software may stop working. That means you’ll have to think about upgrading your Mac soon.
2. Your Mac is constantly running out of free disk space
As technology advances, apps and other data take up more and more space. This leads to a constant struggle for free disk space if you have an older machine with low disk space.
If you have a 128GB or even 256GB drive in your MacBook, chances are you’re juggling files to constantly free up space. This can mean freeing up space on your Mac whenever possible, or possibly adding more space to your Mac using an external hard drive or other methods.
You can use these workarounds to deal with low disk space for a while. But once you get tired of them, it’s time to upgrade to a new Mac. Then choose a model with plenty of storage space for years to come; Surviving on a Mac with minimal storage is abysmal.
3. Your Mac’s hardware isn’t powerful enough
Your Mac’s storage hard drive is just one computer component that degrades with age. A lack of adequate RAM prevents you from running many apps at the same time, and an old CPU means tasks like editing 4K videos are extremely slow or impossible. You’ll also find that overall system performance suffers with older hardware.
Another internal component that takes a hit over the years is the battery in MacBooks. Rechargeable batteries only have a certain number of cycles before they are “dead” and do not hold a charge for long. macOS will warn you when your battery is near the end of its life, and you can check your MacBook’s cycle count at any time.
If you’ve used the battery extensively, it might only last an hour or two before you need to charge it. You can get around this by always using your laptop on the charger, but of course that hurts portability.
If you have an outdated model, you may be able to upgrade or mitigate these issues somewhat by adding more RAM to your Mac, swapping out the hard drive for an SSD, or replacing the battery. With newer Mac models (from ~2016) this is generally not possible, since most of the components are soldered to the mainboard.
There are ways to replace a MacBook’s battery, but the money you’d spend on a battery replacement (or professional hardware upgrade) is almost certainly better spent on a new device. Apple service page states that it costs $129 to $199 for a MacBook battery replacement, which isn’t cheap.
4. Your Mac has major hardware damage
One obvious reason you need to replace your MacBook is when it suffers serious physical damage. Maybe you dropped it and damaged the internals, or you hit the screen on some debris and broke it.
In these cases, your computer is unusable until you repair or replace it. And as discussed above, there’s not much point in pouring hundreds of dollars into an old or even outdated machine when you can get a new one that will last longer.
Aside from a major hardware disaster, a long list of small problems can quickly become a big problem. An old computer is often like an old car. You can live with a few weird issues if they don’t affect your ability to use it properly, but eventually something big will go wrong and you’ll have to decide whether to fix it or upgrade it.
Small issues like your charger not working when it’s not in exactly the right spot, dead pixels on the display, stuck keys, and crackling speakers aren’t necessarily signs that you need to replace your Mac. But if your computer has so many little quirks that it’s almost unusable, you should cut your losses and look for a replacement that works much better.
When you get your next Mac, be sure to avoid mistakes that will destroy your laptop lest you send it to its grave too soon.
5. Software problems often occur on your Mac
An outdated Mac can also manifest itself through software issues. It can happen that the operating system freezes frequently when everything stops responding. Other common issues are visual glitches and random shutdowns.
When these occur, you should ensure that you have enough free disk space as low disk space can contribute to these problems. If an SMC and PRAM reset doesn’t fix the problem, proceed with reinstalling macOS and see if your problems persist.
Hopefully all software quirks go away after this fix. But if not, you probably have issues with outdated hardware and should consider upgrading your Mac.
6. It’s time for a new Mac
Maybe you’re ready to upgrade your Mac, but you can live with any problems it has and don’t have to buy one right away. If so, you should wait for the right time to get the most out of a new Mac.
Apple releases new models of most Mac machines every year. You shouldn’t buy one right before new models are released as you can wait a little longer to get a brand new machine that lasts longer for the same price.
Before you buy a new Mac, always check the MacRumor’s Buyer’s Guide. This tracks Apple hardware versions so you don’t get caught spending full price on an old model.
If you can’t afford the latest model or want to save some money, you can opt for an older or refurbished Mac. Just remember that the older the computer you buy, the more likely it is to become obsolete. You have to decide how long a Mac life you want for the money you’re spending.
Know when to replace your Mac
We’ve looked at how long Macs generally last, along with the top signs that it’s time to refresh your MacBook or iMac. Your exact mileage will depend on your usage and computing needs, but it’s clear that Macs have a reliable reputation for a reason. Estimating the lifespan of your Mac makes you a more informed buyer.
Before you upgrade, make sure you’ve done everything you can to make your old Mac feel like new. You’ll be surprised what a few tweaks can do.
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