CN - Mac - When and How to Upgrade


  • When should I upgrade my macOS?
  • How do I upgrade to the latest macOS?


  • Oregon State University
  • MacOS


Apple generally releases a new operating system once per year in the fall. They officially support the last two operating systems before the new one, and deprecate the oldest supported operating system at the time that a new one is released. (For example, when Mojave was released, El Capitan became unsupported.) When an operating system is no longer supported by the vendor, it means the vendor will no longer release security or bug fixes.

You can learn more about macOS versions here:

Should You Upgrade?

The following are some general guidelines to consider when deciding whether to upgrade your Mac's operating system:

  • Software needs. Do you use less common software? If so, check with that software's vendor to ensure it is supported to work with the latest macOS.
  • Computer age and spec. Contact the Service Desk or your IT team to confirm whether your computer meets minimum specifications for the latest macOS. If your computer is very old (5 years or more) you may want to consider replacing it instead of upgrading it.
    • Note: New computers will always ship from Apple with the latest macOS on them and Community Network will leave this in place as it has the best support for new hardware.
  • New macOS features. If there is a feature of the new macOS that you need or want to try, upgrading may make sense. If not, it's best to wait until 3rd party software vendors have had a chance to update their software to work with the latest macOS.
  • Operating System out-of-date. If you are using macOS 10.12 (Sierra) or earlier, you should upgrade because that operating system is no longer supported by Apple.

Check Current macOS Version

To check your current macOS version, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen
  2. Select About This Mac

You can upgrade from macOS 10.9 or above to Big Sur. If your computer is using macOS 10.8 or below, you will need to upgrade to macOS 10.11 (El Capitan) first; see the attachment on this article for detailed steps.

Upgrading Your Mac

Note that you can contact the Service Desk or your IT team to upgrade your Mac (the process can be done in person or over the phone). Or, you can follow the steps below to perform the upgrade yourself:

  1. Create a Time Machine backup to ensure your files are safe.
  2. Verify hardware compatibility
  3. Verify all essential applications are compatible with the latest macOS
  4. Run Software Update and apply all updates
  5. Repair disk permissions and issues using First Aid
  6. Download and install the latest macOS from the Apple Store
    • See the attachment on this article for detailed steps.
  7. Update to the latest version of Microsoft Defender for macOS (or contact your IT team for help getting the latest antivirus software)


For assistance, contact the Service Desk.