We are living in some interesting and exciting times in regards to technology.
It always seems to be the case though, even when you think back to around a decade ago when Apple was transitioning to Intel processors for Macs and that new gadget, the iPhone, was on the horizon. Looking back from where we are today makes those strides seem a little mild, but they were huge steps that paved the road to the hardware, software and services we are enjoying today.
Keeping up or falling behind?
Surprisingly, there are still so many users, both consumer and business alike, that have been reluctant to move forward. This "don't fix it if it isn't broke" mentality had turned out to be more problematic than expected for many.
There are many Mac users who just haven't felt the need to upgrade until they encountered something that forced their hand. Maybe it was a critical application, third party tool or hardware limitation that was no longer compatible with their old version of macOS but they all had one thing in common -- they had to take a leap. And by falling so far behind it was sure going to be a big one!
Getting too far behind means having to learn any new features of the newly upgraded system as well as the possibility of other older software not being compatible now. Generally, the further behind your machine is the larger the impact will be to bring it current.
If your Mac is really old, you may find that it's no longer compatible with newer versions of macOS and it is time to replace it all together. One really great thing going in our favor is the long obsolescence cycle of Macs. Macs with a few years on the clock can still run the latest versions of macOS and the upcoming macOS Sierra even though some may not support some features.
Sierra ready Macs:
MacBook - Late 2009 and later
MacBook Air - 2010 and later
MacBook Pro - 2010 and later
Mac mini - 2010 and later
iMac - Late 2009 and later
Mac Pro - 2010 and later
Hardware: Upgrade or Replace?
Good question. This really comes down to the demands you place on your Mac and the specifications.
Previous model Macs offer a more upgrade-friendly layout than the newer models. A good example is the ease of adding more memory to most older iMac and MacBook models.
Over the past year or so we have also seen the cost drop for better hard drive options such as Solid-State (SSD) or hybrid SSD/HDD drives. These are great ways to keep your aging Mac in the game a little longer in a more budget friendly way. Plus, you can usually add more storage space to go along with that performance increase at the same time.
What you can't do is take advantage of the superior graphics and display quality found in the newer Retina models. This is more of a personal preference issue in many cases. While Retina displays are fantastic, for those who get along just fine with the sub-Retina quality this may not be such a big deal. This is also something that you cannot change on your iMac or MacBook Pro so consider this when deciding whether to upgrade or replace your Mac.
OS X/macOS and Software
With your hardware now muscled up, it really is the software that runs the show. The added features and ability to sync better with your iPad and iPhone is part of the current version of OS X El Capitan with even more refinements coming in macOS Sierra.
But we must also consider security and the other less flashy elements that come with staying current. If you have ever read the details in those software updates from Apple that pop up on your screen periodically, many times you will see security improvements listed. It is always good to stay on top of keeping the holes patched with proper updates. This goes for third party software, too.
Remember, your computer is a very dynamic device. Things are constantly flowing in and out when you check and send emails, browse the Internet, share files and everything else. It's always best to not let updates or necessary upgrades linger too long since you will, at some point, invariably be faced with updating to new versions of software and/or hardware.
The choice is whether to make it a smooth curve by staying current or a giant leap by getting too far behind. It's a good idea to periodically audit your software and macOS versions and the age of your hardware. All this will help ensure the best performance and reliability that you need for your daily digital life.
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