Which Releases of macOS Are Supported With Security Updates?

Apple doesn’t have a written policy that guarantees how long it supports each release of macOS with security updates. But you can quickly check to see which versions of macOS Apple is still updating, and they tend to support the most recent three versions.

Apple Has No Official Written Policy

Apple doesn’t provide a written statement that guarantees how long it will support each release of macOS with security updates. Apple doesn’t even publicly say when an operating system is “end of life” and is no longer receiving updates. They just stop releasing updates for old versions of macOS with no announcement, and you’re on your own.

This is very unusual if you’re used to dealing with Microsoft Windows. Microsoft publishes their Windows support lifecycle, which spells out precisely (and guarantees) how long each product will receive different types of updates. For example, you can see on that page that for Windows 7 Service Pack 1, mainstream support (new feature releases and minor updates) ended in 2015, but extended support (security updates) goes on until 2020.

Apple does still has a plan, though, even if they don’t describe it publicly. For quite a few years, Apple has consistently updated the last three versions of macOS—in other words, the current release of macOS and the last two releases—with security updates. So, assuming Apple releases a new version of macOS every year, each release of macOS will be supported with security updates for roughly three years. But Apple provides no guarantees, and that’s just an informed guess.

How to See What’s Currently Supported

The Apple Security Updates page is the only page on Apple’s website that gives you this information. It contains a list of security updates Apple has recently released for all its devices, including Macs running macOS. Look for the most recent macOS update and check which versions of macOS it was released for. If a version of macOS isn’t receiving new updates, it isn’t supported anymore.

For example, in May 2018, the latest release of macOS was macOS 10.13 High Sierra. This release is supported with security updates, and the previous releases—macOS 10.12 Sierra and OS X 10.11 El Capitan—were also supported. When Apple releases macOS 10.14, OS X 10.11 El Capitan will very likely no longer be supported. That’s what we can assume based on Apple’s past actions, anyway.

How to Check Which Release of macOS You’re Running

To view which release of macOS you’re running, click the Apple icon on the menu bar at the top of your screen, and then click the “About This Mac” command. You’ll see the name of the release you’re using and the version number right below that.

If you have an older minor release—for example, if you have macOS 10.13.3 and you see that only macOS 10.13.4 is supported with updates—you just need to open the Mac App Store and install any updates to get the most recent minor version.

RELATED: How to Check Which Version of macOS You’re Using

How to Upgrade to a Supported Release

You can always upgrade to a new release of macOS for free, assuming Apple still supports your hardware. Launch the App Store app on your Mac and you should see the new version of macOS available as a free download. It’s a good idea to back up your Mac before continuing.

You can also click the “Software Update” button in the About This Mac window to open the app.

RELATED: How to Upgrade Your Mac to High Sierra

Image Credit: mama_mia/Shutterstock.com.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.