macOS Big Sur on a MacBook Pro

macOS Big Sur is the latest version of Apple’s desktop operating system. It will be available as a free upgrade to Mac owners on November 12, 2020. With this release, some Macs that run Catalina are being left behind and won’t be able to upgrade.

Which Mac Models Are Compatible with Big Sur?

Apple is removing support for some older Mac models with the release of macOS 11.0 Big Sur. If your computer is no longer compatible with the latest update, you’ll have to keep using macOS Catalina until you upgrade to a newer model.

The list of Mac models that are compatible with macOS Big Sur are:

  • MacBook Air (2013 and newer)
  • MacBook Pro (late 2013 and newer)
  • MacBook (2015 and newer)
  • iMac (2014 and newer)
  • iMac Pro (2017 and newer)
  • Mac mini (2014 and newer)
  • Mac Pro (2013 and newer)

If your Mac isn’t on the list, you’ll stop receiving major software updates. This includes updates to core apps like Safari and Mail. If you use an iOS device running iOS 14 or later, then you will not be able to transfer files or perform local backups using Finder.

Apple normally provides important security fixes for the previous two supported versions of macOS. This means that, even if your Mac doesn’t meet the hardware requirements, you should have another two years of security updates that you can install via the “Software Update” option in “System Preferences.”

Software Update in macOS System Preferences

You might also see some software compatibility issues with third-party apps that depend on changes Apple has made to Big Sur. Make sure you read the required minimum operating system specifications before purchasing any new software on a Mac that’s no longer supported by Apple.

RELATED: What's New in macOS 11.0 Big Sur, Available Now

How to Find Out Which Mac You Have

If you’re not sure which Mac you have, you can check via the Apple menu at the top of the screen. Click the “Apple” menu at the top of your screen, then select “About This Mac.” You will see your Mac model name listed in the window that appears beneath the currently installed version of macOS.

About This Mac in macOS

Some Mac models aren’t only separated by year, but the period during the year they were manufactured. For example, if you have a MacBook Pro that is listed as a “late 2013” model, your computer is compatible with Big Sur. MacBook Pro models from “early” or “mid-2013” are not.

Not having the latest updates and features can be frustrating, but your Mac should still be serviceable for a few years (at least until the security updates dry up). There are lots of things you can try to bring an old Mac back to life, including installing Linux or using it as a file server or media streamer.

Why Apple Removes Support for Older Machines

macOS Big Sur removes support for machines like the 2012 MacBook Pro, which is over eight years old at this point. While this is unfortunate for owners of old machines, the reasoning is likely due to the limited capabilities of such hardware.

Big Sur introduces some pretty big changes for the Mac. It’s the last major 10.x release, which means Big Sur is the first iteration of macOS 11.0. The changes seem to run deeper than a new naming convention, with Big Sur introducing a refreshed interface that borrows heavily from Apple’s mobile operating systems, iOS and iPadOS.

macOS Big Sur Control Center

The new interface makes heavy use of transparency and floating windows, and almost every core app included in the release will have a UI overhaul to some degree. It’s likely that older machines simply don’t have the graphical horsepower to keep up.

One Last Thing Before You Upgrade

If your Mac is no longer supported by Apple, you’re probably thinking about an upgrade. Before you buy anything, decide if now is the best time to buy a new Mac. You might find that, as a result of Apple’s upgrade cycle, your money will go further if you wait a few months for the company to introduce new models.

This is especially relevant right now as Apple prepares to transition Intel-powered Macs to custom ARM processors.

RELATED: Intel Macs vs. Apple Silicon ARM Macs: Which Should You Buy?

Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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