Tech-Friendly: Should I upgrade my Mac OS X?

August 26, 2014
Paul Gorski

Paul Gorski

By Paul Gorski

Reader Nicole Montgomery asked for my opinion whether she should upgrade her Mac OS. Read her request and comments at http://rockrivertimes.com/2014/07/01/tech-friendly-apple-releases-security-updates-and-bug-fixes-for-mavericks-and-ios-7/.

Apple updates the Mac OS very often, issuing a major upgrade about every 18 months, with minor patches in between. Sometimes these upgrades are not so “major,” but do bring a few useful new features or bug fixes. Over the past few years, these upgrades have fixed, or created, problems with the Mail.app, Wi-Fi connectivity, and corporate file server connections. More often, Apple updates a service, like iCloud, or an app, like Pages or Keynote, that requires a Mac OS upgrade, whether you want to upgrade.

Any Mac with an Intel processor, so any Mac sold since 2006, should be running no less than Mac OS X 10.6.8, with all security patches applied, and all Adobe Flash and Reader patches applied. Apple does not issue security updates for 10.6.8 anymore, but if you use the Firefox and Chrome browsers, the basic OS will be fairly secure, especially if you disable Java. However, your old apps may have security flaws that need patching.

If you have an Intel-based Mac and are running 10.4 or 10.5, you may buy a copy of 10.6 here: http://store.apple.com/us/product/MC573/mac-os-x-106-snow-leopard. If your Mac is that old, you might consider upgrading to a new one. But who am I to say, as I still own and use a few vintage Macs.

With the release of Mac OS X 10.7, Apple offered major Mac OS upgrades free. Problem is not all computers that support 10.6.8 can run 10.7, and not all 10.7 supported Macs can run 10.8. If your Mac can run 10.8, it should support 10.9. So, what is a confused Mac user to do?

If you are already running 10.7 or 10.8, sit tight for now. Just make sure all updates, other than the 10.9 update, are applied. I have had good luck with 10.9.4, the latest patch, but again your experience may vary depending on the applications you have installed.

In the next few weeks, Apple will be releasing Mac OS X v10.9.5, which will likely be the last version in the 10.9 series, as Mac OS X 10.10 will be released later this year. Depending on the programs you run, 10.7 and 10.8 users (and applicable 10.6 installs) might consider upgrading to 10.9.5. Updating to 10.9 might cause some older programs not to work, but you should be safe if you run only Apple programs, Microsoft Office 2011, and Firefox or Chrome browsers. Visit Apple’s website to find out if your Mac will run Mavericks, Mac OS X 10.9: https://www.apple.com/osx/how-to-upgrade/.

Then, wait for other users to find the bugs in Mac OS X 10.10 while you are still using 10.9.5.

If you have questions, post them online or e-mail me at: paul@paulgorski.com. Please supply me with the OS version, processor and memory information for your computer. You may find this information by selecting the Apple icon in the upper left-hand portion of your screen. I cannot help you with the upgrade, or promise that the upgrade will be trouble-free, but I can give some free advice before the upgrade.

Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple IIe.

Posted Aug. 26, 2014

5 Comments

  1. Brendan Mendes

    August 28, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I have been using Mac OS X 10.6.8 for a long time now on my 17inch Macbook Pro (2.66 GHz Intel Core i7).
    I have been using most of the graphic and editing softwares on this OS. Since you mentioned ‘Apple does not issue security updates for 10.6.8 anymore,’ I was wondering whether it is a good idea to upgrade. If so what would be the best solution. I am worried about my graphics and editing softwares. So far I have not had any trouble except for Safari hanging up.
    Would really appreciate your kind advice.
    Brendan

  2. Paul Gorski

    August 29, 2014 at 2:38 am

    Brendan,

    If you have a 2.66 GHz Core i7, you most likely have a mid-2010 Macbook Pro. That computer still has some good life in it.

    What programs, and their versions, do you run?

    Quark 7 and earlier will not run well on MacOS X 10.7 or greater. InDesign and or Creative Suite versions 5.5 or above would be recommended for 10.6 or greater.

    If you are running Quark, and don’t have version 10, contact Quark today, this week, to see if you are still eligible for their great upgrade offer. Quark 9, Quark 10 and a bunch of free fonts and apps for about $400. (Note though these newer versions won’t run on 10.6.8)

    Depending what version of the Adobe Creative Suite apps, you might be stuck where you are on versions. Moving to the cloud versions is the only upgrade path now.

    I like 10.6.8 too. If you want to stick with 10.6.8 , stop using Safari. Use FireFox with HTTPS Everywhere installed.
    See: http://rockrivertimes.com/2014/08/19/tech-friendly-use-https-everywhere-with-firefox-for-more-secure-browsing

    You can make your system more secure by following a few simple steps.
    Run Software Update to make sure you have all the patches and updates Apple has offered for 10.6.
    You might change your DNS server service to OpenDNS for added security.
    See: http://rockrivertimes.com/2013/06/26/tech-friendly-opendns-malware-blocker-faster-surfing/

    Keep Adobe Reader current. Better yet, use Preview.app to read PDFs.
    Keep Adobe Flash current, have it set to auto update. The auto update doesn’t work that well, but enable it anyway.
    Flash updates may be found at: http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/

    I’d recommend disabling Java, but you need it for PhotoShop if that is installed.

    If you have Microsoft Silverlight installed, keep it current too: Updates may be found at:
    http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/

    Make sure your firewall is turned on and Enable Stealth Mode is selected.
    See this page for screen shots and information (step five shows where you may enable stealth mode):
    http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-use-mac-os-x-snow-leopards-builtin-firewall.html

    If you decide to upgrade your design programs to current versions, your computer will support Mac OS X 10.9, and it should run well on that laptop.
    Depending on how much RAM you have, you may want to add more RAM.

    I hope this helps. (Again, let me know what programs and versions you are running.)

    Thank you for reading The Rock River Times.

    Paul Gorski

  3. Gurd Bhandal

    September 3, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Hi Paul, I have an imac mid 2011 with OSx lion 10.7.4
    now that i am learning Adobe DPS to create apps I have to download Xcode
    but that requires me to have OS X 10.8.4 or later…
    could you advise best course of action in this case?..

    many thanks!!

    Gurd

  4. Paul Gorski

    September 4, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Gurd,

    Your iMac will certainly run Mavericks, 10.9. Xcode 6 and Swift development tools require 10.9.3 or greater, so I suggest you upgrade so your Mac will support these tools.

    Also, make sure you have at least 8 GB of RAM installed.

    I hope this helps. Thank you for reading The Rock River Times.

    Paul Gorski

  5. Amy

    September 30, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Hi Paul,

    I’m running 10.6.8 and am wondering if I should install Lion and Mountain Lion before going to Maverick. I use the computer for web browsing, photos, documents and music. I’m concerned about the recent complaints I’ve seen about Maverick and wondering if upgrading slowly is better than jumping right to 10.9 from 10.6.8. I do a lot of work on the web and can’t lose access for an extended period of time.

    I have an iMac GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 GB 1067 MHz DDR3.

    Thanks so much for your advice.

    Amy

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