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

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

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