Should I upgrade my MacBook to El Capitan?

RR writes:

I have a 2009 Mac Book.  Will I get left behind if I don’t upgrade to El Capitan before the next upgrade comes out? All works well now.

Yeah, you’re going to be left behind. But you’re working with a six year old Mac – you should probably expect to be left behind. 

A lot of it depends on how your Mac is configured. Let me speak frankly: Your Mac isn’t getting any faster, and Apple’s moving the goalposts. Things like Metal in El Capitan won’t work on your older Mac. It uses Bluetooth 2.1, which makes it incompatible with some of the Handoff technology introduced in Yosemite that requires Bluetooth 4.0. 

Those are things that you’re not going to be able to patch around; those are just hard limits to what your Mac can do and where Apple’s moved OS X in the years since your Mac was released.

Bluetooth and graphics aren’t the only thing that’s changed. Today’s Macs (except for some iMacs and Mac minis) are almost all using solid state (PCIe-based SSD) storage, which makes a huge difference in overall performance.  What’s more, even the base-model MacBook Air comes with more RAM than your Mac did back in the day – your Mac probably equipped with 2GB RAM unless you ordered it with more or have upgraded it since then.
I have an 09 MacBook – a white polycarbonate model – that runs Mavericks great. I’ve upgraded it to 8GB RAM and replaced the internal hard drive with a 240 GB SSD from OWC ( I have no intention of upgrading it to Yosemite or to El Capitan, because it works fine with its current configuration. I’ll probably run it into the ground this way and retire it when it stops working or when it’s no longer usable.
Your Mac was about $1000 new. You can spend a few hundred dollars, open it up and upgrade the RAM and replace the HD with an SSD — something you can’t do with today’s Macs — and kick the can down the road a bit. But you’re still not going to end up with a Mac that’s as fast or as well-equipped to manage the future as today’s models. A $999 MacBook Air is going to run circles around that thing in many ways, thanks to much faster storage and better integration with modern OS X technology. Plus you’ll get a full factory warranty and eligibility for AppleCare too.
El Capitan offers a host of improvements that make it a worthwhile upgrade, but only if your hardware is able to keep up. Reliability, interface adjustments and improvements to Handoff alone make it worth considering, but Apple’s plowed a lot of effort into making El Cap more productive than ever by streamlining how apps work and improving end-to-end connectivity.
It’s a good reason to replace your Mac with a newer model as the budgets allow. I fully understand that not all of us are in the position to buy a new Mac whenever the need suits, so as in all things your mileage may vary.

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