Will your Mac support macOS 10.12 “Sierra?” Here’s how to find out

The release notes for the rechristened “macOS” 10.12 “Sierra” indicate a change in minimum system requirements. Older Macs got a stay of execution last year; El Capitan’s minimum requirements didn’t change from Yosemite. This year, Sierra ups that to Macs built since late 2009. If you’re not sure about the age of your Mac, here’s how to tell.

If you were planning to install 10.12 on an older Mac, you should probably make sure it’s up to snuff before you try. (If you try to install the developer preview on a Mac too old to support it, the installer will tell you it’s too old and will quit, anyway.)

If you’re not sure how old your gear is, here’s how to figure it out.

How to know the age of your Mac

  1. Click on the menu
  2. Select About this Mac
  3. Under the Overview tab, look at your Mac’s description. Its model age will be displayed.How old

Even though minimum system requirements had been static on the Mac for a few years, the actual supported features of OS X have been a moving target. El Capitan can be installed on Macs back to 2008, but features like Metal graphics acceleration, AirDrop file sharing, Handoff and Instant Hotspot are specific to Macs buiilt since 2012. That’s because those newer Macs have better hardware inside that enables the feature support. And while El Cap technically supported Macs with 2 GB RAM, running them in that configuration was maddeningly frustrating, especially on Macs without SSDs.

macOS Sierra ups the minimum system requirement to MacBooks and iMacs made in late 2009. That maintains that seven-year spread we saw last year, but cuts off older Mac models built before late 2009. I don’t know what, technically, is motivating the system requirement change. But generally, my experience tells me that Apple’s decisions on system requirements are rarely arbitrary: Apple simply won’t support hardware that they can’t back with a great user experience.

It’s too soon to tell what Sierra’s final system requirements will be: Yesterday was the release of the first developer preview, and a public beta won’t be out until next month, with a general release in the fall. So don’t draw too much from the developer preview as it stands now. Still, forewarned is forearmed, so tuck this information away for the coming weeks and months.

2 thoughts on “Will your Mac support macOS 10.12 “Sierra?” Here’s how to find out

  1. Brian says:

    I wonder if Siri will have a lot to do with it. I remember when the iPhone 4s came out Siri wasn’t available for anything prior to it because the silicone just couldn’t handle it. The iPhone 4 had enough taxing it to push the Retina Display.

  2. Peter says:

    It’s a good question. Siri’s the tentpole feature, and as far as I can tell it’s active in every Mac configuration that supports Sierra, assuming the Mac has a microphone. Macs have had mics for many years, so that’s not it, but audio circuitry? Maybe.

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