Macs have a high price so it’s understandable that many Mac users will want to put off replacing them for as long as they can. But just how long should you expect a Mac to last?

One factor to consider is the age at which most Macs start to experience issues, such as random shutdowns and degraded batteries that no longer hold their charge. Unfortunately, at one point repairing your Mac or MacBook will no longer be a viable option and you will need to look for a replacement.

You may also be wondering whether it’s a good idea to purchase a second-hand Mac that is a few years old. If you spend your money on a five year old machine will you come to regret it if you find out that the software you need won’t run on it? You may even find that Apple no longer supports the latest operating system software that runs on that Mac - which could leave you open to malware and security vulnerabilities.

In this article we will address the above, as well as give advice about which Macs are still supported by Apple, the Macs that can still be repaired if required (Apple stops providing the required parts after a number of years), and the Macs that Apple considers obsolete and vintage.

What about the move to Apple Silicon?

Before we begin, Apple made a big announcement at WWDC in June 2020: it is transitioning all Macs from Intel processors to its own Apple Silicon processors (which use ARM) over the next two years.

This means that by June 2022 there will be no more Intel Macs sold by Apple. If you want to know more about what this means read our guide to Apple Silicon here, and if you want to know if this means that buying a new Intel Mac now is a bad idea read this: Should I buy an Intel Mac?

When do I need to replace my Mac?

There are a few indicators that your Mac has reached the end of its useful life:

  • Apple no longer supports the latest version of the software it runs (which could leave you vulnerable)
  • The apps you need to use no longer run on it
  • The Mac struggles to perform the tasks you need it to - especially if you can’t update the RAM or any other components
  • Something breaks and is too expensive to fix or the parts aren’t available
  • The Mac is becoming unreliable. Unexpected shutdowns are becoming commonplace and you’ve tried everything to fix the problem to no avail.

Old MacBook Air

Which Macs support the latest software?

Below we will list the Macs supported by not just macOS Catalina (10.15), but also macOS Mojave (10.14) and macOS High Sierra (10.13) since Apple always supports the latest three operating systems. This means that Apple will keep an eye on any security vulnerabilities and other problems with these operating systems. It also normally means other Apple software will be supported in these versions of macOS, for example, the latest version of Safari will run and various Apple Services, such as iCloud, will be fully supported.

If your Mac doesn’t run one of these three versions of macOS (or the upcoming Big Sur) you may also find yourself out in the cold when it comes to essential updates to Apple’s software.

You may also find that your other Apple products aren’t compatible with your Mac. For example, if you want to sync your iPad or iPhone with your Mac (rather than using iCloud) you need to run macOS and the required version of iTunes (as of Catalina iTunes is no more and the Finder looks after syncing). If you aren’t running iTunes 12.8 and at least Mac OS X 10.11.6 (El Capitan) your Mac will not recognise your iPhone or iPad.

Catalina Mac

Apple supports the following Macs with required software updates:

Macs supported by macOS High Sierra

High Sierra launched in 2017 and supported the following Macs:

  • MacBook (late 2009 or later)
  • MacBook Air (late 2010 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (mid 2010 or later)
  • Mac mini (mid 2010 or later)
  • iMac (late 2009 or later)
  • Mac Pro (mid 2010 or later)

Macs supported by macOS Mojave

Mojave launched in 2018 and supported the following Macs:

  • MacBook (early 2015 or later)
  • MacBook Air (mid 2012 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (mid 2012 or later)
  • Mac mini (late 2012 or later)
  • iMac (late 2009 or later)
  • iMac Pro (2017 or later)
  • Mac Pro (late 2013 or later, although 2010/2012 machines with a Metal-capable GPU are supported)

Macs supported by macOS Catalina

Catalina launched in 2019 and supported the following Macs:

  • MacBook (early 2015 or later)
  • MacBook Air (mid 2012 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (mid 2012 or later)
  • Mac mini (late 2012 or later)
  • iMac (late 2012 or later)
  • iMac Pro (2017 or later)
  • Mac Pro (late 2013 or later)

Macs supported by macOS Big Sur

Big Sur supports the following Macs:

  • MacBook models from early 2015 or later
  • MacBook Air models from 2013 or later
  • MacBook Pro models from 2013 or later
  • Mac mini models from 2014 or later
  • iMac models from 2014 or later
  • iMac Pro (all models)
  • Mac Pro models from 2013 or later

If you include the three most current operating systems from this list that indicates that no Macs sold before 2010, with the exception of the 2009 iMac, are supported by Apple.

However, when Apple stops supporting High Sierra the list will narrow further with many Macs from before 2012 no longer supported (with the exception of that same 2009 iMac - but even its days are numbered).

Does this mean that Macs will last ten years? Probably not. The list suggests that once a Mac is eight years old it is time to replace it.

Does it matter if my Mac won't run a supported macOS?

Aside from being vulnerable to security breaches, you may find that important software won’t run on your Mac.

Apple and other companies frequently stop supporting older versions of the applications they make, so there could be issues with the versions of the software you are running. If you are experiencing random shutdowns, for example, it could be due to problems with an app you are running - problems that will not be addressed by the developer because that app is no longer supported.

If you want to run fully supported software then you will need to update to a newer version of macOS - and that may mean that you need to update your Mac.

When do Macs become obsolete?

So, based on operating system support, around eight years is probably a fair time scale after which you should probably replace your Mac.

However, if you look at Apple’s list of obsolete Macs - those being the Macs that Apple will no longer provide spare parts for - you will see that the company doesn’t provide parts for Macs that are more than seven years old. In fact, the company may not even provide parts for Macs that haven’t been manufactured for more than five years (considered vintage by the company).

This could mean that you won’t be able to get a faulty Mac fixed because the parts aren’t available.

Obsolete Macs

Apple considered the following Macs obsolete (generally more than 7 years old, although there are 2015 iMacs included here):

  • 27in iMac (mid 2011 and older)
  • 21.5in iMac (late 2011 and older)
  • MacBook (2010 and older)
  • MacBook Air (2011 and older)
  • MacBook Pro (2011 and older)
  • Mac mini (2010 and older)
  • Mac Pro (2010 and older)
  • All pre-Intel Macs are obsolete

Old Macs

Vintage Macs

Apple lists the following products as being vintage:

  • 21.5in iMac (mid 2011- mid 2014)
  • 27in iMac (late 2012-mid 2015)
  • MacBook Air (late 2010-mid 2012)
  • MacBook Pro (2011-2013)
  • Mac mini (2010-2011)
  • Mac Pro (2012)

You’ll find more details about the exact models on Apple’s dedicated page, but the lists above will give you a general idea.

This certainly suggests that if your Mac is older than 2010 it’s definitely time to look for a new one. It’s also worth considering upgrading if your Mac was purchased before 2013.

Should I fix my Mac or buy a new one?

If your Mac is in the obsolete category above and something goes wrong with it then you are going to struggle to get the necessary parts if you wanted to attempt to get it fixed as Apple won’t provide the parts.

You might be able to buy an old Mac on eBay or similar and scrap if for the parts, but we’d suggest that it really wouldn’t be worth the effort.

If your Mac is in the vintage list then Apple might be able to provide the parts but there is no guarantee. If you are lucky enough to get the part an Apple service provider might even be able to fix the Mac for you - but the cost of the work is likely to be prohibitive.

You might find that the Mac was included in part of a recall due to the issue you are experiencing, in that case it might be worth enlisting in a repair program. However, if the time period in which Apple was offering the repairs has passed then you will still have to find the money for the repair, which again might be prohibitive.

Apple repair programs

Apple’s current repair programs include:

  • A recall for MacBook Pro units from due to a battery fault 2015-2017
    keyboard services for some Mac laptops bought since 2016
  • A MacBook Pro backlit service program for models from 2016-2018
  • A SSD service program for MacBook Pro models from 2017-2018
  • A battery replacement program for 13in MacBook Pros from 2016-2017

We have more information about Apple’s product recalls and repair programs here. Plus, visit this page for more information on the above repair programs.

Assuming your fault isn’t one of those listed above, you may be faced with a pricy repair bill. We suggest that if your Mac is older than 5 years then repairing it will not be worth it - unless of course there are important documents or photos on it that you want to retrieve in which case it might be worth looking at how to recover these files.

MacBook Keyboard

Should I update my Mac or buy a new one?

This is a similar question to the one above in as much as you will be weighing up whether spending money to improve your Mac might be more savvy than buying a new Mac.

There are various ways you might be able to improve your existing Mac including adding more RAM or changing from a hard drive to a SSD. If you are able to upgrade the components inside your Mac you may be able to speed it up and make it more capable of doing what you need.

However, many Macs can’t be upgraded at all. In recent years Apple has taken to soldering RAM in place and hiding components away to make access impossible (or at least impossible if you don’t want to completely destroy your Mac attempting to get to them).

MacBook RAM replacement

Can I update the RAM in my Mac?

If you have one of the following Macs you might be able to update the RAM:

  • MacBook (2008 to 2011 models)
  • MacBook Pro (2009-2012 13in, 2008-2012 15in, all 17in models)
  • iMac: The RAM can be updated in the majority of iMacs except for the 21.5in models from Mid-2014 and Late-2015, which had their RAM soldered into place.  
  • Mac mini: (2010-2012 and the 2018 model)
  • Mac Pro: (all models)
  • iMac Pro: RAM isn't user-accessible but can be update at an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider.

You can't update the RAM in any MacBook Air models.

We explain which Macs have accessible RAM in this article and also look at how to update the RAM.

What can I update in my Mac?

It may be possible to update other components, including the SSD, hard drive, battery, logic board, hard drive, but this is only possible for a few Macs and the process is only for the expert. If you’d like to try read: How to upgrade a Mac.

If you are up for pulling your Mac apart and attempting to upgrade its components then by all means try, but make sure you back it up first and be prepared to admit defeat if it doesn’t go as planned.

As for whether it is worth upgrading your Macs RAM or any other component - assuming you can get the parts - rather than buying a new Mac? Perhaps it will buy you a few more years of use. However, we’d be inclined to suggest that if your Mac is older than seven years it really isn’t worth it (and, you’ll notice, the MacBooks that can have their RAM upgraded tend to be older than that).

How long do Macs last?

So, in answer to the question: How long do Macs last? We'd say five to eight years, but beware that you probably won't be able to replace any faulty parts in a Mac older than five years.

Before you buy a new Mac, read our article about the best time to buy a Mac or MacBook.

You may also want to read our Best Mac Buying Guide for help deciding which Mac to buy.

And check the following links for the best deals right now:

Wondering how long Apple supports iPhones for? Read How long do iPhones last.