Whether you call it Mac OS X, OS X or macOS (Apple can’t make its mind up, why should you?), it has been the default operating system for Mac hardware since 2001. While Apple is pretty hot at keeping systems updated with the latest update, you might want to check which version of macOS you’re using. Here’s how to find out.
How to check which version of macOS you’re running
- Click on the Apple logo in the top left of the toolbar
- Select “About This Mac”
- Assuming you’re on the “Overview” tab it will display, quite prominently, the OS version that you’re currently using. For example:
What hardware can the OS be used with?
Older Macs will often quite happily run recent versions of the OS, but you need to be wary of the hardware and software support that’s available. Older Mac models used PowerPC processors before Apple moved to Intel – support for PowerPC applications continued for some time. Equally, with 32-bit Intel applications, support has continued and the next version of the OS, Mojave, will be the last to do so.
So, use our handy ready reckoner to work out what is supported for each OS revision:
|Version||Codename||Processor Support||Application Support|
|Mac OS X 10.0||Cheetah||32-bit PowerPC||32-bit PowerPC|
|Mac OS X 10.1||Puma||32-bit PowerPC||32-bit PowerPC|
|Mac OS X 10.2||Jaguar||32/64-bit PowerPC||32-bit PowerPC|
|Mac OS X 10.3||Panther||32/64-bit PowerPC||32-bit PowerPC|
|Mac OS X 10.4||Tiger||32/64-bit PowerPC and Intel||32/64-bit PowerPC and Intel|
|Mac OS X 10.5||Leopard||32/64-bit PowerPC and Intel||32/64-bit PowerPC and Intel|
|Mac OS X 10.6||Snow Leopard||32/64-bit Intel||32/64-bit Intel and 32-bit PowerPC|
|Mac OS X 10.7||Lion||64-bit Intel||32/64-bit Intel|
|OS X 10.8||Mountain Lion||64-bit Intel||32/64-bit Intel|
|OS X 10.9||Mavericks||64-bit Intel||32/64-bit Intel|
|OS X 10.10||Yosemite||64-bit Intel||32/64-bit Intel|
|OS X 10.11||El Capitan||64-bit Intel||32/64-bit Intel|
|macOS 10.12||Sierra||64-bit Intel||32/64-bit Intel|
|macOS 10.13||High Sierra||64-bit Intel||32/64-bit Intel|
|macOS 10.14||Mojave||64-bit Intel||32/64-bit Intel|
What do the names mean?
OS X versions were named after big cats until OS X 10.9, when Apple switched to using California locations (I’m guessing they were running out of cats).
What about the Mac OS X/OS X/macOS prefixes? Mac OS X (spoken as “OS 10”), was the first release after Steve Jobs rejoined the company. The existing Mac OS had got to version 9 but was desperately in need of replacement – NeXTSTEP was used (created by Job’s previous company, NeXT) and that was named Mac OS X (although, I don’t know why it has never moved past version 10).
In 2012, with the release of OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion), the name was shortened from Mac OS X to OS X. Finally, in 2016, with the release of 10.12 (Sierra), the name was changed from OS X to macOS. This was to bring it in line with the branding of Apple’s other operating systems – iOS, watchOS, and tvOS.