Best OSX version for late-2012?

macstatic

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Oct 21, 2005
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Which OSX version would give the best performance with a late-2012 Mac Mini?
More specifically, with the following specs and internal upgrades:
2.5 GHz i5
16 GB RAM
250 GB SSD (Samsung 860 EVO) for OSX and apps
500 GB SATA hard drive (for user account)

My wife's iPad can no longer sync with the Mini's iTunes and OSX version (10.9.5 Mavericks) so she needs to upgrade to 10.10 or beyond.

(I went through the same thing recently because of iPad incompatibility as well, and upgraded my mid-2010 Mac Pro from 10.9.5 to 10.11 El Capitan. I decided against a more recent version because of being reliant on legacy software needing 32-bit support, and also because I heard 10.11 giving better performance than 10.12 (which is the highest I can go).

But unlike myself, my wife doesn't use any special non-current software (as far as I know) and we're free to upgrade to any OSX version. But of course we don't want to experience a performance drop, so which one should we go for? We don't particularly care about having the latest and greatest (10.9.5 has been fine), so priority is getting best possible performance and of course access to iTunes 12.8 or higher (which needs OSX 10.10 or higher).
 
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RogerWilco6502

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Jan 12, 2019
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Which OSX version would give the best performance with a late-2012 Mac Mini?
More specifically, with the following specs and internal upgrades:
2.5 GHz i5
16 GB RAM
250 GB SSD (Samsung 860 EVO) for OSX and apps
500 GB SATA hard drive (for user account)

My wife's iPad can no longer sync with the Mini's iTunes and OSX version (10.9.5 Mavericks) so she needs to upgrade to 10.10 or beyond.
(I went through the same thing recently because of iPad incompatibility as well, and upgraded my mid-2010 Mac Pro from 10.9.5 to 10.11 El Capitan. I decided against a more recent version because of being reliant on legacy software needing 32-bit support, and also because I heard 10.11 giving better performance than 10.12 (which is the highest I can go).

But unlike myself, my wife doesn't use any special non-current software (as far as I know) and we're free to upgrade to any OSX version. But of course we don't want to experience a performance drop, so which one should we go for? We don't particularly care about having the latest and greatest (10.9.5 has been fine), so priority is getting best possible performance and of course access to iTunes 12.8 or higher (which needs OSX 10.10 or higher).
You could probably go up to Mojave and be fine tbh. Catalina drops 32-bit app support, but it sounds like your wife doesn't use many (or any) apps that would still be 32-bit. I run Catalina on a 2015 MacBook Pro I'm borrowing for a long period of time and it's been solid. Mojave also ran fine on there. Most of my experience is with El Capitan on my 2009 MacBook though.
 
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Erehy Dobon

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Feb 16, 2018
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My suggestion would be to upgrade to Sierra, make a backup of your boot drive, then upgrade to High Sierra. Keep it there for a month. If you want, you can clone the High Sierra boot volume to an external drive, then upgrade the external drive to Mojave and review performance before committing to upgrading the internal drive to Mojave.

In any case, it is sensible to keep a bootable external clone of your current functional system drive regardless of what you intend to do in terms of operating system version you wish to upgrade to.

Best of luck.
 

RogerWilco6502

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Jan 12, 2019
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My suggestion would be to upgrade to Sierra, make a backup of your boot drive, then upgrade to High Sierra. Keep it there for a month. If you want, you can clone the High Sierra boot volume to an external drive, then upgrade the external drive to Mojave and review performance before committing to upgrading the internal drive to Mojave.

In any case, it is sensible to keep a bootable external clone of your current functional system drive regardless of what you intend to do in terms of operating system version you wish to upgrade to.

Best of luck.
Ah, yeah. This is always a wise idea. This way you can always revert back if you don't like the newer OS.
 

ElectronGuru

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Apple does a tick tock thing like intel so every other is a better version (tock) of new features (tick). Mojave runs slow on my 2010 so I would go with 10.11 or 10.13 if it has features you want or need.
 
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RogerWilco6502

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Jan 12, 2019
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Apple does a tick tock thing like intel so every other is a better version (tock) of new features (tick). Mojave runs slow on my 2010 so I would go with 10.11 or 10.13 if it has features you want or need.
You make good points. I will say however that the hardware changed significantly from the 2010 Mini to the 2012 Mini, so the experience might be different :)
 

macstatic

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Oct 21, 2005
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Thanks for all your suggestions. I think I'll first go with the suggestion to upgrade to 10.12 Sierra first, then see.

What benefits do the various OSX versions have over the current 10.9.5 apart from being able to run iTunes 12.8 (which is needed to handle more recent iOS updated iPads)?

Another thing is that I'm not too fond of some of the surprises Apple are known to come up with, such as removing useful features or apps that we've become accustomed to. Apart from no more 32-bit app support from OSX 10.13 and onwards, are there any nasty surprises from 10.12 and onwards?
10.11 IMHO isn't too bad an upgrade from 10.9 apart from the really ugly icons, but I can live with that.
 
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RogerWilco6502

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Thanks for all your suggestions. I think I'll first go with the suggestion to upgrade to 10.12 Sierra first, then see.

What benefits do the various OSX versions have over the current 10.9.5 apart from being able to run iTunes 12.8 (which is needed to handle more recent iOS updated iPads)?
Support for newer versions of apps really is the big thing I think
 

Boyd01

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I run Sierra on my 2012 i7 2.6ghz quad Mini Server with 16gb RAM and it works really well. I use this machine for video/audio with Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro, but am limited to older versions because of Sierra. Not really a problem for my own modest needs, and I have a lot of plug-ins that may not work with newer versions of FCP. Have considered upgrading to Mojave or even Catalina... however I'm a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" type of guy, so there is no rush and I may just wait and upgrade to a completely new Mini or iMac in the next year.
 

DonCarlos

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Dec 14, 2009
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I actually own two, 2012 Mac Mini's

For one of them, I kept it at Mojave and the other Catalina.

IMHO, Mojave runs better without any hiccups, and too I use the Mojave with supported 32 bit apps and software. Catalina pretty much prematurely ended the use of functional common music editing/recording software,

Beyond those specifics, Catalina seems pretty glitchy even with Safari. Catalina and Photo Library is a mess, with constant disconnects, drops, freezes, and unresolved problems from Apple Techs. I gave up talking to them on the phone in the end. And I was only trying to use the Photo app to send things to iCloud and/or my external. Always worked well for many many years until Catalina.

Pretty sure that Catalina signals the end for Mac Mini's of 2012 (IMHO.... which are the best of any Mini made). 8 years is quite a run before being assigned to the obsolete graveyard, I feel pretty certain that is what is coming in the Fall.

I am going to keep one 2012, and sell the other, knowing that the 2018 is the future for upcoming iOS and the changes to come. I wonder if any Mac hardware has stayed so reliable and functional as the 2012 has.

Sorry for the long response, you can tell I am a big supporter of the 2012.

In short, for the 2012, stay with Mojave or a prior OS.
 
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macstatic

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I run Sierra on my 2012 i7 2.6ghz quad Mini Server with 16gb RAM and it works really well. I use this machine for video/audio with Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro, but am limited to older versions because of Sierra. Not really a problem for my own modest needs, and I have a lot of plug-ins that may not work with newer versions of FCP. Have considered upgrading to Mojave or even Catalina... however I'm a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" type of guy, so there is no rush and I may just wait and upgrade to a completely new Mini or iMac in the next year.
Well said!
I completely agree that there's no need to "fix" anything that still works, and we wouldn't think of upgrading if it wasn't for the lacking iOS compatibility in iTunes.

A bit off topic, but you mentioned using older versions of Final cut and Logic pro. I see from the App store that most current versions demand the latest (or almost latest) OS, so I'm wondering if there's a way to still buy for instance Logic Pro which runs on OSX 10.11 or 10.12?
With iOS I've cirumvented this problem by downloading a current app within iTunes on my Mac, then going WiFi with the iPad I went to download previous purchases, and in most cases I was told that the current version of that app wouldn't work on my (older) iPad but I could choose the latest version which was compatible. As far as I know, the current version of iTunes (12.8) no longer has an "apps" section (or at least I haven't found it) unlike previous versions, so this probably no longer works.
But is there a similar "trick" for buying older versions of a Mac app if you don't have the latest OS installed?
 

Boyd01

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I see from the App store that most current versions demand the latest (or almost latest) OS, so I'm wondering if there's a way to still buy for instance Logic Pro which runs on OSX 10.11 or 10.12?
I don't think that is possible, but not sure. Maybe somebody else knows? I have multiple backups, in case I need to re-install anything. But (AFAIK) the version(s) that you can purchase from the app store are dependent on what the developer wants to make available.
 

RogerWilco6502

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I don't think that is possible, but not sure. Maybe somebody else knows? I have multiple backups, in case I need to re-install anything. But (AFAIK) the version(s) that you can purchase from the app store are dependent on what the developer wants to make available.
I can confirm that AFAIK it's not possible.
 
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Erehy Dobon

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What benefits do the various OSX versions have over the current 10.9.5 apart from being able to run iTunes 12.8 (which is needed to handle more recent iOS updated iPads)?
The biggest benefit of more recent macOS versions is system security, no contest. This includes a recent version of Safari, the most critical built-in application on macOS since a lot of malware is specifically targeted at web browsers.

This is followed by support for Apple's ever-expanding iCloud services. Again, security comes into play because these services all rely on the network.

Apple only provides critical system security patches for the two previous versions of macOS.

One of the key factors here is your Mac's upgrade to an SSD. That hardware component would benefit from the APFS filesystem that is not supported on versions prior to High Sierra (10.13).
 
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honestone33

macrumors 6502a
The biggest benefit of more recent macOS versions is system security, no contest. This includes a recent version of Safari, the most critical built-in application on macOS since a lot of malware is specifically targeted at web browsers.
You took the words right out of my mouth! I recently sold my late 2012 Mac Mini, with a core i7 processor, a 256 gig Samsung 840 Pro SSD, and 8 gig of Ram, and Catalina (OS 10.15.3) ran fine on it. Also, I use all third party software, and all of them work fine too. I actually have the exact same setup on my new late 2018 Mac Mini, with a core i5 processor, and once again everything runs smoothly.

But it might be best, as suggested by Erehy Dobon above, about starting with an earlier version. Then, you could work your way up.

Apple only provides critical system security patches for the two previous versions of macOS.
Excellent point!

One of the key factors here is your Mac's upgrade to an SSD. That hardware component would benefit from the APFS filesystem that is not supported on versions prior to High Sierra (10.13).
Yes, another excellent point!
 

r8ders2k

macrumors member
Oct 31, 2009
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I just added an OWC Data Doubler + 1.0TB Mercury Electra 6G SSD to my mini (Late 2012) with an i7, original 1 TB HDD, and 16 GB of RAM.

Catalina 10.15.3 is running just fine with the SSD as the boot drive. And FWIW, Boot Camp runs fine with Parallels Desktop on the original HDD.
 

macstatic

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Oct 21, 2005
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Norway
But it might be best, as suggested by Erehy Dobon above, about starting with an earlier version. Then, you could work your way up.
Yes, given that this isn't a current Mac I think we'll give an earlier OSX version (10.12 probably) a go first.
I understand having the latest OS also gives the most updated security measures, but we don't want a noticeable loss in performance either (each update seems to get more bloated than the previous one in my experience). I take it that using another, more current browser (i.e. Firefox) helps keep the Mac secure, along with setting up the home network router etc. properly?
- - Post merged: - -

Yeah. Or you could use some... less legitimate means to obtian it.
I prefer not to.
I'm just getting started with DAWs so it seems I can forget about considering Logic when I try out the various DAW solutions out there. Too bad, as I understand Logic is nice and makes stepping up from Garageband easier than moving over to other DAWs.
 
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Boyd01

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If Logic Pro is important, then I would not hesitate to upgrade to a version of MacOS that supports it - which is High Sierra at minimum, although I'd probably go with Mojave (which runs great on my 2014 Mini). https://www.apple.com/logic-pro/specs/

Why use an older version of MacOS, for whatever vague benefits that it might or might not offer yet be locked out of the software you need? Now, as I said, I use Sierra on my 2012 Mini because everything is all setup that way and works fine, so why waste time upgrading? But I already have versions of Final Cut and Logic. If I needed to buy a new copy, and this was a machine I was setting up from scratch, I'd install Mojave in a heartbeat.
 

CraigB1960

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Sep 9, 2014
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My suggestion would be to upgrade to Sierra, make a backup of your boot drive, then upgrade to High Sierra. Keep it there for a month. If you want, you can clone the High Sierra boot volume to an external drive, then upgrade the external drive to Mojave and review performance before committing to upgrading the internal drive to Mojave.

In any case, it is sensible to keep a bootable external clone of your current functional system drive regardless of what you intend to do in terms of operating system version you wish to upgrade to.

Best of luck.
This is the path I took on my MacBook Pro Retina mid-2012. It is running Mojave solidly (and bootcamp). My wife's MacBook Air 2013 I have kept it at high Sierra, it works for everything she does.

I have bootable external clones of both systems.
 

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