Macbook Air mid-2011 Which OS?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Techwriter, Oct 2, 2015.

  1. Techwriter macrumors regular

    Apr 1, 2010
    I inherited a like new base model 13" mid-2011 i5/128/4. It's still running Lion with approximately 65 battery cycles. Windows user bought it, tried it for a while, and put it back in the box.

    It's snappy on Lion but I'm wondering if I should update the OS to gain more features. For those who have updated, which OS would run the best without losing functionality?

    Version 10.8: Mountain Lion
    Version 10.9: Mavericks
    Version 10.10: Yosemite
    Version 10.11: El Capitan

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Woodstockie, Oct 2, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2015

    Woodstockie macrumors member


    Aug 12, 2015
    El Capitan would work well for the 2011.

    Edit: Just a bit more background based on my shorter answer earlier. I have a 2010 MBA with 2GB. I worked with Mavericks, which was fine, switched to the El Capitan beta, but my fans came on all the time (more are dealing with that problem, but not sure what triggers it). So I switched back to Yosemite, which runs fine and am enjoying the newer functions compared to Mavericks. Yosemite also still receives system updates, which is important for me as well. Maybe after a couple updates I will try El Capitan again.

    With a year newer MBA and 4GB, I think El Capitan will work well on your 2011. Congrats on the MBA, it is a great machine.
  3. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I never upgraded my 2011 MBA from 10.7 and was always happy with performance. Sold it to a friend in 2013 and I don't think she has upgraded, or at least she hadn't a year ago.

    I believe the Messages app didn't come along until 10.8 and I find that very handy. I am still running 10.8 (the original OS) on my 2013 MBA and don't plan to upgrade because it does all I need. I have 10.9 on my Mac Mini and it does not seem very compelling, I actually prefer 10.8 on the MBA. The Mini is hard to compare with the MBA though since it doesn't have a SSD and is only used as an iTunes server.

    I got a refurb 2013 MBA for a family member last year that had 10.9 preinstalled so I did a clean install of 10.10 on it. Frankly, I was not impressed with the short time I spent with it. It seems to be working fine for her though.

    If it were me, I would be tempted to just leave it on 10.7 unless you really feel the need for the new features. In that case, I would probably go all the way to El Capitan since it's the "latest and greatest".
  4. c8rlo, Oct 2, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2015

    c8rlo macrumors 6502


    Sep 1, 2015
    i have the same MBA, started from ML and is currently running El Capitan with no issues. battery life about the same when it was running Yosemite...

    for me, just simple use...
    1. internet
    2. light photo editing
    3. word, excel, yadda yadda...
  5. flowrider macrumors 603


    Nov 23, 2012
    No question, El Cap 10.11. Unless you have some old software not supported by the latest OS.

  6. bradl macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2008
    I have this very MBA. My opinions on which OS to use:

    Mountain Lion: forget it. A step up from Lion, but didn't take advantage of the power the mid-2011 MBA has.
    Mavericks: Huge improvement over Lion and Mountain Lion. Could say it is slightly faster than Yosemite.
    Yosemite: Stable. slightly (though not noticeably) slower than Mavericks, but a lot more features. Rumours of WiFi issues, though I didn't experience any.
    El Capitan: I'd use this. Just upgraded to it. Features alone make it worthwhile, though I'm wondering if scrolling is slower on it compared to Yosemite.

    I'd honestly say El Capitan.

  7. Mxyplyzyk macrumors newbie

    Jul 23, 2015
    I'm running El Capitan on an MBA 13" mid-2011 i7/256/4. All is well. Runs great.
  8. SSD-GUY macrumors 6502a

    Sep 20, 2012
    London, UK
    I have a mid-2013 air and I'm staying with Mavericks. Yosemite and El-capitan are too contrasty for the displays of the MBA IMO.
  9. catalyst07 macrumors member

    Jun 15, 2013

    So, I was in a similar boat– I have a 2013 11" Air and had been holding on to OSX 10.7 until two weeks ago. I upgraded to OSX Yosemite, and I should have done it years ago. Seriously. It's the best thing I've ever done to this machine.

    The Yosemite OS is faster, more stable, and more polished all around. In comparison 10.7 almost feels like a hacked-together toy. I know battery considerations are an important subject with the 2011 models so I should mention that additionally, I have picked up an extra 1hr 47min of battery life (average increase measured daily over the last two weeks on my 2013 11" i7 8gb machine).

    I haven't made the jump to El Capitan yet, but I hear it is mostly a performance update so it may be good; call me old fashioned, but I am going to wait to hear what impact on battery life people are getting with it first before making the leap.
  10. Techwriter thread starter macrumors regular

    Apr 1, 2010
    Thanks to everyone who took the time to reply. Each respnse was helpful. Most recommend upgrading - and many suggest El Capitan which is surprising for a four year old laptop. That's not the recommendation I had expected. It's good to know it's running well. Now I have to set aside time to do it.
  11. Jay-S macrumors newbie

    Oct 3, 2015
    Same configuration for me and it works stable and without any lags (Browsing, Foto, Office (Office for Mac 2016, Parallels (MS Visio 2010 on Win10).
  12. flowrider macrumors 603


    Nov 23, 2012
    Not really, Apple supports machines longer than others seem to. Look at the smart phone market. IOS 9.0.2 supports iPhones back to the 4S, a four year old phone. Your lucky if Android Lollipop (5.0 or 5.1) will support a one or two year old phone, and Marshmallow (6.0) will support only some phones just released this year.

    My cMP is a 2010 model and the cMP of 2008 (a seven year old machine) is still supported by the latest OS.

  13. noanker macrumors member


    Sep 30, 2015
    I'm running El Capitan on both my MacBook Airs....
    • Mid 2011 11" with Intel i5 1.6ghz with 4gb RAM, 128gb SSD
    • Mid 2011 11" with Intel i5 1.5ghz with 2gb RAM, 64gb SSD (refurb unit purchased from Apple)
    These are the best PCs I've ever owned. I don't play games on either, primarily used for surfing, Facetime, spreadsheets, word processing and photo editing. Occasional YouTube and Netflix viewing. Totally pleased with El Capitan on both devices, even on the one with 2gb RAM.
    I do notice some ever so slight delay with some apps on the 2gb, but then that is to be expected. With the 4gb one, it runs quite well. I will NEVER go back to a regular HDD since going over to SSD.

    Not sure how many other people feel, but in my opinion, the MacBook Air mid-2011 is one of the best iterations of the series.
  14. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I loved my 13" i5/4gb/256gb MBA, but don't think it measures up to the newer ones. Currently using a 2013 11" i7/8gb/512gb and it should meet my needs for several more years. The 2013 was a huge upgrade for me…

    * 4gb was the max memory you could get in 2011
    * 256gb was the biggest SSD
    * No ac wifi in 2011
    * Slow USB 2.0 in 2011
    * Battery only lasted about half as long as my 2013 MBA
    * SSD was only about 1/4 the speed of the 2013
  15. vista980622 macrumors 6502

    Aug 2, 2012
    Either go for 10.11 or 10.9.
    I'd say while 10.11 has better typeface, optimal surface depth compared to 10.10, 10.11 is still a tiny bit jarring on non-Retina displays. But that varies from person to person, I guess.
    These are the "tock" (or "tick", if you prefer calling the other way around) releases that improve performance and responsiveness.
  16. vista980622 macrumors 6502

    Aug 2, 2012
    I have both iPhone 4s and Nexus 4.

    iOS 9 officially supports iPhone 4s, but is quite choppy and laggy to use, with <30fps animations here and there, especially when radius of blur effects are large.

    Android 6.0 Marshmallow does not officially support Nexus 4. But since Nexus 7 (2013) shares the same CPU, Android 6.0 can be easily ported to Nexus 4. In the past few days, I've been using that as a daily driver. Stable as always and also really responsive, since Android does not have all the blur effects to deal with. Android 6.0 needs to run well on low-end Android One devices, so Google really pushed their software optimization as well.

    It's a shame that so many Android devices are left in the cold for security updates and feature enhancements, while the hardware is plenty capable. Comparing iOS 9 on iPhone 4s and Android 6.0 on Nexus 4, I'd say I prefer the latter.
  17. vista980622 macrumors 6502

    Aug 2, 2012
    How were you able to get 10.7 on a 2013 MacBook Air!?
  18. vista980622 macrumors 6502

    Aug 2, 2012
    Yes! Typeface and user interface elements in 10.10 and 10.11 look particularly bad on @1x TN panels.
  19. MultiFinder17 macrumors 68000


    Jan 8, 2008
    Tampa, Florida
    I am running 10.11 on my 11" 2011 air with 2GB of ram, and it runs beautifully. No lag, nothing.
  20. booyahbooyah macrumors regular

    Sep 11, 2011
    Popping in to thank this thread for convincing me to upgrade to El Cap.

    Can confirm that my Macbook Air mid-2011 11" model works fine.

    In my experience:
    Lion: was terrible
    Mtn Lion: didn't update to this
    Mavericks: was great
    Yosemite: was okay. it hosed a critical app for me (XAMPP), and was slightly sluggish.
    El Cap: is like a snappier version of Yosemite. I'm happy with it.
  21. M-5 macrumors 65816


    Jan 4, 2008
    I have a MacBook Air mid-2011 11" as well, with 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5, 4GB 1333 MHz DDR3 Ram.
    It's running El Capitan well for me.

    I'm hoping I won't need to update my computer for a couple more years, since I intend on purchasing an iPad Pro soon, and if my Mac wasn't performing as well as it is then I would probably not be in the market for an iPad Pro since it will cost about a grand.

    I thank the SSD in this machine for it performing as well as it has. I've used a lot of my friends' Macs who have iMacs or MacBook Pros with HDDs, and they're painfully slow! I use a completely maxed out 2013 Mac Pro at work, so I don't necessarily need a fast processor for rendering stuff for my own personal use since I'll just be able to use that machine if I ever need to render anything intensive. I mostly just need my MacBook Air for file management, and the occasional photoshop work. I'm sure it will last a few more years with these tasks.

    How long do you all expect your Airs to last before you're in the market for another machine?
  22. noanker macrumors member


    Sep 30, 2015
    I just sold my mid-2009 MacBook Pro. It had an HDD and was painfully slow. But the hardware itself was in pristine condition. It was in service roughly 6 years and was very well cared for.

    As indicated in my earlier post, I have 2 mid-2011 11" MacBook Airs, one with 2gb RAM the other 4gb RAM. They run well and like their MacBook Pro predecessor, they are well cared for. I split use between the two, with the 2gb unit being used during the week and the 4gb used on weekends.

    Given that subsequent OS X upgrades have not slowed my machines and that how I use them does not really tax the capabilities of the hardware, I am expecting a service life that will last into late 2018 to early 2019, provided the OS X upgrades still support the hardware. Even if future OS X upgrades do not support the hardware, I plan on utilizing them anyway. I don't like Apple to dictate when I buy hardware because of planned obsolescence.

    The only exception to the last rule was when I replaced my iPhone 4S with a 5S and only because it had the 64-bit A7. I plan on keeping the 5S in service to at least 2018.
  23. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I still have my 2008 15" MBP, but the battery died in late 2013. Decided not to replace because my 2013 MBA was so much more powerful and portable. I have the 11" 2013 i7/8gb/512gb MBA for a primary computer now and it more than meets my needs.

    I have no plans to replace the 2013 MBA anytime soon. For one thing, I don't see anything in Apple's current lineup that would be better. I retired a few years ago and it wouldn't make sense to replace my expensive software (Logic, FCP, FileMaker, VectorWorks, Photoshop, etc) with new versions. So I will probably stick with the 2013 MBA until something breaks and costs too much to be worth fixing. :)
  24. booyahbooyah macrumors regular

    Sep 11, 2011
    I have a MacBook Air mid-2011 11" w/ 2GB RAM

    It's amazing to me that this 4 year old machine performs as if new. And should easily give me 2 more years.
  25. jermy4 macrumors demi-god

    Jun 27, 2010

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