Should I upgrade an Older Macbook Air to Mavericks?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by JFC, Mar 30, 2014.

  1. JFC macrumors member

    Oct 19, 2011
    I'm looking for some advice about upgrading a Macbook Air to Mavericks.

    It is a mid 2011 BMA that is still running Lion. It has the 1.6 Intel i5 with only 4 GB of ram. I know that it is capable of running Mavericks, but I'm worried there may be some issues, especially if it will be slow due to only having 4GBs.

    Has anyone with this or a similar model upgraded to Mavericks? Anyone have problems, or is there no difference in performance?

    Thanks for the help.
  2. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2013

    Hi JFC,

    The first point to consider is that your MBA has a SSD, and as I am sure you have noticed, it runs smooth as butter. One of the reasons for this is that programs are booted from the hard drive onto ram, and as ram is filled up, the excess work is done on the hard drive, which causes a performance drop. This is simplified, but it is the task that causes the bottleneck. On a typical HDD, there is a significant drop in performance when tasks are pushed onto the hard drive. The SSD is much faster, so when your ram is maxed out, performance isn't affected nearly as much. The bottom line, ram isn't as important ad it used to be.

    Secondly, and I know less about this, Apple claims that Mavericks actually has better ram allocation. They claim ram usage is reduced by up to 33%. They also claim better battery usage, so improved battery life.

    Third, Mavericks will have a less stable kernel than Lion, just because it has been in development for less time. It has been out for about half a year now, so many of the initial bugs have been fixed (Many say that Snow Leopard is still the best though, if you want a bug free system).

    If you think you would benefit from some of the features of Mavericks, 4GB will be plenty of ram. All baseline laptops other than the 15" MBP start at 4GB, and unless you plan on doing heavy video editing or data analysis, I would recommend still getting a computer with 4GB of ram. Even if you do video editing, I doubt any of those programs would use more ram on Mavericks than on Lion.

    Get Mavericks if you want it, ram should not be any more of an issue than it would be on Lion.

  3. PerformaGuy macrumors member


    Oct 5, 2012
    I recommend grabbing an external drive, user SuperDuper to make a full bootable clone. That way you can easily switch back to Lion if Mavericks runs slower for whatever reason.
  4. robvas macrumors 68030

    Mar 29, 2009
    I ran Mavs on my 2011 and it was great. The extra 45 minutes of battery life was worth it alone.
  5. bingeciren, Mar 31, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2014

    bingeciren macrumors 6502a


    Sep 6, 2011
    I am a developer and I have been evaluating Mavericks since its first DP. Until Mavericks 10.9.2, I would advise you to stay away from it. In fact, I stayed with ML (10.8.5) until 10.9.2 was released.

    I tested Mavericks vs ML on 2011 and 2012 Mac Minis, 2012 15" rMBP and my 2012 11" Air. To be able to compare the performance under identical conditions, I have separate partitions on each machine with identical configurations and I dual boot to test each OS on the same hardware. Since all my machines have 8Gb ram, it is hard for me to judge the memory performance if they had 4Gb instead.

    Regarding the battery life and the memory pressure, I could not find a significant difference in battery life under normal use, however Mavericks seems to manage memory a little better than ML, particularly when it is pushed hard.

    From an end user's point of view, I could not find a huge or immediately perceivable difference in performance between Mavericks and ML. These results may differ depending on the hardware being used. Newer generation Intel machines (e.g. Haswell) appear to utilise the advanced features of Mavericks better than the old ones.

    My 11" Air, being a dual boot machine, spends 99% of its time running Mavericks. From time to time I switch back to ML to compare the performance and behaviour of various programs under each OS, but in the end, I go back to Mavericks.

    In most cases, I think it boils down to a matter of personal preference to stay with ML or upgrade to Mavericks, however, in your case with 4Gb RAM, I would recommend you to try Mavericks because of its advanced memory management. FYI, between Snow Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion, I liked Lion the least.

    There is one more thing to be aware of: If you run Parallels 7 (or earlier), you will have to upgrade to Parallels 9 in order to run it under Mavericks, which will cost $50.
  6. drsox macrumors 65816


    Apr 29, 2011
    I have this model with the 1.7Ghz and 128GB SSD. I upgraded without any problems from ML. I also suggest you make a clone backup of your drive just in case. If you have to restore from no backup, then you have to fiddle about to get a Lion recovery partition (not a problem but it's not straightforward).
  7. nkawal macrumors regular

    Jan 12, 2011
    I'm running the latest Mavericks on my 2010 13" (256GB and 4GB Ram) Air and my 2011 Mac Mini (Samsung 128GB 830 Series SSD & 16GB Ram). No issues on either.

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