Become a MacRumors Supporter for $50/year with no ads, ability to filter front page stories, and private forums.

DanGoh

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Apr 6, 2014
366
506
I'm going back to school this January for a second bachelor's in CS. I plan on getting a new Macbook Pro sometime in 2020 if they come out with a redesign. In the meantime, I think my Late 2013 13" will serve me fine for at least another year.

My question is what version of MacOS should I fresh install on my Macbook Pro if I want stability/peace of mind. The last thing I want is to have OS issues that I'll have to troubleshoot and disrupt my workflow, or to have problems with apps, or have the OS mess with files I'm working on. I'm currently on El Capitan, which is fine, but curious about High Sierra, Mojave, and Catalina. There are some features here and there that interest me, but again, I'm mostly worried about stability and day to day use. Any advice is appreciated.
 

DanGoh

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Apr 6, 2014
366
506
If El cap is fine why mess with success?

Ya El Capitan has almost never given me issues. I guess I feel like I'm missing out new (non-essential) apps and updates that require +10.12, security updates, some redesigns like dark mode.
 

chown33

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 9, 2009
10,728
8,392
A sea of green
It will likely come down to which software tools you end up needing to use for a particular course, or perhaps several courses. If one course requires a particular version of Xcode, as a hypothetical example, and that won't run on El Cap, then you'll need to figure out how to get X on Y, where X is some tool and Y is your OS.

I'll also point out this problem can arise in both directions. That is, you need a newer OS in order to run some course-required tool on it, or you need an older OS because the course materials haven't been updated in a few years.
 

DanGoh

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Apr 6, 2014
366
506
It will likely come down to which software tools you end up needing to use for a particular course, or perhaps several courses. If one course requires a particular version of Xcode, as a hypothetical example, and that won't run on El Cap, then you'll need to figure out how to get X on Y, where X is some tool and Y is your OS.

I'll also point out this problem can arise in both directions. That is, you need a newer OS in order to run some course-required tool on it, or you need an older OS because the course materials haven't been updated in a few years.

This is the main reason I'll probably stay away from Catalina. Who knows what 32-bit apps or tools aren't supported.
 

casperes1996

macrumors 604
Jan 26, 2014
7,415
5,479
Horsens, Denmark
Ya El Capitan has almost never given me issues. I guess I feel like I'm missing out new (non-essential) apps and updates that require +10.12, security updates, some redesigns like dark mode.

Hello. I'm a CS student myself, and I use a 2014 MacBook Pro.

First off, if you get a new Mac at some point, it'll only be compatible with versions of macOS >= the version it was released with. Apple doesn't backport hardware support.

Second, I believe the trend lately has been OS support officially lasting 2 major versions ahead. That is, very critical security vulnerabilities will still be fixed, but work on the OS will generally step when two newer versions are out. So long term support isn't really the name of the game. Therefore, I'd actually advice staying somewhat up to date. Get stability by staying a major version or two behind, but keep following along with the updates, just a release or two behind and you'll get refined and fairly stable versions. And whilst starting off with a fresh install is certainly good, it's not too big a worry to upgrade over an existing install in macOS I'd say.

I personally think Mojave is pretty stable right now, but I'll add a warning about Catalina. It doesn't support 32-bit binaries. Which means that when the time comes when we need to move to it, for hardware reasons or support running out for earlier versions and the tools we need, we may have issues. I usually stay really up to date myself, but for Catalina, I couldn't just overwrite my install. I installed it on an external SSD so I run both Mojave and Catalaina, cause I still, sadly, need 32-bit support.
[automerge]1571874353[/automerge]
This is the main reason I'll probably stay away from Catalina. Who knows what 32-bit apps or tools aren't supported.

Whilst I literally just posted that I need 32-bit, I will add though that you can probably get through a CS degree fairly easily without touching 32-bit binaries. And if you need 32-bit it's probably cross compiled for a different device like something embedded or so.
Most code written, especially these days, isn't hardware specific enough that it really matters that much anyway. Recompile and done. If it's Java you don't even need a recompile.
Massive exception being embedded devices where you still see a lot of low level C/C++ manipulating pointers on a byte level, where the stride and such matters. But I've written a good amount of code by now, and basically none of it required 32 or 64-bit. It could easily be recompiled for whatever. Only exception being when I played with Metal
 

chown33

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 9, 2009
10,728
8,392
A sea of green
... I installed it on an external SSD so I run both Mojave and Catalaina, cause I still, sadly, need 32-bit support.
This points to a fairly good way to handle the "need OS Y to run tool X" problem: separate installs on an external drive.

When I've had to do this in the past, I'd set things up so the external drive only had the necessary tools for accomplishing a particular task. I either didn't configure email, web browser, etc. for my normal everyday use, or I configured them specifically for a dedicated-task use. For example, my email would have only 1 account (I normally have 4 set up), with a dedicated email name at my ISP that was only for use with these tasks. No general-purpose email, no syncing to any shared folders or vendor accounts, a completely different browser home page, and so on. This made things a little harder to deal with, but it also made things really obvious that I wasn't running on my everyday OS configuration. I even changed cosmetic details, like my desktop wallpaper and Dock contents, so it would be obvious which OS was running.

These days, it might be possible to use a fast SD card to hold a suitably configured task-only OS. I think the 2013 13" still had the SD card reader, but I could be wrong. There are some nifty low-profile adapters for micro-SD cards that let them plug into the SD slot, and don't stick out too far.
 

casperes1996

macrumors 604
Jan 26, 2014
7,415
5,479
Horsens, Denmark
This points to a fairly good way to handle the "need OS Y to run tool X" problem: separate installs on an external drive.

Thanks!
And also...
"Introducing the successor to OS X... OS Y. Great for Xcode"
Hehe

When I've had to do this in the past, I'd set things up so the external drive only had the necessary tools for accomplishing a particular task. I either didn't configure email, web browser, etc. for my normal everyday use, or I configured them specifically for a dedicated-task use. For example, my email would have only 1 account (I normally have 4 set up), with a dedicated email name at my ISP that was only for use with these tasks. No general-purpose email, no syncing to any shared folders or vendor accounts, a completely different browser home page, and so on. This made things a little harder to deal with, but it also made things really obvious that I wasn't running on my everyday OS configuration. I even changed cosmetic details, like my desktop wallpaper and Dock contents, so it would be obvious which OS was running.

Yup. Basically what I do as well, though it is set up a bit more broadly than that as well, so I don't need to reboot to just listen to some music or something when I take a short break.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
28,308
12,432
If El Cap continues to run fine, just use it.
I still run my 2015 MacBook Pro with El Cap.

Low Sierra (10.12) seems to be a stable release.
Mojave does well on my 2018 Mini, but that's what it came with.

I would STAY AWAY from Catalina for the near future.
 
Hello. I'm a CS student myself, and I use a 2014 MacBook Pro.

First off, if you get a new Mac at some point, it'll only be compatible with versions of macOS >= the version it was released with. Apple doesn't backport hardware support.

Second, I believe the trend lately has been OS support officially lasting 2 major versions ahead. That is, very critical security vulnerabilities will still be fixed, but work on the OS will generally step when two newer versions are out. So long term support isn't really the name of the game. Therefore, I'd actually advice staying somewhat up to date. Get stability by staying a major version or two behind, but keep following along with the updates, just a release or two behind and you'll get refined and fairly stable versions. And whilst starting off with a fresh install is certainly good, it's not too big a worry to upgrade over an existing install in macOS I'd say.

That is definitely sound advice.

I personally think Mojave is pretty stable right now, but I'll add a warning about Catalina. It doesn't support 32-bit binaries. Which means that when the time comes when we need to move to it, for hardware reasons or support running out for earlier versions and the tools we need, we may have issues. I usually stay really up to date myself, but for Catalina, I couldn't just overwrite my install. I installed it on an external SSD so I run both Mojave and Catalaina, cause I still, sadly, need 32-bit support.
[automerge]1571874353[/automerge]

I have a couple of 32 bit apps that still work well with Mojave (a very, very stable OS, especially the last version, V10.14.6). One of them, Quicken 2007, I will no longer need when I finally install Catalina, as I have Quicken 2017. The other ones are not critical/not needed at all.

Assuming the 32 bit "issue" is non-existent, by the time you return to school, V10.15.3 of Catalina should be available, and thus just about all the bugs (especially the most serious ones) will have vanished by that release. Once you install it, you should be good to go, especially with the 2 year "limit" on Apple's support of that OS. Three critical things you should do to keep your machine running fine:

1. Backups, backups, backups. Can't say that enough.

2. Do as much cleanup on your own as possible, and do it frequently. Also, think about using both free and commercial programs to help with that effort (plus other important tasks). Myself, I find the combination of Onyx (free) and TechTool Pro (commercial) to be ideal (and of course SuperDuper! for my backups). Sometimes Micromat has a sale on TechTool Pro for as low as $39.95 US.

3. Keep your third party software up to date.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.