When Are Macs Obsolete?

AverageGuy

macrumors member
Original poster
May 21, 2010
42
4
When I look at the list of non-supported Macs, it is concerning when purchasing used equipment. As an example, a 2015 MBP with a last manufacture date of 2018 may have several years more OS support than the prior year model with a last manufacture date of 2015!!! With the latest OS update comes updated security protocols. Many sites are not accessible or will not properly run if current security is not updated. Does anyone have accurate information as to how Apple decides to not support the latest OS on a Mac model? I have read that it’s based on 7 years from the last date of manufacture, and also other reports that it is based on 7 years from the first date of manufacture! I’m not sure which is true and would like to generally know when purchasing used equipment. Does anyone have definitive information?
 

Hexley

macrumors 65816
Jun 10, 2009
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Does macOS support that important to you? It is one of many basis whether equipment is considered obsolete or not. Another would be your app cannot run on it. Another measure would be your object isn’t being fulfilled or is completed already.

i look at it if it’s at the point of non economic repair.
 

AverageGuy

macrumors member
Original poster
May 21, 2010
42
4
Well, it can be important if logging in to any networks that require current security. I am a fan of buying older technology, as it is most cost-effective. But tracking obsolescence is important as running updated operating systems generally works best in this respect! As a rule, I don’t typically run equipment with outdated operating systems.
 
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profcutter

macrumors 6502
Mar 28, 2019
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Yeah I think security updates and functionality are the only determinants of obsolescence. The problem is that companies don’t tend to publish these aspects ahead of time. Tomorrow, Apple could announce 10.16, and say no 2014 machines are supported, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any security updates for those machines. I’d say if there’s some function you really need, and the computer just can’t do it, then it needs replacement. Need to edit 4K video? Can your machine support a 5k monitor? There’s your answer.
 

Viamusic10000

macrumors regular
Dec 11, 2019
228
98
Usually a machine which is over 7 years old can’t run the most recent version of OS X and is considered obsolete by Apple. And an OS is usually supported with security updates for 3 - 4 years and becomes unsupported at the third subsequent OS X release. So that means you’re looking at 10-11 years before the OS is completely unsupported by Apple. The oldest laptops which can run Catalina are from 2012. They should get another three to four years of security updates and be functionally obsolete around 2022 - 2023. So a Mac is supported for about 10 years.
- - Post merged: - -

Yeah I think security updates and functionality are the only determinants of obsolescence. The problem is that companies don’t tend to publish these aspects ahead of time. Tomorrow, Apple could announce 10.16, and say no 2014 machines are supported, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any security updates for those machines. I’d say if there’s some function you really need, and the computer just can’t do it, then it needs replacement. Need to edit 4K video? Can your machine support a 5k monitor? There’s your answer.
Apple does telegraph this https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201624. They usually support the current OS on hardware which isn’t considered to be obsolete. Catalina is supported on all macs which aren’t in the obsolete category even if it’s considered vintage https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT210222.
 
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velocityg4

macrumors 601
Dec 19, 2004
4,975
1,518
Georgia
Generally it is about seven years until OS support drops. Just bear in mind. You still get two more years of OS security patches. Bumping that average to nine years. It can be a few years less or a few years more depending on the cutoff criteria. With the nVidia and Apple rift. I'd expect any models with an nVidia GPU to be on the chopping block soon. Along with their integrated GPU counterparts of the same generation. Although non-retina display laptops and iMacs could be another possibility.
 
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nickdalzell1

macrumors 6502a
Dec 8, 2019
701
284
In my opinion, a computer is only obsolete whenever it fails to do whatever you need it to in a reliable fashion.

That being said, my PowerBook G4 still serves my needs quite well along with my 2019 MBP and I don't expect that to change any time soon.
 

Howard2k

macrumors 68030
Mar 10, 2016
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In my opinion the death knell is lack of security updates. For that you need to look at both the hardware version and the MacOS version.
 

BigMcGuire

Contributor
Jan 10, 2012
5,411
6,770
California
Yep, until I have enough $ to upgrade, till the device doesn't get any more OS updates, or until it breaks and ceases to function. My 2017 MBP is my most favorite laptop. I've used it at work with Parallels (VS 2019 + Oracle db), I've gamed on it, and used it as my personal computing device for 21 months now.

Planning on using this thing for another 2 years before even considering upgrading.

I use it with an EGPU for games (mostly Starcraft).


OS Catalina is showing 2012 MBPs and minis as supported. Damn.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
19,418
6,722
Just because an older Mac is no longer "supported" by Apple doesn't mean that it won't RUN any more.

A Mac isn't "obsolete" until it can no longer do what you want it to do.

The more important question is:
What do you want your Mac to do for you?

Personal experience:
I only retired my 2006-design white Intel iMac (which I used for music) last year.
12-13 year old design was still running. Not as snappy as it once was, but again... still running and doing what I needed it to do.
 

PBG4 Dude

macrumors 68030
Jul 6, 2007
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My 2012 11” MBA is eligible to run Catalina, although I’m keeping it on Mojave for now.
 

ApfelKuchen

macrumors 68040
Aug 28, 2012
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Between the coasts
With the latest OS update comes updated security protocols. Many sites are not accessible or will not properly run if current security is not updated.
I don't know about "many sites" - while there are certainly some sites that require relatively recent security patches, the vast majority prefer visitation and usability to security.

macOS Sierra 10.12.6 last received a security update in September 2019. It doesn't mean there won't be others in the future - we just don't know. OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 (and the version of Safari that runs on it) last received a security update in July 2018. I haven't heard of many sites rejecting Safari on El Capitan, but I'm sure there must be some that do.

Meantime, since you're concerned about browsing... Google Chrome 80 (current version) runs on OS X Yosemite (10.10.x), and Mozilla Firefox 72 (current version) will even run on OS X Mavericks (10.9.x).

My Early 2008 iMac runs El Capitan. As a 12-year-old system, its ability to access websites is the least of my worries.

You have to distinguish between what Apple considers obsolete hardware, what hardware is no longer eligible for the current OS, and what OS is no longer receiving security patches.

Hardware: As others has noted, there's a firm rule for hardware - this has to do with maintaining an inventory of repair parts (and tools) and training new staff to repair that older hardware. In most parts of the world, hardware is "vintage" at 5 years from last date of manufacture, and "obsolete" 7 years from last date of manufacture. Even there, Apple has recently changed policy, and may maintain parts inventories (and offer repairs) for longer than that on a model-by-model basis - they just won't say which models.

OS: The ability of a particular model to support the latest version of macOS varies, because for the most part it depends on hardware compatibility with certain new features. For example, can the Bluetooth chip in a particular Mac support a particular Bluetooth version required for a new AirDrop feature? Apple then has to decide whether to issue the new OS to those Macs anyway, lacking support for that particular feature. In general they lean towards a minimum of exceptions - features that are prominently promoted tend to be available on every Mac that can install that OS.

Browser Security: Apple tends to push out browser security patches for around 3 years after the initial release of that OS, but there's no published, hard-and-fast rule. Some threats have been serious enough to warrant an exception.

And then there's iTunes updates. Apple is still pushing out compatibility updates to iTunes for El Capitan and Windows 7 so that older computers can sync the latest iOS devices.

Overall, Apple's approach is, "Run the highest version of the OS your Mac will support." If you do that, then you can expect another three years of security updates from the date that OS was released. While dates vary, that can mean about a 10-year life before you can't get another security update, and for most web sites another two or three years after that before they block your browser.
 
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CYB3RBYTE

macrumors 6502
Sep 2, 2014
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Midwest
My 2009 white MacBook happily runs Mac OS High Sierra with no complaints. Then again, I've put the maximum amount of new components in it can handle physically (new SSD, 6GB RAM, new battery).

My personal thought is this: It's obsolete when the only thing it can do safely, securely, and reliably, is write a document. By that standard my ol' iMac G4 is still hitting the marks haha. It does sit unplugged in the closet, but when I move to a larger living space it's getting it's own nook to live from that point on.
 
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darkmatter343

macrumors regular
Sep 18, 2017
237
165
Toronto, Canada
Technically, your Mac is obsolete as soon as the next model is released. Personally I'd consider, as would most, a Mac being obsolete when the latest MacOS version isn't support on your Mac, and as stated the death kneel when Security updates for your current MacOS version are no longer being developed. So from a support standpoint, they aren't obsolete for quite a long time.
 
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