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momacOS is the operating system designed to run on Apple laptops and desktop computers. As Apple grew and strengthened the ecosystem through the years, macOS operating system version history evolved too.
In this article, we guide you through the evolution of Apple’s operating system, from the first public release in 2001 to the latest macOS Monterey announced at WWDC 2021 on June 7.
Is there any difference between Mac OS X and macOS?
No, they are essentially the same thing —just named differently. In fact, three terms were used at different times with reference to Apple’s operating system: Mac OS X, OS X, and macOS. Mac OS X was the official naming through version 10.7, from 2001 to 2011. In the next four years, the OS X names were used. Finally, Apple shifted to "macOS" with the release of macOS High Sierra in 2016. The latter helped standardize the naming of Apple’s operating systems —macOS, iOS, tvOS, iPadOS, etc.
List of macOS versions
Brief backstory. In 1996, Apple purchased NeXT, the company Steve Jobs built after he had left Apple. The same year, Jobs returned to Apple and helped build the first Mac OS that could compete with Windows. That’s when it became obvious Apple could grow to become a big player.
The first ancestor of the macOS family was Mac OS X Public Beta released in 2000, followed by a public release of Mac OS X 10.0 in 2001. Let’s recount the stories of all Mac OS X versions, up to the current macOS.
1. Mac OS X 10.0 (Cheetah)
March 24, 2001: Aqua interface is born with Mac OS X Cheetah. It’s a big step in the evolution of graphical interfaces, with 2D and 3D graphics support, granting an all-new visual experience. Cheetah featured a water theme, which, according to Steve Jobs, "one wanted to lick when they saw it." Beauty comes at a cost, though. Graphics improvements made Cheetah very slow, which prompted Apple to shift focus from visual experience to performance in the next release.
source: Apple Wiki | Fandom
2. Mac OS X 10.1 (Puma)
September 25, 2001: As you might have noticed, the first generation of Apple’s operating systems was named after animals. Puma arrived with a solid performance boost and a few other functional improvements such as simplified CD and DVD burning, new features in Finder, and more extensive printer support.
source: Apple Wiki | Fandom
3. Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar)
August 23, 2002: The third release of Mac OS X added search to Finder (can you imagine it, Finder used to exist without it!) Jaguar also brings MPEG-4 support for QuickTime, a range of privacy features, and, for the first time, Accessibility API called Universal Access. Some of the apps born with this release continue living on Mac even today (for example, Address Book, which is now called Contacts).
source: VTII Technology
4. Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther)
October 24, 2003: Meet Safari! The first official web browser made by Apple replaces Internet Explorer on Mac. In fact, Safari was available on Jaguar but it’s the first release where it becomes a default browser. Other than that, Panther adds 150+ new features, including Font Book, Xcode enhancements, and more.
source: Cult of Mac
5. Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger)
April 29, 2005: Did you think Apple TV is pretty new? Well, guess what, it was born in 2005, with the release of Apple’s fifth operating system! Tiger was a pretty big update. It featured Spotlight search, Automator, VoiceOver, and around 200 other improvements. During this time, Apple also switched to Intel’s processors, which made Tiger the first system operating on Macs with Intel chips.
6. Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard)
October 26, 2007: Here comes Leopard, one of the most Mac-changing systems. This time, Mac’s desktop changes significantly, with Dock, a new menu bar, and Stacks. Time Machine, Spotlight enhancements, and support for 64-bit apps arrive too. In fact, Leopard featured so much new stuff that Apple even had to delay the initial release date to finish it all in time.
source: Apple Wiki | Fandom
7. Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)
August 28, 2009: Leopard’s successor, Snow Leopard, focused on expanding 64-bit architecture. Most of the native applications were rewritten in 64-bit. Back then, experts used to say that was the first step to a full transition, which, as we know today, became true. Also, the App Store was born in the Snow Leopard era.
8. Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion)
July 20, 2011: With Lion, Apple brings lots of useful enhancements from iOS to Mac OS. Launchpad, multi-touch gestures, and more. Interestingly, many people criticized Mac OS X 10.7 for the so-called "natural scrolling," which moved the content up when you scroll down. Back then, it seemed more natural to have the content move down —as Windows did it.
9. OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)
July 25, 2012: Major apps like Notes, Reminders, and Messages arrive from iOS, turning Mac into a more comfortable spot for managing your daily routine. The most significant update in Mountain Lion is Notification Center, with on-screen banners communicating updates.
10. OS X 10.9 (Mavericks)
October 22, 2013: Operating system number 10 debuts a range of privacy features, majorly focused on password encryption and storage. This is when iCloud Keychain arrives. Also, OS X 10.9 features new Maps, iBooks, and Tags for the first time, as well as upgrades Notification Center by allowing users to reply directly from notifications.
source: Apple Wiki | Fandom
11. OS X 10.10 (Yosemite)
October 16, 2014: Biggest redesign in years. From small things like thin fonts and new color schemes to the big shift towards flat graphic design, which better matches the design of iOS. What’s more, Yosemite introduces Handoff and Continuity. This once again confirms Apple’s intention to craft a better cross-device experience in the future.
12. OS X 10.11 (El Capitan)
September 30, 2015: El Capitan is faster, better, stronger than the previous operating system, due to a major performance boost. For example, it allows opening apps 40% faster than old systems. Also, this is the year when Split View’s dual-pane emerges, opening up new possibilities for managing windows on Mac.
13. macOS 10.12 (Sierra)
September 20, 2016: With Sierra, Apple shifts to the "macOS" naming. Again, more iOS perks arrive, such as unlocking a Mac with Apple Watch. There’s also a new Storage Optimization feature with a detailed overview of storage and suggestions on how to free up disk space. And, hey Siri!
14. macOS 10.13 (High Sierra)
September 25, 2017: macOS High Sierra adds a new video standard called HEIC and a transition to Apple File System (APFS), which is an improved alternative to its predecessor file system HFS+. Apart from that, there are a few enhancements in Safari, Mail, and Photo —but nothing major.
15. macOS 10.14 (Mojave)
September 24, 2018: That’s when things go dark. We mean Dark Mode! Mac users can now move through their day-and-night routine, with the colors of the screen moving with them, thanks to Dynamic Desktop feature. There are more and more apps that arrive from iOS, including Stocks, News, and Home.
16. macOS 10.15 (Catalina)
October 7, 2019: macOS Catalina marks the death of iTunes, splitting Apple’s top-destination for media content into three dedicated apps —Music, Podcasts, and Movies. Apple continues aligning iOS and macOS with Sidecar, a feature that lets your connect an iPad screen to your Mac, and the ability for developers to port iOS apps to macOS.
source: Mobile Review
17. macOS 11 (Big Sur)
November 19, 2020: There’s no macOS 10.16, because Big Sur deserves a more epic version name — 11.0. Bringing a huge design change and transition to Apple’s M1 Macs, macOS Big Sur is the one to remember. This is the first operating system that allows running iOS apps natively on Mac —the so-called Universal apps.
18. macOS 12 (Monterey)
October 25, 2021: macOS Monterey brings Shortcuts —the ability to set up quick actions with different apps to automate your flow. Apart from that, there’s Universal Control, a natural transitioning across your Mac and iOS devices (for example, you can move your cursor between Mac and iPad); redesigned Safari with tab groups, and a range of cool FaceTime enhancements. More on macOS 12 Monterey here. Also, you can check our articles about how to upgrade to macOS Monterey and how to fix Monterey macOS problems.
19. macOS 13 (Ventura)
Fall 2022: macOS Ventura arrives with a major interface change, the feature called Stage Manager. While it’s opt-in, many users will make Stage Manager a default because it’s a great way to transition between tasks and workspaces. Essentially, Stage Manager automatically organizes active windows into stacks, placed on the left side of the screen. Other Ventura goodies? Continuity Camera, Undo Send in Mail, and more. If you’re just getting started with this macOS version, make sure to keep the list of common Ventura problems at hand.
What’s the latest macOS?
New operating systems for Mac not only bring new features, they bring better performance, enhanced privacy, and better workflow for those working across devices. If you’re wondering whether to upgrade to the newest macOS, we’d say yes, it’s worth it.
How to check the latest macOS on your Mac
Before you upgrade, you should find out what your current macOS is. Some macOS versions can’t be "skipped." For example, if you want to upgrade to Lion, you should first install Snow Lion. Here’s how to check your operating system version on Mac (macOS 12 and earlier)
- Go to Apple menu > About This Mac
- See the name of your current macOS in the Overview section
- To check for pending macOS updates, choose Software Update.
While Apple revamped System Preferences on macOS Ventura, the flow of checking your current macOS version is slightly different. You should go directly to System Preferences — now called System Settings —and find the Software Update tab in there.
Tip: If you don’t want to upgrade, but you feel like "you have to" because your Mac is slowing down or acting weird, don’t rush into it. Check what’s wrong with iStat Menus app, a real-time system monitor that can identify any pitfalls in your system. Maybe some apps are putting pressure on your Mac or you’re low on storage. In this case, macOS update won’t help.
How to update to the latest version of macOS
Older Mac OS X releases or newest macOS, the process of updating operating systems follows the same logic:
- First, you backup your data to make it available on the new macOS
- Second, you make sure you have enough space on Mac to install new macOS
- Third, you download and install the new update.
The first step is essential. Without securely backing up your disk, you might lose access to the images, docs, and whatever essential stuff stored on Mac. We recommend Get Backup Pro or ChronoSync Express to run a backup. The former can back up selected files and the latter does a great job backing up folders. So you don’t have to back up the whole disk, with all the clutter stored on it.
Here’s how to create a backup with Get Backup Pro:
- Click on the "+" button in Backups to create a new project
- Choose a destination for your backup
- Click File+ to add files for backup
- Press Start.
Back up folders with ChronoSync Express:
- Choose "Create a new synchronization task" on the right
- Name the project
- Choose folders for backup
- Choose your backup destination
- Hit the arrow button to start backing up.
Once you’ve secured the data, go ahead and clean your Mac with CleanMyMac X. Remove clutter, system files, unused apps and app caches, etc. This way, you’ll free up lots of storage and get your Mac ready for a new macOS installation. We recommend to start with a Smart Scan, but if you want to go for a deeper cleanup, go through dedicated modules, they all work like magic.
Nice work! Now you’re ready to install macOS 13 Ventura or any other macOS version you want to try. For detailed instructions on how to update macOS, read this article.
Introduced at WWDC 2022, macOS Ventura is the current version of macOS, the operating system that runs on the Mac.What are latest versions of macOS? ›
The latest version of macOS is macOS 13.0 Ventura, which Apple released on October 24, 2022. Apple releases a new major version roughly once every year.Is macOS Sierra older than Catalina? ›
Sierra was replaced by High Sierra 10.13, Mojave 10.14, and the newest Catalina 10.15. Our latest fully-supported operating system if macOS Mojave (10.14). Please note: At this time we do NOT recommend installing Catalina in either beta or final form until our testing is complete.How many macOS are there? ›
After sixteen distinct versions of macOS 10, macOS Big Sur was presented as version 11 in 2020, macOS Monterey was presented as version 12 in 2021, and macOS Ventura was presented as version 13 in 2022. macOS has supported three major processor architectures, beginning with PowerPC-based Macs in 1999.Is macOS 13 released? ›
macOS Ventura (version 13) is the nineteenth and current major release of macOS, Apple's desktop operating system for Mac computers. The successor to macOS Monterey, it was announced at WWDC 2022 on June 6, 2022, and launched on October 24, 2022.Is Mojave still supported? ›
Support Ending November 30, 2021
As a result, we are phasing out software support for all computers running macOS 10.14 Mojave and will end support on November 30, 2021.
Catalina will likely stop getting updates around October 2022, while Big Sur should become unsupported in October 2023. Once that happens, your Mac won't receive security updates for your current macOS version, and third-party software might stop working. This means you'll need to think about upgrading your Mac soon.What are the macOS version names? ›
macOS 10.13: High Sierra (Lobo) – September 25, 2017 (Latest: 10.13.6) macOS 10.14: Mojave (Liberty) – September 24, 2018 (Latest: 10.14.6) macOS 10.15: Catalina (Jazz) – October 7, 2019 (Latest: 10.15.7, Security Update 2022-005) macOS 11: Big Sur (GoldenGate) – November 12, 2020 (Latest: 11.7.2)Which macOS is end of life? ›
In keeping with Apple's release cycle, we anticipate, macOS 10.15 Catalina will no longer receive security updates starting in November 2022. As a result, we are phasing out software support for all computers running macOS 10.15 Catalina and will end support on November 30, 2022.Is there 15 OSX? ›
macOS Catalina (version 10.15) is the sixteenth major release of macOS, Apple Inc.'s desktop operating system for Macintosh computers. It is the successor to macOS Mojave and was announced at WWDC 2019 on June 3, 2019 and released to the public on October 7, 2019.
However, if your Mac is several years old, there's a good chance that the current version of macOS won't run on your Mac; Apple drops support for Mac models that it declares to be vintage or obsolete.What happens when Apple no longer supports a device? ›
Even though Apple makes their devices to last a very long time, once the official support ends, the devices stop getting software updates. This can cause a multitude of bugs, glitches and even affects the device performance.How long until a MacBook becomes obsolete? ›
Apple considers MacBooks obsolete when they are between five and seven years old. It considers them to be vintage when they are older than seven years. For a complete list of obsolete and vintage devices, see here.Which is better M1 or M2? ›
In our testing, the M2 has an 18 percent faster CPU than the M1. The new chip doesn't just mean that the new Macs can accomplish more though, they use less power doing so: Apple promises an increased CPU performance of 18 percent with the same energy consumption thanks to various optimizations.Which Mac is best value for money? ›
The best Mac laptop for most people is the 13-inch MacBook Air with Apple's M1 processor. It's more than fast enough for browsing, working on documents, and making light photo and video edits, and it has an excellent high-resolution screen, a great trackpad, a totally silent fanless design, and a reasonable price.Which is better Big Sur or Mojave? ›
As a comparison between Mojave and Big Sur, Big Sur is safer. Apple's web browser, Safari 14, is included in Big Sur, but you don't need to update your operating system to access it. Also, another latest version, macOS Mojave 10.14, adds a slew of useful features for handling documents and media files and many more.When did macOS 14 release? ›
During the Covid year 2020, macOS Big Sur didn't launch until November 12.
The successor to macOS Big Sur, it was announced at WWDC 2021 on June 7, 2021, and released on October 25, 2021. macOS Monterey was succeeded by macOS Ventura, which was released on October 24, 2022.What is macOS 16 called? ›
macOS Big Sur is the first release of macOS for Macs powered by Apple-designed ARM64-based processors, a key part of the transition from Intel x86-64-based processors.What Will Mac OS 13 be called? ›
macOS 13 is called Ventura. Apple's new operating system for the Mac is named after the city of Ventura in California. It's the first time in a few years the company hasn't used a National Park's name instead of a city in California state for macOS.
Apple said that would run happily on a late 2009 or later MacBook or iMac, or a 2010 or later MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini or Mac Pro. If your Mac is supported read: How to update macOS.Is a 7 year old Mac old? ›
Macs, over seven years old, are considered “obsolete.” Apple or its service providers will not service obsolete Macs. From a repair point of view, Macs last seven years since they are no longer on sale. Macs are typically on sale for around a year, though some models have been sold for much longer.Is macOS Catalina before or after Monterey? ›
macOS 10.14: Mojave (Liberty) – 24 September 2018. macOS 10.15: Catalina (Jazz) – 7 October 2019. macOS 11: Big Sur (GoldenGate) – 12 November 2020. macOS 12: Monterey (Star) – 25 October 2021.Is macOS Big Sur before or after Monterey? ›
Big Sur is the successor to macOS Catalina, and was succeeded by macOS Monterey, which was released on October 25, 2021.What is the sequence of operating system? ›
A Discrete Event Simulation models operation of a system as a series of events in time. Each event occurs at a particular instant in time and between these instances the system is assumed to be unchanged.