Macs have a high price so it’s understandable that many Mac users will want to put off replacing them for as long as they can. But just how long should you expect a Mac to last?
You may also be considering buying a secondhand Mac and wondering how old is too old? For example, is that 2017 iMac for $400/£400 a good deal, or would you be better off spending a bit more on a newer model?
One factor to consider is the age at which most Macs start to experience issues, such as random shutdowns and degraded batteries that no longer hold their charge. Unfortunately, at one point repairing your Mac or MacBook will no longer be a viable option and you will need to look for a replacement.
Another issue with aging Macs is that the software you need may not run on it. You may also find that Apple no longer supports the operating system software that runs on that Mac – which could leave you open to malware and security vulnerabilities.
In this article, we will address the above, as well as give advice about which Macs are still supported by Apple, the Macs that can still be repaired if required (Apple stops providing the required parts after a number of years), and the Macs that Apple considers obsolete and vintage. Being Vintage means Apple may have the parts available if you wanted to fix the Mac, but once Obsolete Apple will not provide parts if you wanted to try and fix the machine.
When do I need to replace my Mac?
There are a few indicators that your Mac has reached the end of its useful life:
Apple no longer supports the latest version of the software it runs (which could leave you vulnerable).
The apps you need to use no longer run on it.
The Mac struggles to perform the tasks you need it to – especially if you can’t update the RAM or any other components.
Something breaks and is too expensive to fix, or the parts aren’t available.
The Mac is becoming unreliable. Unexpected shutdowns are becoming commonplace and you’ve tried everything to fix the problem to no avail.
Which Macs are supported by macOS updates?
Only the most recent version of macOS gets feature updates, but Apple usually maintains the last three versions of the macOS with bug fixes and important security updates, ensuring that the latest version of Safari will run, and that Apple Services, such as iCloud, are fully supported
This means that Apple will currently provide support for these versions of macOS: macOS Sonoma (macOS 14), macOS Ventura (macOS 13), and Monterey (macOS 12). When Apple introduced macOS 14 Sonoma in September 2023 it stopped supporting macOS Big Sur. The last security update for Big Sur, macOS 11.7.10, came on September 11 2023.
If your Mac is running Sonoma, Ventura or Monterey you should be able to be confident that Apple will keep an eye on any security vulnerabilities and other problems with these operating systems.
However, if your Mac is running an older version of the operating system – macOS Big Sur, macOS Catalina or older – you may find yourself out in the cold when it comes to essential updates to Apple’s software.
If the software is too old you may also find that your other Apple products aren’t compatible with your Mac. Without the latest security update you may no longer be able to use Apple Pay or other means to pay for services online, for example. And if you want to sync your iPad or iPhone with your Mac (rather than using iCloud) you will need a recent version of macOS. Since Catalina syncing is done via the Finder, rather than iTunes. If you can’t run Catalina you will need at least iTunes 184.108.40.206 and at least Mac OS X 10.11.6 (El Capitan) or your Mac will not recognize your iPhone or iPad.
It’s not just a case of updating your Mac to the latest version of macOS though. Each time Apple updates the Mac operating system more Macs fall off the list of those supported. Read: The latest version of macOS your Mac can run.
If your Macs isn’t in the list of supported Macs below, it won’t receive important security updates:
This means that the oldest Macs supported right now are the 2013 Mac Pro (black cylinder model), the 2014 Mac mini and the 2015 MacBook and and Pro models. But, by the autumn of 2024, when Apple introduces the next version of macOS, the supported Mac list will be reduced to 2017, and in some cases, 2018 models.
So, if you were hoping that your decade-old Mac would still be supported by Apple, prepare to be disappointed.
Which Macs aren’t supported by macOS?
When Apple introduced Sonoma in 2023 it dropped support for macOS Big Sur.
Big Sur, which launched in 2020 supported the following Macs:
MacBook models from early 2015 or later
MacBook Air models from 2013 or later
MacBook Pro models from 2013 or later
Mac mini models from 2014 or later
iMac models from 2014 or later
iMac Pro (all models)
Mac Pro models from 2013 or later
This means that Apple no longer supports security updates for the 12-inch MacBook introduced in early 2015, the mid-2013 MacBook Air and the early-2014 MacBook Air, late-2013 MacBook Pro and mid-2014 MacBook Pro, or the 2014 iMac.
By fall 2024, the list of unsupported Macs will include 2015 and 2016 models.
All other Macs that pre-date those mentioned above are no longer supported by Apple’s software updates.
Does it matter if my Mac won’t run a supported macOS?
Once you cannot update your Mac to run a supported version of macOS you are vulnerable to security breaches, which should obviously be a concern. You may also find that you can’t carry out transactions on the internet if you want to pay for things on your out-of-date Mac.
You may also find that the software you need won’t run on your Mac. Apple and other companies stop supporting older versions of the applications they make, so there could be issues with the versions of the software you are running. If you are experiencing random shutdowns, for example, it could be due to problems with an app you are running – problems that will not be addressed by the developer because that version of the app is no longer supported.
If you want to run fully supported software then you will need to update to a newer version of macOS – and that may mean that you need to update your Mac. Althought there are workarounds to install a new version of macOS on an old Mac.
Apple supports Macs with operating system updates for approximately eight to ten years, after which time Apple will not support the software and it’s probably a good time to replace your Mac.
When do Macs become obsolete?
But it’s not just software updates that determine the lifespan of a Mac. It’s also a question of whether it will be possible to fix your Mac should something go wrong with the hardware. Apple has two standards that indicate hardware support is waining: Obsolete or Vintage. The first stage is Vintage: you might be lucky enough to get parts for this Mac, the second is Obsolete: you are out on your own when it comes to any attempt to mend the Mac if it goes wrong.
If you look at Apple’s list of Obsolete Macs – those being the Macs that Apple will no longer provide spare parts for – you will see that the company stops provide parts for Macs that it hasn’t sold for more than seven years. In fact, the company may not even provide parts for Macs that haven’t been sold for more than five years (considered Vintage by the company).
This could mean that you won’t be able to get a faulty Mac fixed because the parts aren’t available.
Obsolete Macs are generally Macs that Apple stopped selling more than seven years ago. Once a Mac is in Apple’s obsolete list you have little chance of getting it repaired if something does go wrong. You might be able to find spare parts yourself, but Apple won’t provide them.
You’ll find more details about the exact models on Apple’s dedicated page, but the lists below will give you a general idea.
As of May 2023, Apple considers the following Macs and older Obsolete:
11-inch MacBook Air (early 2014 and older)
13-inch MacBook Air (early 2014 and older)
13-inch MacBook Pro (mid 2014 and older)
15-inch MacBook Pro (mid 2014 and older)
27-inch iMac (late 2013 and older)
21.5-inch iMac (late 2013 and older)
Mac mini (2012 and older)
Mac mini Server (2012 and older)
Mac Pro (2010 and older)
Apple also has a list of Vintage Macs. These are Macs that Apple stopped selling between five and seven years ago. (If you live in France where a law means you can get support for spare parts for up to seven years after Apple stops selling a Mac).
Apple Authorized Service Providers will repair vintage products for up to seven years, as long as parts are available.
Apple lists the following products as being vintage:
12-inch MacBook (2015 and 2016)
13-inch MacBook Air (2015)
13-inch MacBook Pro (2015, 2016 and 2017)
15-inch MacBook Pro (2015, 2016 and 2017)
21.5-inch iMac (2013 and 2015)
27-inch iMac (2015)
Mac Pro (2012)
There are some Macs in that list that you might consider quite ‘new’, such as the 2017 MacBook Pro models, or the 5K iMac from 2015, but these are already viewed as Vintage by Apple, and anything older is Obsolete.
This certainly suggests that if your Mac is from before 2015 it’s time to look for a new one. And if you see a 2015 or earlier Mac on sale it’s not sensible to buy it. Read: Why you shouldn’t buy a second hand Mac.
Should I fix my Mac or buy a new one?
If your Mac is in the Obsolete category above and something goes wrong with it then you are going to struggle to get the necessary parts if you wanted to attempt to get it fixed as Apple won’t provide the parts.
You might be able to buy an old Mac on eBay or similar and scrap if for the parts, but we’d suggest that it really wouldn’t be worth the effort.
If your Mac is in the Vintage list then Apple might be able to provide the required parts, but there is no guarantee. If you are lucky enough to get the part an Apple service provider might even be able to fix the Mac for you – but the cost of the work is likely to be prohibitive.
You might find that the Mac was included in part of a recall due to the issue you are experiencing, in that case it might be worth enlisting in a repair program. However, if the time period in which Apple was offering the repairs has passed (which is unfortunately likely) then you will still have to find the money for the repair, which again might be prohibitive.
Apple repair programs
Apple’s current Mac repair programs include:
A recall for 15-inch MacBook Pro units from due to a battery fault 2015-2017
Keyboard services for some Mac laptops bought since 2016
A 13-inch MacBook Pro backlit service program for models from 2016-2018
Service programs that have now ended:
A SSD service program for 13in MacBook Pro models from 2017-2018
A battery replacement program for 13in MacBook Pros from 2016-2017
Assuming your fault isn’t one of those listed above, you may be faced with a pricy repair bill. We suggest that if your Mac is older than five years then repairing it will not be worth it – unless of course there are important documents or photos on it that you want to retrieve in which case it might be worth looking at how to recover these files.
Should I update my Mac or buy a new one?
This is a similar question to the one above in as much as you will be weighing up whether spending money to improve your Mac might be more savvy than buying a new Mac.
There are various ways you might be able to improve your existing Mac, including adding more RAM or changing from a hard drive to a SSD. If you are able to upgrade the components inside your Mac you may be able to speed it up and make it more capable of doing what you need. See How to upgrade a Mac.
However, many Macs can’t be upgraded at all. In recent years Apple has taken to soldering RAM in place and hiding components away to make access impossible (or at least impossible if you don’t want to completely destroy your Mac attempting to get to them).
If you decide to buy a new Mac check out our round-ups of the best Mac deals you can get:
Can I update the RAM in my Mac?
If you have one of the following Macs you might be able to update the RAM:
MacBook (2008 to 2011 models)
MacBook Pro (2009-2012 13in, 2008-2012 15in, all 17-inch models)
iMac: The RAM can be updated in the majority of iMacs except for the 21.5in models from Mid-2014 and Late-2015, which had their RAM soldered into place.
Mac mini: (2010-2012 and the 2018 model)
Mac Pro: (all models)
iMac Pro: RAM isn’t user-accessible, but can be updated at an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider.
You can’t update the RAM in any MacBook Air models.
It may be possible to update other components, including the SSD, hard drive, battery, logic board, hard drive, but this is only possible for a few Macs and the process is only for the expert. If you’d like to try read: How to upgrade a Mac.
If you are up for pulling your Mac apart and attempting to upgrade its components then by all means try, but make sure you back it up first and be prepared to admit defeat if it doesn’t go as planned.
As for whether it is worth upgrading your Macs RAM or any other component – assuming you can get the parts – rather than buying a new Mac? Perhaps it will buy you a few more years of use. However, we’d be inclined to suggest that if your Mac is older than seven years it really isn’t worth it (and, you’ll notice, the MacBooks that can have their RAM upgraded tend to be older than that).
How long do Macs last?
So, in answer to the question: How long do Macs last? We’d say five to eight years, but beware that you may not be able to replace any faulty parts in a Mac when more than five years have passed since Apple last sold it.