Should I upgrade macOS on this older MacBook Pro?

I have a mid-2012 vintage Macbook Pro with a 2.9 GHz Core i7 processor, currently running MacOS Sierra (10.12.6). Not having seen any software or security updates for a year now (as anticipated), I’m wondering if I should try to upgrade my OS at this time. It’s the last model with an optical drive and non-retina screen, and I installed an SSD in place of the original hard drive approx. 3 years ago.

If I were to upgrade, what is the latest version of MacOS that is not only compatible, but will work efficiently and not require me to replace the older apps I’m using? What diagnostics should I run in advance to make sure the system is robust enough to go through a system upgrade? Generally, everything is working well now and I don’t want to 'rock the boat’ any more than necessary. I regularly upgrade Zoom, Safari and Firefox, but not much else, am perfectly OK with Office 2011, and don’t care about rapid syncing with other devices, ‘dark mode,’ nor other bells and whistles featured in later versions of MacOS X.

Many thanks,
Brian Tokar.

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I have the same machine and am interested in this question also. I’m currently running High Sierra 10.13.6 but am pondering what to upgrade to (after I’ve improved my backups situation).

I think running an OS which receives security updates is important, and I suspect that is about to stop for High Sierra.

To answer the simplest part of your question, a good place to find the macOS compatibility information is the Mactracker app. For that machine, it says “Latest release of macOS”, which here I believe that means macOS 10.15 Catalina. (Catalina is the latest OS currently listed in Mactracker, and Wikipedia on macOS 11.0 Big Sur says that requires a MacBook Pro Late 2013 or newer.)

For diagnostics - you might try Apple Hardware Test (AHT) - but although that worked for me back in 2018, when I tried it again in July this year, that test then wouldn’t boot properly for me.

Sorry that leaves many of your questions unaddressed. Hopefully someone else can chime in.

My gut feeling is that Mojave is going to be your sweet spot. Catalina should work on it, as @ashley notes, but you’d lose old 32-bit apps, and I suspect you have some. High Sierra will fall off the update train shortly, so that doesn’t make much sense.

There may be some difficulties in upgrading to an older version of macOS; it’s possible, but the longer you wait to upgrade, the harder it gets and the more gotchas you’re likely to encounter.

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Many thanks. A good start, and I’ll anticipate more info. coming…

I’ve been working on old Macs in my office. I am upgrading any Mac to 10.14.6 or greater if it can handle it. Most Macs were at 10.13.6 but a few at 10.12. Moving to newer OS’ is based on various other software working well. I would move to 10.15 but one major system is a version that isn’t tested on it (I find this software works fine at 10.15).

Anyway, the Macs upgraded to 10.14. Overall I think the Macs are working smoother. It is harder for me to evaluate since most people are working on either their own Macs or MacBooks since very few people are in the office.

I have that same machine, with the same specs, and I upgraded the hard drive to an SSD just like you did and at about the same time you did. I’ve always kept the OS current, and I’m running the latest (10.15.7) with no evidence of any difficulty that I can identify. I use it all day, every day, for my work-from-home job and for personal use.

I don’t know about your app situation. I can’t think of many older apps that I ever run, so I may not be a reliable source of information there.

I have almost the same model you have and I went to Mojave with it. But I have a different suggestion.

Order a brand new MBP spec’ed to your requirements. It will come with Catalina. Migrate your data and see if you can use it for a couple days. See if your workflow gets totally disrupted. Find out how many apps you’d need to update and at what cost. See if the new fancy MBP actually feels faster in your everyday work. Then, decide if those benefits are worth the extra cost. If so, congratulations you’re the happy new owner of a modern MBP. If not, return it to Apple within their 14-day no questions asked policy for a full refund. The latter process is seamless and Apple indeed makes it very easy to get your money back. That is one thing they IME handle really well. And if you return the new model, you can still consider which version of macOS to update to on your old MBP (if at all).

Eventually, you will need to buy a new computer . . .I cannot imagine what it must be like being on a years old operating system. Kudos to Apple that their old stuff still runs at all.

Technology advances at light speed. Yes, there were some older apps that had been abandoned by their developers that stopped working and I had to delete them. It’s like breaking up with your girlfriend. It hurts a lot at the beginning, until you find new apps that make your forget that old stuff you had to let go of holding on to.

I did the Catalina Beta program, but I’m passing on Big Sur beta until it is further along in it development cycle. But when I is released, I will upgrade. Im also getting a 12 Max Pro on my next trip to the US. Too expensive here.

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Well, my iMac G5 ALS runs just fine on Leopard. :grinning:
I don’t replace my computers unless there is a real valid reason like they have died. I bought this Mid-2011 iMac when the power supply on the G5 crapped out in 2012 to use until I could get a new power supply. It may end up being the last Apple computer I buy after 36 years of buying them since MacOS is becoming more and more buggy, and turning into just a super sized iOS. However I am intrigued by the proposed ARM based iOS Macs coming out next year. I’ve never liked having Intel chips so the sooner they are gone, the better. For those who wish to run Windows on Apple hardware, perhaps there could be a AMD chip variant.

I will probably replace my iPhone 10 when iOS can’t be upgraded; it will then replace my iPhone 6 as my backup phone. The 6 will replace the 3GS which replaced my iPod 5th Generation.

I agree with you on one point. I do not want the Mac OS to be like the iOS product. It can look similar but I want to be able to download software to my Mac without going through an App store and only an App store. Apple is clearly moving in that direction, making HDD and RAM not upgradable or user serviceable and replaceable.

Catalina as released is not buggy. Apple created a Public Beta Program a few years ago and thousands of volunteers do a pretty good job of getting most of the bugs fixed. I personally think Apple ought to give beta testers a t-shirt considering the time and effort testers spend helping Apple de-bug their software.

I consider the “Public Beta” program a joke. First it is based on getting users to do the lazy Apple engineers work for them, second it doesn’t even do a very good job because Apple is always scrambling to release fixes with in a couple of days of release. These problems either would not exist or be greatly reduced if Steve Jobs was still in charge. I’ve seen more and more junk released by Tim Cook that would never have gotten past Jobs. The idea that a new major update has to be released each year is stupid which is why Jobs wanted a major release every two years.

I think you’re onto something here. Maybe a bug bounty program for beta testers. Perhaps a reward ladder so those who submit the most (verified) bug reports get the biggest prizes. Maybe something like:

  • Throwaway software item (e.g. a special Watch face, Mac screen saver/wallpaper, etc.) for all beta testers.
  • A cheap subscription bonus (year of Apple Music, Apple TV+, extra iCloud storage, etc.) for all beta participants who submit at least one bug.
  • Article of clothing (T-shirt, Apple Watch band, etc.) for those who submit at least 10 bugs.
  • Non-throwaway software product (Main Stage, Compressor, Motion, Garage Band/iMovie add-on, etc.) for those who submit at least 25 bugs
  • More expensive software product (Final Cut, Logic Pro) for those who submit at least 50 bugs.
  • Small hardware product (AirPods, low-end Beats headphones, HomePod mini) for those who submit at least 100 bugs.
  • Larger hardware product (Apple TV, higher-end Beats headphones, Watch) for those who submit at least 150 bugs.
  • Big hardware product (iPhone, Mac mini, etc.) for those who submit at least 250 bugs.
  • High-end hardware product (iMac, MacBook Pro) for those who submit at least 1000 bugs.

Of course, there would need to be a way to prevent gaming the system, so they can only count original submissions, not bugs they read about in on-line forums, and there would need to be a way to value some bugs more than others (a spelling error shouldn’t count as much as an app crash or a kernel panic), and a way to reward high quality reports (higher score for bugs that include lots of details and test cases for reproduction).

But if someone can work through those details, it might encourage many more users and developers to file high quality bug reports.

Of course, that would require Apple to admit their software had any bugs, which they seldom do.

In the whole Catalina cycle, I got one message from a engineer asking me for more data. This was related to disconnecting an external drive and reconnecting it quickly, which resulted in the creation of a second phantom drive. They did eventually fix it.

But beta testing is pretty much one way. On the most egregious bugs, I would see on the report the number of similar reports from other testers.

When a new beta is released, it seldom comes with release notes the way most other software developers do, with line by line lists of bugs fixed.

Mozilla and Firefox is just the opposite. Anyone can submit a bug to the public database and track the bug, to see if anyone at Mozilla could duplicate the bug, then who is assigned to fixing it, and when it is resolved. There can be a lot of back and forth between the developers and the bug submitters. But Firefox is open source code. Apple is very secretive.

I have the same machine, but with an i5 processor. Did the SSD change and added some RAM. Now running Catalina and working like a charm. Unless you have software that does not run on Catalina I recommend upgrading (I did because of the News app).