Make your Mac invincible
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. Catalina is the first version of macOS to support only 64-bit applications. Part 2 of Mac OS Catalina: more trouble than it’s worth was picked up by sites like Hacker News and Lobsters. When Hacker News picked up my first post on the subject, I went there and checked out the discussion, and even joined it where I thought I could clarify some points. It largely felt like a waste of time and, yes, I should have known. A pple on Monday released its anticipated macOS Catalina software update, bringing a slew of new features, apps, and user-friendly improvements to the company’s line of Mac computers, including.
Let's just say it: 2020 is a weird year — messing with an ordinary state of things to the extent that you no longer know what's ordinary. So don't panic if you google 'What is the latest macOS 2021?' and can't find the macOS version 10.16. It doesn't exist.
This year, Apple hosted its first virtual-only WWDC event where they announced a transition to macOS 11, hence ending the era of Mac OS X generation. The new macOS Big Sur version 11.0 arrives with an overhauled design that features lots of iOS elements. Also, macOS 11 will be the first operating system to support Macs with Apple silicon chips. So just like anything 2020, macOS Big Sur is pretty unusual — but is it really worth an upgrade?
Big Sur upgrade assistant
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macOS Big Sur review: What's new
Before we look at the pros and cons, let's focus on the major changes that Apple Big Sur is bringing to the table. The following section will help you understand whether an upgrade to Big Sur makes sense in your case. If you decide to skip it over, we won't judge you — but make sure you check the infographic below for a quick summary.
macOS Big Sur requirements: Will your Mac run macOS 11?
Full disclosure: This article only makes sense if you can give a positive answer to the question 'Can my Mac run Big Sur?' If it's a no, breathe out and continue enjoying Catalina. Or, get a new Mac. If you compare device compatibility in macOS Big Sur vs Catalina, you'll notice a change. Essentially, Big Sur moves a year to two years ahead, cutting off support for all Macs released prior to 2013.
Here’s the full list of macOS Big Sur compatible devices:
Mac Os Catalina Worth It
MacBook (2015 or later)
MacBook Air (2013 or later)
MacBook Pro (2013 or later)
Mac Pro (2013 or later)
Mac Mini (2014 or later)
iMac (2014 or later)
iMac Pro (2017 or later).
You’ll find more on macOS Big Sur system requirements here.
Design changes that change it all
Apple calls it the biggest design change in the last 20 years. We call it an iPad marries a Mac. Here's a quick dive into why macOS Big Sur is very different from what you experience with Catalina:
New Control Center featuring quick access to settings and controls on Mac
Full-size sidebars across apps
Notifications grouped by apps
Three new widget layouts
Widgets and notifications can be combined within one view
Translucent Dock icons and the menu bar
Rounded corners across windows and app icons.
It looks like macOS Big Sur takes a content-first approach, removing visual complexity and helping you customize lots of things on a desktop. It also has that sweet homely iOS vibe about it, which you’ll recognize instantly if you’re an iPhone/iPad user. Also, check our article about list of mac os versions.
The iPadification of Mac
Apart from the design change, the latest macOS is embracing more iOS apps via Catalyst. For instance, Maps and Messages have been redesigned with the Mac Catalyst app — and Catalyst itself is getting some major enhancements. Particularly, it arrives with access to more iOS frameworks, new APIs, and the ability to control Mac Catalyst apps using just the keyboard.
The Catalyst era kicked off in 2019, with the release of macOS 10.15 Catalina. Apple made it possible to port iOS apps to macOS, and introduced Screen Time as the first native app to undergo the Catalyst transition. With macOS 11, Catalyst apps continue arriving — easy to port and fitting the Big Sur design perfectly.
What’s more, Macs with Apple silicon chips will be able to run iOS apps natively on Big Sur. This means one thing: In the battle of Big Sur vs Catalina, the former certainly wins if you want to see more iOS apps on Mac.
Safari reborn on macOS Big Sur
Apple introduced some great Safari improvements with macOS Catalina, including weak password flagging and tab switching. But compared to what they did this year, Catalina updates were just the beginning of a major Safari transformation. On macOS Big Sur, Safari is crazily customizable and 50% faster than Chrome. Here are some key changes:
Customizable start page. You can set any background picture and choose what should appear on your Safari start page.
Preview tabs. Hover over any tab for a quick website preview.
Bring extensions from anywhere. Developers can easily migrate third-party extensions to Safari.
Translate an entire web page. Translate a website page across seven languages in a flash.
See who’s tracking you. The new built-in Privacy Report gives you access to the list of trackers on any website, which is a huge leap forward in terms of safer browsing.
Is it safe to update to Big Sur?
Many users are wondering whether it’s safe to download and install Big Sur at this point. We’ve dived into the depths of Reddit and Twitter, searching for any hints about macOS Big Sur misbehavior. So far, there have been some reports on installation problems and Safari crashing. But considering betas are generally buggy, it seems normal.
According to Apple, macOS Big Sur will offer even more control over users’ personal data. Developers will be asked to provide extensive information on their privacy practices when bringing apps to the App Store — so that you know what types of data an app collects before installing it. And with the new Privacy Report in Safari, you can expect a safer browsing journey on Big Sur. So we believe it’s pretty safe to upgrade to Big Sur.
Make your macOS perform better
Read more about how to upgrade mac os the right way
The only recommendation is to make sure your Mac is prepared well in advance. Free up storage with CleanMyMac X — you’ll need at least 20GB of free disk space — and back up data with Get Backup Pro just to be sure nothing disappears from your Mac. Both tools are on Setapp and available with a 7-day free trial.
Catalina vs Big Sur: Final verdict
The question “Should I upgrade to Big Sur or not?” doesn’t have an easy answer. But we say give it a try if you like the new iOS-inspired design and enhanced Safari. Also, macOS Big Sur is the best operating system for porting iOS apps — and, hopefully, running iOS apps in the near future. Summing it up, here’s the final look at Big Sur vs Catalina features:
Additional feedback and follow-up
More complaints, but also more positive feedback
Since publishing Part 2 of this ‘accidental series’ on Mac OS Catalina, I have received a couple dozen new email messages. Not all of them were negative, thankfully. The email count is currently at 107. This is a visual representation of the kind of feedback I received at the time of writing:
Among the negative email messages, there was one (thanks, Yaroslav!) reminding me of a specific issue regarding the loss of 32-bit apps in Catalina: “Right after I’ve ‘upgraded’ to Catalina in September, I’ve discovered that I am able to play almost none of the countless number of games that I have on my Steam account. For some reason, the majority of the games that have macOS ports are only in 32 bits. Since September, I can’t play any of them natively on my Mac.”Yaroslav also points out something I did notice myself, but forgot to mention: there are a lot of Mac games on Steam, even recent releases, with the following warning:
This product is not compatible with macOS 10.15 Catalina. Click here for more information.
Clicking on the link directs you to a Steam Support page called Steam and macOS 10.15 Catalina, providing some frequently asked questions on the matter. In replying to the question What are my options to make sure I can continue to play my 32-bit Mac apps?, Steam offers three solutions which can be summarised as follows: 1) Don’t upgrade to Catalina; 2) Upgrade to Catalina, but also install Mojave on another APFS volume together with Steam, and reboot into Mojave whenever you need to play 32-bit games; 3) Use Bootcamp to launch your games in Windows.
Being a Mac gamer has always been problematic. In the pre-Intel Mac days, the excuse for the relatively little amount of triple‑A titles for the Mac was that it was hard to port games for the PowerPC platform and that Macs were equipped with lesser, non-upgradable graphics cards than Windows PCs. When Macs adopted the Intel architecture, things started to improve, and more games have become available; but even today, a lot of famous game franchises are still Windows-only.
With Mac OS Catalina rendering a lot of existing titles unplayable natively, gaming on a Mac becomes an unnecessarily annoying affair. And maybe some of you don’t care about games on the Mac, and that’s fine, but even if you’re not into gaming, this remains a concern for the Mac as a platform.
As I said at the beginning, I also received messages with positive feedback. Jon writes “Just the upgraded Photos app is worth it alone for me”. Wes started by telling me about some initial issues after upgrading to Catalina (his Mac had become ’sluggish and unreliable’), but also added that after applying the last 10.15.3 update, things have suddenly and drastically improved (“This update has truly resurrected this machine”). He also reported no issues on two other Macs, a 2018 MacBook Air and his wife’s 2015 MacBook Air.
Hans too writes to point out how the 10.15.3 update appears to have improved his MacBook Pro’s reliability and responsiveness. This other remark of his is also worth mentioning: “I confess I didn’t trust Catalina enough to just upgrade over the previous Mojave installation, so I did a full backup with Carbon Copy Cloner on another disk, and then I did a fresh install of Catalina. Would be interesting to know how many of the people who say are happy with Catalina also did a fresh install like I did. I have the feeling Catalina is a kind of release you better install from scratch…”
I have the same feeling.
The security aspect
Patrick wrote me and raised another interesting question:
One thing that I’m always curious about, though, is security. A huge part of what I pay Apple for, and probably my number one motivation to ever upgrade, is the hope that it will make it harder for malicious actors to get malware running on my machine, steal my data, etc. If that’s going well, people aren’t going to notice much, but they’re getting a lot of value.
[…] But… it’s hard to gauge how well you’re being protected.
In recent years, security concerns have quickly reached the top of the list of reasons to upgrade or update your devices. Whenever I talk about my reluctance to upgrade my Macs or iOS devices, invariably someone pops up in my inbox telling me it’s ill-advised on my part to postpone updates (or to not apply them altogether) because in doing so, I’m unnecessarily exposing my machines to malware.
After all, isn’t malware for Mac on the rise? Well, it is. But we need to remember one important thing here: All software viruses are malware, while not all malware is software viruses. Virtually all malware today needs a social engineering element to succeed, and Mac malware is no different. In other words, users have to be fooled into thinking that they’re clicking on legitimate links or downloading legitimate or useful software, so that they themselves can authorise the malware-disguised-as-good-stuff to do naughty things on their Macs.
But Mac viruses? As in, software that can auto-install on your Mac without user intervention or authorisation, and that can replicate and infect other machines by itself? That’s another story. As Ben Lovejoy writes in his Comment: Mac malware is growing, but there are three important riders, “macOS doesn’t allow unsigned apps to be installed without user permission.” The last Mac virus I’ve dealt with was before Mac OS X, and I don’t even remember its name or what it did.
In other words, avoiding malware for Mac is a relatively easy task once you learn to pay attention and don’t just install whatever application or browser extension that ‘seems legit’. Doing a little homework pays a lot. Only install and execute apps and extensions from trusted sources. Read email messages carefully and before clicking any link, try to preview it by hovering the mouse over it.
Some messages are very well constructed, and I myself have received email notifications from “Apple” requiring me to log into my iCloud account “to verify my credentials” that really looked like emails from Apple. The logo, colours, fonts, even the language used, everything looked valid. But the link on the “Sign in to iCloud”, when previewed, clearly pointed to a very different website, certainly not Apple’s. Similarly, remember that your bank never sends you emails that require you to access your bank account. And remember, you never win prizes for contests and competitions you never participated in.
Before you jump down my throat saying that I’m minimising a crucial subject such as computer security, I’ll say that staying up-to-date is undoubtedly important because OS upgrades and incremental system security updates contain patches that hopefully fix known security vulnerabilities.
I’m still on Mac OS 10.13 High Sierra, and this release will receive security updates until Mac OS 10.16 comes out, since Apple typically keeps patching the two Mac OS releases prior to the current one. So, to those who wrote me saying that I’m a fool for not upgrading to Catalina because I’m leaving my Macs unprotected — Thanks for your concern, but my Macs are still fine at the moment. When 10.16 comes out, I’ll upgrade them to Mojave and they’ll remain protected for another year. This also buys me time so that I can see how Catalina evolves and what kind of release 10.16 will be.
Meanwhile, I can’t help making the following observation. I still use plenty of older Macs that connect to the Internet for long periods of time. My older 2009 MacBook Pro is online pretty much all the time, and runs Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan, a system release that isn’t receiving security updates anymore since Mojave was introduced in 2018. I have several PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard which certainly still have a lot of unpatched security vulnerabilities. I still haven’t encountered any malware-related issues while using these older machines. But yes, I’m definitely not an average computer user and I know what I’m doing.
Note: the message here isn’t, Don’t worry about security, you’ll be fine. It’s more like an attempt to consider security from different angles and wonder — at a practical level — where are the actual security risks when using older Mac OS versions and where is the FUD. And again, while I’m not minimising the importance of security, I also have the feeling that it’s increasingly being used as an excuse to induce people to update their devices, whether they’re ready or not. (‘They’ here refers to the people, but in some cases it can also refer to the devices).
And finally, as Patrick said, even when you have all your devices up-to-date it’s hard to gauge how well you’re being protected. The most useful thing a security update does for your Mac is to patch known vulnerabilities (emphasis on known). But no security update can automatically and reliably protect you from yourself. If your carelessness makes you download and execute dubious software, your beautifully updated system won’t do much to stop you. You have to stay informed and alert. Sometimes, a simple Web search is all it takes to find out that apps with names like “Awesome Mac Virus Defender Free” are a scam and the last thing they’ll do is keep your Mac safe.
Yes, Catalina goes out of its way to stop you from executing untrusted software. You may like this Let’s lock down as many parts of the system as possible approach. Some non-tech-savvy users are perhaps better served by being treated this way. I simply think that turning an operating system into the software equivalent of a paranoid police state isn’t a particularly refined solution, just the easiest to apply. Too bad it also has a serious impact on the development of legitimate software, as Mac developers today have to carry out a not insignificant amount of additional work to make their software compliant with Apple’s strictness.
Is this worthwhile? Well, this blunt approach to security certainly benefits some users, but it also feels overkill and exceedingly hostile towards a lot of other users with a minimum of experience using a Mac. This kind of security approach works wonders on iOS, but that’s because it’s also more compatible with the inherent structure of iOS. iOS was designed from the start to be a more compartmentalised system. Mac OS, quite the opposite. Transforming the nature of an open and versatile system as Mac OS by enveloping it in a stifling security blanket designed for iOS is a simplistic and coarse-grained solution — effective to a point, but not without collateral damage.
The “Selection bias” argument
Part 2 of Mac OS Catalina: more trouble than it’s worth was picked up by sites like Hacker News and Lobsters. When Hacker News picked up my first post on the subject, I went there and checked out the discussion, and even joined it where I thought I could clarify some points. It largely felt like a waste of time and, yes, I should have known better.
I did not make the same mistake the second time around, but I briefly went and checked out Lobsters because (apologies to Lobsters’ users) it was the first time I had heard of it. In passing, I read someone commenting that the anecdotal data I presented in Part 2 didn’t really prove anything and my assumptions were affected by the so-called Selection bias.
Macos Catalina Worth It Reddit
In other words, since the majority of feedback I’ve received on Mac OS Catalina is negative, I can use this to conclude that Catalina is a terrible release. Look how many people are having trouble!
But that is not the point I’m making. In fact, in Part 2 I didn’t write “Mac OS Catalina is a terrible release and it’s giving all kinds of issues to most Mac users”. What I did write is that the initial observation I made in October 2019 (what Catalina takes away from me is more than what it gives me) “four months later seems to be true for a few more people”. And that’s it. I never planned to use the feedback I’ve received about Catalina — which is clearly anecdotal data — to prove a point.
Nothing openly prescriptive
In fact, I did not and do not need to use (negative) feedback to back up my assessment of Mac OS Catalina. I know it is, at best, a disruptive release. I know because I’ve collected enough information over these past months to have a pretty clear picture of what I would get into should I decide to upgrade.
The big misunderstanding here is that I’m somehow urging people to avoid upgrading. I’m not. Remember, all this started from a very personal angle: Catalina is more trouble than it’s worth… for me. I’m at a point where I cannot afford to potentially lose time and sleep over a Mac OS release that is more likely to give me headaches than anything really worth upgrading.
Plus, given that my iMac has a regular hard disk and the new APFS file system is not optimised for hard disks (it has been designed to take advantage of SSDs), why would I risk a noticeable decrease in disk performance?
I still rely on some 32-bit apps, and enjoy many games that would become unplayable under Catalina. I still enjoy a stable and reliable Mac OS release that gives me access to software I wouldn’t be able to use under Catalina without resorting to more convoluted solutions like virtualisation or dual-booting. Why would I want to upgrade?
If I need to use Catalina for something work-related, I’ll get a used Mac that can run it, and perform a fresh install. Sure, it feels expensive and overkill. I shall take a page from Apple’s security approach here — Better safe than sorry.
But this is me. These are my assessments of Mac OS Catalina. This is my strategy. My initial article only wanted to outline this — Personal observations, personal strategies, commentary on the direction Apple is driving Mac OS. My only intent was to raise awareness about Catalina’s disruptive qualities. And that Catalina is a disruptive release — both from a technical standpoint and from a user interaction standpoint — is a fact, not an opinion.
The best feedback I have received is from people who didn’t know much about the changes Catalina introduced, and who thanked me for the information provided. That in turn helped them think more about their strategy and make some hopefully more informed decisions.
And that’s really it.
A heartfelt thank you to all the people who have been reading and taking the time to send me feedback via email. It’s really, really appreciated.
Mac Os Catalina Worth It
Itunes For Macos Catalina
Mac OS Catalina: more trouble than it’s worth (Part 3) was originally published by Riccardo Mori on Morrick.me.