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Do You REALLY Have to Upgrade Your OS When Asked?

macOS Sonoma 14 is the current version at the time of publication.

It happens to all of us; you’re minding your own business, when suddenly you get hectored by your computer that you need to update your operating system (OS). The question that begs to be asked – should I do it? It IS free, after all! There should be a simple answer, right?

Well, not really. As annoying people say on their social media profiles about their relationship, “it’s complicated!” That’s because there are TWO types of updates that prompt you to install them – the OS version and the incremental upgrades within the OS version.

OK, I’m sure I lost a lot of you there, but keep reading, it does get better! The OS VERSION is name and number of the operating system. The current OS version is named Sonoma, which is the 14th version of the macOS. There have been a few incremental updates released for Sonoma, which is why the current OS available is 14.1.1.

So why does Apple insist on releasing newer and newer operating systems? Mostly due to security updates and new features. Sure, many of the features are “behind the scenes,” things that help make your computer more functional and/or efficient, but you never know they’re doing their thing.

So, Apple goes ahead (with great fanfare) to release a new version of its OS, chock full of new features and stuff, which generally happens annually. In between releases, of course, there are the incremental updates. These are usually minor, mostly fixing bugs and patching up security flaws that are discovered once the software is out there.

But – back to our original question: Do I always have to update when a new OS version is released?

Depends. (How’s that for a non-answer?) There are a bunch of items you have to consider. These include (in no particular order):

  • Is my computer new enough to handle the latest OS? The good news is that it won’t allow you to start installation if your hardware isn’t new enough.
  • Am I running any software that might not be compatible with the new OS? This is all third-party software we’re talking about – not the software that comes preloaded on the Mac. Programs like QuickBooks, FileMaker, and all sorts of high-end audio and video software have had issues here in the past. If you’re using anything that isn’t the standard Zoom, Google Chrome, or Microsoft Office, you will want to do your homework to make sure your software is compatible with the latest OS. Some programs might need a free update, while others might require a paid upgrade to a new version.
  • Do I have enough space on my hard drive? Most installers take up a few gigabytes of space, so if things are getting tight in the storage department, then best to hold off until you tidy things up in there.
  • And finally, do I really need it? It might not be necessary. If things aren’t broken, don’t break them. Keep on running it until you have to upgrade.

As far as incremental updates go (known as “patches” in the Windows world), it’s best to install them when they arrive. They usually do very little in the area of functionality, mostly they’re used for is to repair security issues have been discovered in the OS since it’s been public.


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One thought on “Do You REALLY Have to Upgrade Your OS When Asked?
  1. Ginny Hull Hartline

    Good advice Chris. I have a full-service graphic design company and I am still on Monterey OS 12.7.1 and an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber of course. Mostly QuickBooks holds me back from future OS upgrades, but when we must, we do upgrade!


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