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Articles: A summary of the different versions of Mac OS X


At PowerMax, we sell new and used Macs. Our used Macs often come with previous versions of Mac OS X, and our customers sometimes would like to know what the differences are between different versions. The following article is a synopsis of each major OS X version since OS X 10.4 Tiger. Before upgrading any Macintosh, iPad, or iPhone, we recommend talking to a PowerMax representative to ensure your entire system operates the way you want it to.


OS X 10.4 Tiger

  • Tiger was the first version of OS X to run on Intel processors
  • PPC hardware running Tiger is also able to run older OS 9 software using Classic
  • Introduced Spotlight
  • Latest version is 10.4.11

*iTunes 9.2.1 is the latest version for Tiger and is not compatible with iOS 4.2 or higher


OS X 10.5 Leopard

  • Leopard was the last version of OS X to run on PPC hardware
  • Time Machine was introduced in Leopard
  • The ability to use OS 9 programs with Classic has been removed
  • Latest version is 10.5.8

*iTunes 10.6.3 is the latest version for Leopard and is not compatible with iOS 8 or higher


OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

  • Snow Leopard was the first version of OS X to only support Intel processors and was the first to be 64bit
  • Has Rosetta which allows older software written for PPC to run on Intel
  • Introduced the App Store which allows further OS X upgrades
  • Latest version is 10.6.8
  • A DVD of Snow Leopard 10.6.3 can be purchased here

*iTunes 11.4 is the latest version for Snow Leopard and is not compatible with iOS 9


OS X 10.7 Lion

  • First version of OS X to be download only through the App Store and isn’t available on a disc
  • Last version of OS X to support Intel machines with 32bit EFI
  • The ability to run PPC software is completely gone
  • Introduced iCloud to OS X
  • Apps that support it can use new Full Screen mode
  • Latest version is 10.7.5 
  • App Store code to download can be purchased here

*iTunes 12.2.2 is the latest version for Lion and doesn’t officially support iOS 9 but does work


OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

  • First version of OS X to be fully 64bit
  • Introduced Notifications, documents in iCloud, Gatekeeper, AirPlay mirroring, and Reminders/Notes apps
  • Latest version is 10.8.5
  • App Store code to download can be purchased here


OS X 10.9 Mavericks

  • It was the first free version of OS X and also the first to discontinue the cat-naming scheme of previous versions
  • Introduced iBooks and Maps apps
  • Added the ability to organize files and folders with Tags
  • Better multi-display support
  • Tabs in Finder
  • iCloud Keychain
  • Latest version is 10.9.5


OS X 10.10 Yosemite

  • Redesigned to look more like iOS
  • More info in Notification Center
  • New and improved Spotlight
  • Introduced MailDrop which allows attachments up to 5GB to be sent via email
  • Introduced Mail Markups which allows doing minor edits to attached images in Mail
  • Introduced Handoff which allows answering calls from an iPhone on your computer (only certain models of computers and iPhones support this, click here for more info)
  • Version 10.10.3 introduced the ability to use external 4K displays at 60Hz (only certain models support this) and the Photos app which has replaced iPhoto
  • Latest version is 10.10.5


OS X 10.11 El Capitan

  • Introduced on September 30, 2015
  • New system font, San Fransisco
  • Allows using 2 apps at the same time full screen with new Split View mode
  • Moving the mouse quickly now makes the cursor grow larger if you’ve lost it on screen
  • Introduced Metal, a new graphics API with better performance (only Mid 2012 machines and newer support it)


Any computer capable of running OS X Mountain Lion 10.8 is also capable of running Mavericks 10.9, Yosemite 10.10, or El Capitan 10.11. A minimum of 2GB of RAM is required for all of these versions, and 4GB or more is recommended. For older machines with Core 2 Duo processors, it is recommended to install the maximum amount of RAM the machine will allow for the newer versions of OS X.

PowerMax also recommends that your contact your PowerMax representative before upgrading any OS or iOS. Apple provides regular reminders to upgrade, but this may not always be in your best interest, depending on your peripherals, especially with products like the iPhone and iPad. We're always happy to help!


By Scott Lowry, PowerMax Service Technician

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