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Wait. What?

After the fanfare of the new Apple Watch and iPhone 7, Apple also quietly announced that the next version of Mac OS 10.12 ‘Sierra’ will be officially released on September 20. While this date is important for everyone with the newest Macs as they eagerly await the next version of Mac OS, that date is equally important for people running older computers, but for a completely different reason.

Historically, when Apple releases a new OS, they immediately remove the older version from the App Store. What that means to users of older Mac is that when 10.12 Sierra is released, it is very likely Apple will remove 10.11 El Capitan from the Mac App store.

Normally this isn’t a big deal. However, Sierra introduces many new technologies, so for the first time since 2012, Apple has updated the minimum system requirements to run this new OS. As such, there are a number of computers that can currently run El Capitan that won’t be able to run Sierra.

Once Apple removes El Capitan from the App Store, people who have those older systems won’t be able to install 10.12 Sierra – their system won’t support it, AND they won’t be able to install 10.11 El Capitan because it will no longer be available as a download.

Use the chart below to find out which operating system works on your Mac:

Apple Mac OSX chart

*Age of supported machines at time of OS release

Note: as an historical point of reference, when Snow Leopard was released in 2009, it left three-year-old Macs behind

If your computer was made prior to 2010, it probably won’t run Sierra. MacBooks and iMacs from 2009 are especially tricky because Apple’s requirements specify “Late 2009.” However, there were several models of MacBook and iMac which were released in “Early 2009” and “Mid 2009” that won’t work.

It is for this reason we encourage anyone who has a Macintosh made prior to 2010 to download the El Capitan installer now before Sierra is released (and before El Capitan is removed from the App Store). If your computer is not eligible for the download it will let you know. See the image below. Even if you don’t want to install El Capitan now, at least you have the installer already downloaded for later use. This way, you can have a copy of OS 10.11 and not have to worry about it being unavailable on the App Store.

Go here to download the El Capitan installer.

It’s essential to back up your hard drive before you make any upgrades, that way information, photos and documents are not lost. You can find out more about which Macs are eligible for the upgrade here. If you own an older computer, 2010 or prior, you may want to hold off on the upgrade until you have a chance to look over reviews that look into the effects of  the new OS on your older Mac and any current applications.

P.S. Below is an example of what happens when you try to install El Capitan on an older computer that doesn’t support it. You can’t install it, AND you will be unable to install Mavericks or Yosemite since Apple no longer offers them as new downloads on the App Store. You can re-download older versions of the OS but ONLY if you *already* have them in your purchase history.