As an Apple device, MacBooks have long been known for their future-proofing capabilities. They offer great support for future software updates and tend to maintain their performance over time, unlike other devices on the market. This raises the question: how long can I expect my MacBook to last?
Based on my research, MacBooks typically last for about 5-6 years, depending on how frequently you use them and the type of tasks you perform. As time goes on, you may notice that your battery life has significantly decreased, and you may need to consider upgrading to a newer model.
In this article, I will delve into the topic of how long MacBooks last, drawing from my own personal experiences, as well as provide tips on how to extend the lifespan of your MacBook. Additionally, I will discuss when it might be time to upgrade. So, stay tuned for more!
The Lifespan Of Macbooks: Explained
Macbooks generally last for 5-6 years. But how did I get to that figure? Well, it revolves around a number of factors that boil up to the Macbook lasting this particular amount of time. Let’s take a look:
Perhaps the most important part of a laptop’s lifespan is how long the manufacturer supports it. Unlike Windows, which you can format and boot in any laptop and pray to God it works on your older machine, newer versions of macOS need to be officially signed by Apple for your device for them to work.
Now, considering this fact, with every major update, Apple naturally discontinues support for some of their older models each year. Here’s a quick look at how they’ve been doing that:
|OS||OS Release Date||Earliest Supported Device||Supported Release Time|
|macOS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)||February 16, 2012||MacBook Pro (2007)||5 years|
|macOS 10.14 (Mojave)||June 4, 2018||Mac Pro (Mid 2010)||8 years|
|macOS 13 (Ventura)||June 6, 2022||iMac (2017)||5 years|
With this table above, we can clearly see that Apple tends to support a Macbook in terms of software for about 5 years. Some operating systems, such as Mojave, do operate as exceptions. But, in most cases, if your Macbook is more than 5 years old, don’t expect the latest version of macOS to be there.
But, this brings forth another question, do you need to be on the latest version of macOS for it to operate properly? No, you don’t need to be on the latest version of macOS for you to have a usable experience. In fact, a Macbook can last as much as 1-2 years after it has received its large major update and still work fine.
The only point where you will start encountering errors is when developer support starts to cease for that particular OS. So, when your applications aren’t updated, and you aren’t getting security updates for that version of macOS, that’s when you’ll be at the risk of a cyber attack.
Your Macbook’s lifespan is depending on how powerful it was once you first got it. Think about it this way; if you purchased a Macbook Air in 2013, a laptop known to be low-specced even when it was first released, you’d be running into lag and performance issues by this time now.
On the other hand, if you purchase a top-of-the-line Macbook Pro, you’ll have a much better time. In fact, you’ll be able to still use applications like Photoshop or Logic simply because the laptop had the headroom to do so.
So, depending on how futureproof your laptop is, you’ll either be going through a great time with your old laptop or won’t be able to run even the most basic of applications. To bring that into perspective, here’s a quick look at what specifications you’ll need to be going through an average workload with a Macbook in 2023:
|CPU||Intel Core i7 3rd / 4th Generation or better|
Taking a look at these specifications, we land at the Macbook Pro 2012 model. Unsurprisingly, the laptop is about 10 years old and does not support the latest version of macOS. Instead, it runs macOS Catalina.
But, if you had this laptop right now, you wouldn’t run into lag or performance issues when going through a basic workload. Yes, there’ll be some hiccups here and there. But what else do you expect from a 10-year-old laptop?
If we were to move on forward to a Macbook Pro 2014, you’d be greeted with a much more usable experience with macOS Big Sur readily available for install. In essence, your specifications play a major role in how long your Macbook can last.
On the other hand, if you had a Macbook Air from 2013 / 2014, you wouldn’t really be able to use it besides just for word editing or basic web browsing. This is because the Macbook Air is meant to be a budget laptop. So, it never had the best specifications, even when it was released.
Couple that with a demand for better system resources, and systems that were budget oriented simply can’t keep up as they weren’t designed with the future in mind.
Battery life is truly where a Macbook begins to show its age. And, the decline in battery life isn’t governed by how old a Mac is. Instead, its dictated by how much you’ve used it and under what conditions. For instance, the temperature can play a huge role in your battery health. If you live in extreme temperatures, hot or cold, your battery health ends up degrading much quicker.
Moreover, if you keep your Macbook plugged in all the time or use it a lot, chances are that your battery has given up by now. While a battery replacement is a very viable solution, you’ll need to end up deciding whether it is worth it to do so in the first place. Here’s a quick table to help you out:
|Macbook Release Year||Replace Battery?|
|2014||Yes (If running fine)|
|2013||Yes (If running fine)|
The reason why you shouldn’t change the batteries of older models is that they’re going to be causing performance issues in a few months anyways. And, the cost of you replacing their battery has probably superseded their actual price by now. So, you are better off purchasing a new model when the battery health / life of these laptops degrades beyond a certain point.
If you still want to keep using your Macbook even with poor battery health, we recommend just keeping it plugged into AC power all the time. While this is harmful to your battery, what’s going to harm an already ruined battery? So, to squeeze in the last ounces of life from your Macbook, turning it into a desktop PC isn’t a bad idea at all.
The final nail in the coffin for a Macbook, is your use case. For a game developer, a Mac won’t last more than 2-3 years. Why? Because they need the latest and greatest in hardware to keep up with the market. On the other hand, for a teacher, a Macbook may last over 6-7 years simply because they don’t need the latest GPU to send out Emails.
Your use case, as you might’ve guessed, is dependent on you. Depending on whether you are a hardcore user or someone who just watches YouTube videos on their Macbook, the longevity of your Macbook will greatly vary.
I’ve done a few surveys around the office, and here’s my estimate for how long your Macbook will last depending on your use case:
|Intensive||Video Editing, Gaming (who does that on a Mac?), Photo Editing, Music Production||2-3 years|
|Moderate||Programming, Lightroom, Basic Video Editing||4-5 years|
|Basic||Web Browsing, Watching Movies, Sending Emails||6-8 years|
Looking at the table above, it’s clear that the use case plays a huge role in the overall life span of your Macbook and must be taken into accord before you decide to upgrade.
When Should I Upgrade My Macbook? When Is My Mac Obsolete?
Now that we’ve gotten the hang of why a Macbook has a particular lifespan, it is important to look at the telltale signs for your own laptop. Some issues, such as lag, may be fixed. So, we’re going to be taking a look at all the signs as to when you should upgrade your Macbook.
Major Hardware Damage
If your Macbook has cracks, scuffs and scratches all over, it is time for an upgrade. Plain and simple. Apple, generally speaking, doesn’t offer the best repair plans and isn’t too keen on you being able to afford cheap spare parts.
So, if your laptop is forking up a repair bill that’s in the hundreds of dollars, it is better to just trade in your laptop (if possible), or sell it for parts. After doing so, an upgrade is what makes the most sense. You really shouldn’t be spending a lot on repairs on an old laptop simply because it isn’t worth the investment in the long run.
If you have data to recover from the old laptop, there are multiple data recovery services that’ll help extract the data of your laptop before you eventually sell it.
Poor Battery Life
If you have poor battery life, it’s time for an upgrade or a replacement. We’ve already talked about what year your Macbook should be from for the replacement to make sense. However, in most cases, once again – repairs aren’t that cheap. So, you’ll be much better off opting for an upgrade simply because it’ll be more worth it in the long run.
Your Hardware Isn’t Keeping Up
If you are running into constant lag and performance issues, your Macbook is now rendered obsolete. This is because there is no way for you to upgrade your Macbook’s CPU or GPU. The most you can do is upgrade your RAM on certain models.
And, even if that’s the case, a RAM or storage upgrade isn’t really going to be increasing your speed or will suddenly let you run more demanding applications. Before you update, though, we recommend resetting your Macbook to ensure it isn’t macOS that’s the culprit.
You Aren’t Getting The Latest Software Updates
If you see the Apple Keynote, flock down to your laptop in the hopes of updating your laptop only to see the dreaded You are on the latest version of macOS message, congratulations, your laptop is now obsolete.
As we’ve discussed prior, this isn’t the end of the world. Oftentimes, you’ll be able to use your laptop for years before you run into any real trouble due to your outdated OS. But, it still serves as a telltale sign that an upgrade might be due in the near future.
You Don’t Have Enough Storage
If you run out of local storage, it may be time for an upgrade. Generally, macOS is great with file management. And, iCloud help give you an extra dose of cloud storage if you need it. But, not everything can be stored online. So, instead of carrying out USBs and expansion drives, an upgrade is a quick and easy fix to all your low storage woes.
The Macbook is a more than capable laptop that has long stood the test of time as being one of the most durable product lineups made by any company. With that said, all good things come to an end. And, from our observation, your Macbook should last you at least 6 years. Anything after that is just a bonus.
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I love tech and all about it. I'm interested in finding ways how they can make my life more productive, and I share my knowledge with my blog readers. I'm an iPad Pro, iPhone, MacBook, and Apple Watch user, so I know a thing or two about these devices and try to write helpful content around these topics.