6 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Mac

Ben Stegner Updated 08-12-2019

While Apple’s computer hardware lasts a long time, you’ll still have to say goodbye to your Mac at some point. If you’ve had trouble with your machine, you might wonder when to get a new MacBook or if you should stay with your current one a bit longer.


Let’s look at some of the major signs that your Mac is out of date. We’ll look at ways you can work around these issues, plus consider whether it’s time to purchase a new computer.

How Long Do Macs Last?

Whether you’re taking stock of your old machine or thinking about the value of a new purchase, you might wonder how long MacBooks and other Mac models last.

There isn’t an exact answer for this, as it depends on a variety of factors. Someone who only uses their Mac for web browsing can get away with using the same machine for longer than someone who runs dozens of apps and does high-intensity tasks like video editing.

The definitions from Apple’s Vintage and Obsolete products page give an idea of device longevity. Vintage products are devices that stopped being manufactured between five and seven years ago. A product is considered obsolete if it was discontinued more than seven years ago.

Taking a look at macOS compatibility (discussed below), we can see that generally, Macs are eligible for the latest macOS version for about seven years. Apple generally supports each macOS version for three years.


Third-party apps are a bit more generous. As of this writing, popular apps like Chrome, Dropbox, and Spotify all require OS X 10.10 Yosemite (released in 2014) or above.

Chrome System Requirements

Taking all this together, say you bought a brand-new Mac in 2019. It would likely receive macOS updates until 2026. The OS released in 2026 would receive support from Apple until 2029, and most third-party tools until at least 2031.

This means that in general, you can expect about 10 years of life from a Mac, barring any unforeseen hardware issues. Now let’s look at some signs your Mac is at the end of its life.


1. You Can’t Run the Latest Version of macOS

macOS About This Mac

Each year around September/October, Apple releases a new version of macOS. Mac models from the past several years are capable of running it. This means if your computer won’t upgrade to the latest edition of macOS, it’s becoming obsolete.

At the time of writing, the release of macOS 10.15 Catalina is imminent. The following Mac models will receive the update:

  • MacBook (2015 and later)
  • MacBook Air (2012 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (2012 and later)
  • iMac (2012 and later)
  • iMac Pro (2017 and later)
  • Mac Pro (2013 and later)
  • Mac mini (2012 and later)

If your computer isn’t on that list, it’s likely entered Obsolete status. As mentioned earlier, while you won’t get any new macOS features, you’ll still be able to use your computer as-is for a while.


But after a year or two, you won’t receive security updates and third-party software might stop working. This means you’ll need to think about upgrading soon.

2. A Constant Lack of Free Space

macOS Storage menu

As technology advances, apps and files continue to take up more space. This results in a constant struggle for free space for anyone who has an older machine with a paltry amount of storage.

If you have a 128GB or even 256GB SSD in your MacBook, you probably have to juggle files to free up space constantly. This might mean freeing up space on your Mac How to Free Up Space on Mac: 8 Tips and Tricks You Need to Know Running out of storage space on your Mac? Here are several ways to free up space on Mac and reclaim your drive space! Read More whenever possible, or possibly adding more storage to your Mac How to Add More Storage to Your MacBook: 6 Methods That Work Running out of space on your MacBook? Here are all your options for adding more storage space to your MacBook. Read More with an external hard drive or other methods.


You can use these workarounds to survive with a small amount of space for a while. But once you get sick of them, it’s time to upgrade to a new Mac with plenty of storage space.

3. Your Machine’s Components Aren’t Powerful Enough

Macbook Pro Keyboard

Your storage disk is just one computer component that declines with age. A lack of RAM will prevent you from running many applications at once, and an old CPU means tasks like editing 4K video are extremely slow or impossible. You’ll also notice overall system performance suffers.

Another components that takes a hit over the years is the battery in MacBooks. Rechargeable batteries only have a certain number of cycles before they’re “spent” and don’t hold a charge for long. macOS will warn you when your battery is getting to the end of its life.

If you’ve used the battery extensively, it might only last an hour before you need to charge it. You can get around this by always using your laptop on the charger, but that sacrifices the portability, of course.

If you have an older Mac, you might be able to upgrade or mitigate these issues somewhat by adding more RAM How to Upgrade the RAM on Your Mac Learn how to check if you can replace your Mac's RAM, where to buy RAM, and how to upgrade it in this Mac RAM upgrade guide. Read More , swapping the HDD for an SSD, or replacing the battery. However, this is basically impossible on newer Mac models, as most components are soldered to the motherboard.

The money you would spend on a professional hardware upgrade or battery replacement is almost certainly better put towards a new machine. Apple’s service page states that it costs between $129 and $199 for a Mac battery replacement, which isn’t cheap.

4. Hardware Damages

Damaged MacBook
Image credit: AlexMF/Wikimedia Commons

An obvious reason you need to replace your MacBook is when it suffers serious physical damage. Maybe you dropped it and damaged the hard drive, or slammed the screen down on some debris and cracked it.

In these cases, your computer is unusable until you get it fixed or replace it. And as discussed above, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pour hundreds of dollars into an obsolete machine when you can get a new one that will last longer.

Barring a major hardware catastrophe, a long list of small issues can quickly become a big problem too. An old computer is often a lot like an old car. You can live with a few odd issues if they don’t impact your ability to use it properly, but eventually something big will go wrong and you’ll have to decide whether to fix it or upgrade.

Little problems, like your charger not working unless it’s in just the right spot, dead pixels on the display, stuck keys, and crackling speakers aren’t necessarily cause for a replacement. But when your computer has so many small quirks that it’s barely usable, you should cut your losses and look into a replacement machine that will perform much better.

5. Frequent Software Issues

macOS Disk Utility

An outdated Mac can also manifest itself through software issues. You might experience frequent OS freezes, where everything becomes unresponsive. Other common issues include visual glitches and random shutdowns.

When you experience these, you should make sure you have enough space free as discussed earlier. If an SMC and PRAM reset How to Do an SMC and PRAM/NVRAM Reset on Your Mac A reset of the SMC and PRAM/NVRAM can help any Mac, including MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, run smoothly again. Read More don’t fix the problem, you should try reinstalling macOS How to Reinstall macOS for a Fast and Squeaky Clean Mac Need to restore your Mac to factory settings? Here's how to install a fresh copy of macOS and erase everything. Read More and see if your problems persist.

Hopefully they disappear after this troubleshooting. But if not, you likely have hardware issues and should considering upgrading your Mac.

6. The Timing Is Right

MacRumors Buying Guide

Maybe you’re ready to upgrade your Mac, but you can live with whatever issues it has and don’t need to buy one right away. In that case, you should wait for the right time to get a new Mac.

Apple releases new models for most Mac machines yearly. You shouldn’t buy one right before the new models release, as you can wait a bit longer to get a brand-new machine that will last longer for the same price.

Before you buy, check out the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide. This keeps track of Apple hardware releases so you don’t get caught spending full price on an old model.

If you can’t afford the latest model or want to save some money, you can opt for an older or refurbished model. Just keep in mind that the older the computer you buy, the sooner it will become obsolete.

Check out some tips on saving money when buying a MacBook 5 Ways to Save Money When Buying a MacBook Looking to get a MacBook for cheap? Here are some useful tips for saving the most money when you buy a Mac laptop. Read More for advice.

Know When to Get a New Mac

We’ve looked at the major signs that it’s time to upgrade your MacBook or iMac, plus how long a Mac generally lasts. Your exact mileage will vary with your usage and computing needs, but it’s clear that Macs have a reliable reputation for a reason.

If you really can’t afford a new machine at the moment, have a look at ways to make an old Mac feel like new How to Make an Old Mac, MacBook, or iMac Faster Want to make your old Mac run faster? Here are some tips on how to make your Mac feel faster, even if it's super old. Read More . And if your Mac has slowed down after updating it, use these tips to improve the speed and performance of the newly updated system 3 Ways to Speed Up macOS Catalina and Improve Performance If you updated to macOS Catalina and find that your system is slow, here are some simple fixes to help restore performance. Read More .

Related topics: Buying Tips, Hardware Tips, iMac, Mac Tips, MacBook.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Pixturesk
    May 21, 2020 at 10:15 am

    I am writing this on an early 2008 iMac running El Capitan, got it in 2015 (never buy new!!) from a local techie who upped the ram to 4GB, the 320GB to 1TB, completely serviced this cosmetically excellent computer. So I feel that my early 2008 iMac is current enough for me. Even with El Capitan, runs faster, more reliably than with Yosemite, Mavericks + Mountain Lion. This iMac is my only Apple tech (Android phone, Surface 2 tablet again used) an interesting variety of tech for me.

  2. Restless Nomad
    April 21, 2020 at 8:01 am

    I think one thing that is lost upon many in this comment thread is that comparing your older MacBook to the ones made since about 2016ish is an unfair comparison. With the older ones you could open them up...replace or upgrade parts; newer battery, more RAM (most would accept double what Apple originally claimed they would support), a SSD vs a slower spinning could push that Mac & drag it kicking and screaming into modern times. But since all that glue, soldered memory, more difficult screws, and building the current SSD tech onto the logic board have all but guaranteed that a 2019 MacBook Pro almost certainly won’t be extendable like the old ones were (and still are in some cases).

    But all that griping aside.....the specs on the newest MacBook Pro model (only) are probably the first serious computer Apple has authored in quite some time. If you were to find a way to get that baby maximum-spec’d out.....64 GB DDR4 RAM & 8 TB SSD @ 6000 RW Speed’s.......even if you could never switch up the’d have a machine that would still easily compile code and edit video beyond all the writing in 2030.

    The way to look at it is this....whether its a Mac or a PC its gonna cost you about $600 per year ($50 per mo) before its obsolete. With a’ll buy a $3,000 machine every 5 years for the same performance and usability a single MacBook Pro can give you over 10 years for $6,000 upfront cost. But whether its 2 machines in 10 years or 1 in 10 years.....the money spends the same. It just boils down to preference and personal needs. A gamer/suit will choose a PC.....a creative/student will choose a Mac.....and the other 5%.......will take that obsolete 5 yr old PC and throw Linux on it and keep on trucking another 5 yrs Windows-free.

  3. Luis Carlos Zardo
    January 16, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    Replace for what? Unless it´s a windows PC, I see no point in doing so.

    I´m currently looking to replace my 5 years old macbook air, but...

    Newest macbook air are basically the EXACT same thing I already have, aside for a better screen.

    I´m not going to even touch any pc equipped wilh less than an i7 chip, macbooks air still use outdated older generations i5, 128 GB storage which is ridiculous, only 8 gb of RAM, no GPU at all...

    Overpriced macbooks pro also have ridiculous specs and useless videocards

    and it goes along the whole mac line, including the premium priced "pro" line which have less than entry level videocards...

    sorry apple, I´m done with it.

  4. Lynn Anderton
    October 13, 2019 at 9:25 am

    Just get a normal Windows computer. Problems solved.

    • peter
      November 5, 2019 at 6:29 pm

      I write this on my MacBook Pro from 2011. Still going strong. Has just 4 GB of RAM (but MacOS is a lot more efficient than Windows), no problems, only thing I did is replace the HDD for an SSD. Battery still lasts for about 5 hours doing regular work. Not bad for an almost 9 year old machine I think. Oh, our Windows desktop? Nobody in the house has touched that anymore after all update problems, time and again...

  5. Mike Walsh
    October 10, 2019 at 1:28 am

    Well, that's about what we've all come to expect from Crapple. After 'X' years of providing new Oses and security updates, the final act of indignity is to send a last 'patch' to your machine.....which 'bricks' it, and ensures you have no choice BUT to continue on the hamster-wheel of Apple consumerism, and upgrade to a new one.....

    Typical. [rolls eyes]

    • joe
      October 18, 2019 at 1:41 am

      pretty sure it's got to do with the hardware within your laptop but ok boomer

  6. Amy
    December 21, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    Still using my MacBook Air made in 2010! The metal corners are bashed and bent, but it’s still a champ. I only a few months ago had to replace the battery which cost $150 total. Not bad!

  7. Terry McQuade
    July 23, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    I think theree's a typo here: "Vintage products are those manufactured more than five and less than seven years ago." Should the second number be 17 years?

  8. MRH
    March 19, 2016 at 3:30 am

    Note that you can now get 16GB memory on a 15" late-2010 MBP. I upgraded mine with that and a 128GB SSD. Plenty fast for second computer, and it runs El Capitan with no problems.

  9. CheeseWizLatte
    March 3, 2016 at 12:29 am

    I'm writing this on a 2010 mac mini. I also have my 2001 PowerBook G4 that I use when I'm out and about (yes, really)

    I learned a few years ago that I can get a bit more life out of my hardware by simply not upgrading the software unless there was a feature that I genuinely thought I needed it. I used my iPhone 4 up until two months ago when my wife got me the newest model for christmas.

  10. Sillysack Buttowski
    March 1, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    What the hell! Everyone uses such advanced computers and still complain and whine that they're old. It's 3/1/2016 and I have a Lenovo PC with 4GB RAM with 3.47GB usable! An INTEL Core2Duo E8400 processor running at 3.00GHz.No Graphics card either! Ugh! And no plans for buying a new and better one if this one goes bad. And to top it off, I think this is ten folds fast compared to my previous one. Damn it! Damn this computer!

    • CheeseWizLatte
      March 3, 2016 at 12:34 am

      You're computer is still comparable to mid-range computers being sold right now, let alone 5-7 years old. You should be fine until you push a kid through Kindergarten

      • Sillysack Buttowski
        March 5, 2016 at 7:40 am

        Well, I use my computer to do what people do on high-end ones. It's slowness and hanging drives me crazy, plus, I have no more space on my hard drive. I must have at most 5GB free of my 120GB capacity and I just "can't!" delete anything to free some space. I can't even play decent Minecraft on it. Yes, I use Optifine at the lowest possible settings and yet it lags like crazy! It makes me cringe so much.

    • Jouni "rautamiekka" Järvinen
      December 9, 2016 at 9:57 pm

      There's no way your computer would work if it didn't have a GPU, which you obviously have in the motherboard itself.

  11. Anonymous
    February 12, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    Thanks for this - quite useful for me! My MBP was purchased in mid 2012 to replace my aging MB 13" running on Tiger OSX..... Am very happy that it seems like I do not have to purchase a new one just yet!

    However - I haven't updated to El Capitan yet.. have been waiting for a bit before I do anything ;) (that tends to mean a long time, actually!) I am still using Mountain Lion (le GASP) but no problems so far.

    • Bryan Wolfe
      March 4, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      Unfortunately, Apple makes it so difficult NOT to upgrade. They give the OS away for free, stop supporting older versions, etc.

  12. Charlie
    February 5, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    I've been using a mid-2010 Macbook Pro since purchased in late 2010. It's had the RAM increased to 8GB as well as a modest SSD (they were a heckuva lot more expensive back then).

    The battery was replaced once under Apple Care. That battery too was replaced, by me, a little over a year ago. Like many other MBP users I was under the impression that only Apple was capable of replacing an aluminum uni-body MBPro's battery. One trip to dissolved that myth and provided me with ample how-to info and illustrations for the task.

    • Jorge
      September 23, 2016 at 6:25 am

      how often do you recommend for a battery replacement?

  13. -rob-
    February 5, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Im writing this from an iMac 24" (end 2006, 2.16 Intel core dua, 4GB)) running OSX 10.7.5 . The only thing I did to it some years ago was replacing the disk with a 256 Gb SSD.

    This thing is fast enough for day to day work.
    I am now not able anymore to upgrade the OS, and that also makes I can't update LibreOffice anymore.

    I've still on my planning to see if I can tweak the system to accept OSX updates.. Don't know if that's possible, but I am going to give it a try.

  14. Anonymous
    February 4, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    I had a PC for 5 years and it was good but then I decided to try Apple so I bought an iMac and had it for 5 years. I then bought my second iMac and it is now 5 years old and running like a top. I will someday get my third iMac since I do like Apple better. The software is great and the hardware is top notch.

  15. J. Smith
    February 4, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Upgade to a real PC. You won't regret it!

    • Rocco Rizzo
      February 19, 2016 at 9:50 pm

      When Windows "edition 7" came out, I did the ver command against it. I found out that it was actually VERSION 6.1. I said to myself, this stinks! Vista with a point upgrade. I had always wanted to try a Mac, but they are costly, and I didn't have the money. When Windows Edition 7 came out, that changed. I had the money, and saw a place that had a great discount on a MBP 13". It was $300 off retail for a brand new one, so I bought it.
      Though this a core 2 duo, I have upgraded the RAM to 16GB, and got a big honkin' SDD that I found on sale.

      This laptop has been back and forth to work for what, five, six years, and still does a great job. The battery life is decent at 4 hours, and applications work fine. I often use it to troubleshoot PCs and our network. Users are awed when they see Windows running on it (through VMWare Fusion). The battery is getting long in the tooth, but I can replace that easily. Other than the battery, it has taken a licking, and keeps on ticking. It even has battle scars from the times when I nicked the metal case, but the insides are fine. This kind of reminds me of the old Think Pads, which were built like a brick outhouse. Alas, today's version of the Think Pads, I now call Stink Pads. The quality has gone downhill since IBM sold the division, and it just keeps getting worse as far as durability is concerned.

      Since I got my first Mac, I have gradually replaced the PCs at home with Macs, and am finding that I have much more time at home to do other things, rather than maintain my PC. Yes, I still have a Linux server, running FreeBSD, but the rest of the stuff will eventually be all Apple.

      All in all, the investment that I made in the one MBP, five years ago, has paid for itself. In those five years. I probably would have gone through three or four three hundred dollar laptops in that time. I am very pleased with the product line, and only and saddened that even Apple is cutting things out of their laptops, like DVDs.

      Most recently, I went to the Apple refurbished store online (it's at the bottom of their page) and picked up a year old model of the MBAir with 8GB RAM and a 500GB SSD and an i7 processor. This little lightweight wonder screams! The battery lasts at least ten hours, and it does everything but play DVDs. At half the weight of the MBP, and half the thickness, it is not a pain to carry around in the backpack. The material build is still rock solid. I got it for taking on plane trips, so weight and size were a major concern. I am not one bit disappointed with this one either.

      Oh, did I mention that the Apple refurbs have the same warranty as a new model? They just come in a white box with no pictures on it.

      So, to the comment by J. Smith, I have upgraded to a real PC, and it has an Apple logo on it. I shall NEVER EVER regret it!

  16. alantech
    February 4, 2016 at 3:26 am

    You have a MAC, good enough reason to replace it.

  17. david wagg
    February 4, 2016 at 3:22 am

    Upgrade your old Mac to modern Linux

    • Jack Dawson
      January 15, 2017 at 1:14 pm

      Did that years ago, No more Apple Tax for me.

  18. Anonymous
    February 3, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    I'm still using a 2008 MacBook Pro, although I recently bought a replacement for it. I've upgraded the RAM to 6 GB (2 more than Apple recommends, but OWC said it works fine) and the hard drive to a 1 TB SSD. Apple replaced the logic board, battery, and power cable under warranty. I replaced the keyboard on my own when the original died. The machine still runs great, and I love the 17" screen. I only decided to replace it after reading that the Apple Store still sold 2012 MacBook Pros. So I decided to buy one of those brand new, with a 3-year Apple Care warranty.

    Why buy a 2012 model? Well, Bryan alluded to one of the reasons: it's the last model that can be user-upgraded, from what I understand. I got 16 GB of RAM for it and a 1 TB SSD. It has only a 13" non-Retina screen, but I plan to use a separate monitor with it anyway. I expect it to last me as long as my 2008. I love the MacBook Pro, Apple software, and software developed for the Mac, but I am not an Apple Fanboy.