The age of the Intel Mac is officially over — what that means for your macOS updates

MacBook Pro 2020 13-inch
(Image credit: Future)

The Intel Mac is one step closer to joining the likes of the iPod and the Apple Newton. Following the launch of the new Mac Pro at WWDC 2023, powered by the new M2 Ultra chip, it means all Apple’s desktops now run on Apple-made chips. Now the only question is, how long will it be before the Intel machines are officially declared obsolete?

Hopefully that changeover won’t come for some time. The M1, Apple’s first in-house desktop chip, didn’t launch until November 2020 — just over two and a half years ago. Meanwhile macOS 14 Sonoma, which launches later this year, still supports plenty of Intel machines.

According to Apple, Intel-powered MacBook Air and MacBook Pro machines from 2018 onwards will still be compatible with the Sonoma update. As will the 2017 iMac Pro, 2018 Mac mini, 2019 iMac, 2019 Mac Pro and any newer variants of those machines that exist with Intel chips.

It’s not a huge list, since Apple has been very keen to push its products onto Apple Silicon. Still it suggests that Intel Macs still have a few years left in them, certainly in terms of the latest and best macOS updates. 

Apple does maintain older versions of macOS for a time, as evidenced by updates to macOS 11 and macOS 12 whose latest updates rolled out last month. But there’s no telling how long that support will last. macOS 10.15 Catalina was first released in 2019, and now hasn’t had a major update since July 2022.

Of course, being supported by new software doesn’t always guarantee that everything will be available. 9to5Mac notes that some macOS Sonoma features aren’t available on Intel macs, such as Game Mode or the solos “Siri” wake word. The same is true of iPhones, even though iOS 17 will support iPhones up to and including the 2018 iPhone Xs. They just don’t have the hardware for certain things, like the Emergency SOS via Satellite feature.

Companies do regularly send out updates when the consequences are serious, such as the discovery of a fatal flaw or security hole. Apple is no exception. Not that we recommend sticking with unsupported software for longer than you need to, of course. Regular security updates are the best protection you can get.

It’s clear that Intel-powered macs, like any high-tech product, do have an expiration date — and the older your device the sooner it will be. But you’ve probably got another couple of years before that actually becomes a problem — especially if you bought an Intel MacBook in 2020

But it is still worth keeping in the back of your mind, especially given the huge leap in performance, efficiency and battery life afforded by Apple Silicon chips. The jump from Intel to the M1 chip was significant enough, and as Apple said during the WWDC keynote any Intel Mac users are likely to be blown away by an Apple Silicon machine.

So there’s no rush, but maybe start saving those pennies for an upgrade if you can. 

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.