Here’s the full list of the macOS operating systems in order – including Mac OS, Mac OS X, and macOS!
The Mac operating system has a long and varied history. It’s been known by many names and can be grouped into three main eras, which you can read about here.
But even the era groupings can be very confusing as Apple has not always been consistent with its naming system, nor its version numbering system.
For example, the Mac operating system has been known as System 1, Macintosh System Software, System Software, System, Mac OS, Mac OS X, OS X, and, most recently, macOS.
Talk about a confusing list of names!
What Are The macOS Systems In Order? The Mac OS Era
These are the Mac OS systems of the pre-OS X era. As you can tell from the list, most weren’t actually called “Mac OS”. And the version numbers rarely matched up with the release numbers). The year the system first debuted follows the version.
- Mac OS 1 (known as System 1) – 1984
- Mac OS 2 (known as Macintosh System Software 0.3) – 1985
- Mac OS 3 (known as Macintosh System Software 0.7) – 1986
- Mac OS 4 (known as System Software 2.0) – 1987
- Mac OS 5 (known as System Software 5) – 1987
- Mac OS 6 (known as System Software 6) – 1988
- Mac OS 7 (known as System 7) – 1991
- Mac OS 8 – 1997
- Mac OS 9 – 1999
What Are The macOS Systems In Order? The Mac OS X Era
The Mac OS X era is when version numbering got really confusing. Previously each new Mac operating system every year got a new number, such as Mac OS 8 in 1997 or Mac OS 9 in 1999).
But with Mac OS X, Apple decided to keep the main version number always “10”. This made sense in a way because “Mac OS X” literally means Mac OS 10 (the X is the Roman numeral for 10).
So that means all Mac OS X (and later, OS X) operating systems were ALL operating system 10 and Apple labeled each new version as just a point upgrade. Given this numbering scheme, it’s no wonder Apple increasingly started to refer to Mac OS X versions by their codenames in marketing materials.
- Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah – 2001
- Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar – 2002
- Mac OS X 10.3 Panther – 2003
- Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger – 2005
- Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard – 2007
- Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard – 2009
- Mac OS X 10.7 Lion – 2011
- OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion – 2012
- OS X 10.9 Mavericks – 2013
- OS X 10.10 Yosemite – 2014
- OS X 10.11 El Capitan – 2015
What Are The macOS Systems In Order? The macOS Era
Finally, we get to the current macOS era. During this era, Apple ditched the “10.x” version scheme and is now back to giving macOS a new version number every year.
macOS Big Sur is another major milestone in the history of the Mac operating system. It’s the first Mac OS custom-built to rub on Apple’s M-series Macs. Those are the Mac, like the new M2 MacBook Air, which feature M-series Apple Silicon.
- macOS 10.12 Sierra – 2016
- macOS 10.13 High Sierra – 2017
- macOS 10.14 Mojave – 2018
- macOS 10.15 Catalina – 2019
- macOS 11.0 Big Sur – 2020
- macOS 12.0 Monterey – 2021
- macOS 13.0 Ventura – 2022
Which Was The Best Mac Operating System?
Many people think the latest Mac operating system is the best simply because it’s the latest and thus has the most modern features. And that’s a completely valid way to measure the “best”.
However, if you ask longtime Mac users what the best Mac operating system is, many will likely say it was Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.
Why? Because Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard is known for being an incredibly stable, bug-free OS. Even a dozen years after its release, there are still people running Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on older machines – and they still love it.
As a matter of fact, when any new macOS is released now, if it has major bugs, you can bet you’ll hear people clamoring for the bug-free and stable days of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.
Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.