macOS Big Sur is no longer the latest version of macOS, but plenty of Mac users still use it. Here’s why…
Wondering what is macOS Big Sur? We’ll explain everything in this post as well as why Big Sur is still popular with Mac users years after its release.
What Is macOS Big Sur?
macOS Big Sur is also known as macOS 11. It is the operating system released in 2020 that powered all modern Macs at the time.
In the macOS era of the Mac operating system, macOS Big Sur was the fifth major version of macOS. But stepping back in time to the Mac OS X era, which the macOS era is a continuation of, macOS Big Sur counts as the 16th major iteration of OS X.
But macOS Big Sur is notable for a few more reasons. First, macOS Big Sur was the first macOS that was built to run on both Intel-based Macs and Apple Silicon Macs.
Second, macOS Big Sur was the first macOS to ditch the 10.x number scheme. Before macOS Big Sur came macOS Catalina, which still used the OS X number scheme. Catalina was officially macOS 10.15. But with the launch of macOS Big Sur, Apple unveiled a new numbering scheme. macOS Big Sur is also known as macOS 11.
What Are The Features Of macOS Big Sur?
macOS Big Sur was one of the more notable macOS releases of recent years. That’s because macOS Big Sur got a major UI overhaul. As we reported at the time:
“The biggest change to macOS Big Sur is that it’s getting a revamped user interface. The changes are almost too numerous to mention, but we’ll give it a go. There’s an updated, more translucent menu bar, new iOS-inspired icons for apps, a floating dock for those app icons to sit in, and translucent window designs all around.
“macOS Big Sur also gets Notification Center improvements including a redesigned look, grouped notifications, customizable widgets, and interactive notifications.”
But the UI refresh isn’t the only reason macOS Big Sur was a significant update. It also introduced Control Center to the Mac, completely revamped the macOS Messages app, and sported a revamp of the macOS Maps app.
As Apple’s Big Sur listing explained:
“macOS Big Sur elevates the world’s most advanced desktop operating system to a new level of power and beauty. Experience Mac to the fullest with a refined new design. Enjoy the biggest Safari update ever. Discover new features for Maps and Messages. And get even more transparency around your privacy.”
Mac App Store – Apple
Do People Still Use macOS Big Sur?
Yes – and there’s a good reason why. macOS Big Sur supported both Apple Silicon Macs and legacy Intel Macs (which Apple still sold at the time). But macOS Big Sur supported those Intel Macs going back quite a long way – all the way back until 2013 in some cases. Here’s Apple’s list of Big Sur-supported Macs:
- MacBook (2015 or later)
- MacBook Air (2013 or later)
- MacBook Pro (Late 2013 or later)
- Mac mini (2014 or later)
- iMac (2014 or later)
- iMac Pro (2017 or later)
- Mac Pro (2013 or later)
With the release of macOS Monterey the following year, Apple dropped support for Macs made before 2015 (and sometimes later than that).
So if people still have Macs from 2014 or earlier, they are essentially stuck on macOS Big Sur. They are not able to upgrade to newer macOS operating systems.
Can I Still Download macOS Big Sur?
Yes. While Apple doesn’t advertise macOS Big Sur in the app store anymore, you can actually still download macOS Big Sur from the Mac App Store. You can read our explainer on how to download old version of macOS here.
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.