What Macs can upgrade to Big Sur?

Apple’s latest operating system, macOS Big Sur, was released in November 2020. Big Sur brings a redesigned interface and several new features to compatible Macs. However, not all Macs will be able to upgrade to Big Sur.

Which Macs are compatible with Big Sur?

In general, the following Macs can run Big Sur:

  • MacBook: Early 2015 or newer
  • MacBook Air: Early 2015 or newer
  • MacBook Pro: Early 2015 or newer
  • Mac mini: Late 2014 or newer
  • iMac: Late 2014 or newer
  • iMac Pro: 2017 and later
  • Mac Pro: Late 2013 or newer

Here is a more detailed breakdown of compatible Mac models:

MacBook (Early 2015 and later)

  • MacBook (Early 2015)
  • MacBook (Early 2016)
  • MacBook (Early 2017)
  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2020)
  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2019)
  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2018)

MacBook Air (Early 2015 and later)

  • MacBook Air (Early 2015)
  • MacBook Air (Early 2016)
  • MacBook Air (Early 2017)
  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2020)
  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2019)
  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2018)

MacBook Pro (Early 2015 and later)

  • MacBook Pro (Early 2015)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2015)
  • MacBook Pro (Late 2016)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2017)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2018)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2019)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020, Two Thunderbolt 3 ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020, Four Thunderbolt 3 ports)
  • MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

Mac mini (Late 2014 and later)

  • Mac mini (Late 2014)
  • Mac mini (2018)

iMac (Late 2014 and later)

  • iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2014)
  • iMac (Retina 4K, 21.5-inch, Late 2015)
  • iMac (Retina 4K, 21.5-inch, 2017)
  • iMac (Retina 4K, 21.5-inch, 2019)
  • iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014)
  • iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Mid 2015)
  • iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, 2017)
  • iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, 2019)
  • iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, 2020)

iMac Pro (2017 and later)

  • iMac Pro (2017)

Mac Pro (Late 2013 and later)

  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)
  • Mac Pro (2019)

How to check if your Mac can run Big Sur

If you are unsure whether your specific Mac model can run Big Sur, you can check using these methods:

Check in System Information on your Mac

  1. Click the Apple menu and choose “About This Mac.”
  2. Click “System Report.”
  3. On the left side of the System Information window, select “Hardware.”
  4. Look for “Model Identifier” on the right side. Compare your model identifier against the list of compatible models above.

Check compatibility at Apple’s website

Apple provides a handy tool to check Big Sur compatibility at https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201475. Simply enter your Mac’s serial number or select its model to see if Big Sur is supported.

Try to upgrade through Software Update

If Software Update offers macOS Big Sur as an upgrade option on your Mac, then your Mac is compatible.

  1. Go to System Preferences > Software Update. Or click “Update Now” when notified that an update is available.
  2. Check if “macOS Big Sur” is listed. If so, your Mac can run it.

Why some older Macs don’t support Big Sur

In general, Apple supports Big Sur on Macs from 2013 and later. Older Macs often lack the necessary hardware to run new OS features smoothly.

Specifically, Big Sur requires:

  • A 64-bit Intel processor (from 2013 and later Macs)
  • At least 4GB of memory
  • An SSD or HDD with at least 12.5GB of available storage space
  • An iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014) or newer for the full Big Sur experience including new features like the redesigned user interface

Macs older than the Late 2013 timeframe tend to have 32-bit processors, spinning hard disk drives, and less RAM. They cannot meet Big Sur’s system requirements.

Should you upgrade an incompatible Mac to Big Sur?

Upgrading an incompatible Mac to Big Sur is not recommended. At best, the experience will be extremely slow and buggy. At worst, it simply won’t work at all.

Instead, you have a few options if your Mac does not support Big Sur:

  • Stick with an older macOS version. Catalina and Mojave work on older Macs.
  • Buy a newer Mac that supports Big Sur.
  • Wait to upgrade until you get a new Mac.

While it’s sometimes possible to force an older Mac to run a newer OS using unofficial methods, this is strongly discouraged. You will likely encounter crashes, slowdowns, and app incompatibility.

Should you upgrade a compatible Mac to Big Sur?

If your Mac is compatible, upgrading to Big Sur has several benefits:

  • A fresh, modern design with simplified windows
  • New Control Center for quick settings changes
  • Updated apps like Messages, Maps, and Safari
  • Improved performance and battery efficiency
  • Latest security updates and fixes

However, it’s a good idea to wait a few weeks after Big Sur’s release to upgrade. This gives Apple time to fix any bugs reported by early adopters.

Before upgrading, be sure to:

  • Check app compatibility. Some older apps may need updates to work on Big Sur.
  • Back up your Mac using Time Machine.
  • Ensure you have at least 12GB of free storage space.
  • Connect your Mac to power and a stable internet connection.

How to upgrade to Big Sur

Upgrading to Big Sur is fairly straightforward. You can upgrade wirelessly or use a bootable installer drive.

Wireless upgrade method

  1. Go to System Preferences > Software Update. Or click “Update Now” when notified an update is available.
  2. Click “Download and Install” next to “macOS Big Sur.”
  3. Follow the onscreen instructions. Your Mac may restart multiple times during installation.

Bootable installer drive

  1. Download macOS Big Sur from the Mac App Store.
  2. Plug in an external USB drive with at least 12GB of space.
  3. Launch the Terminal app and enter this command (replace “MyVolumeName” with your drive name:
    sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Big\ Sur.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolumeName
  4. Restart your Mac and hold the Option key to select the installer drive.
  5. Follow the onscreen Big Sur installation instructions.


Upgrading to Big Sur gives compatible Macs a fresh new look and useful new features. Before installing, be sure to check compatibility, back up your Mac, and ensure you have enough free storage space available.

With some preparation, upgrading to Apple’s latest macOS version is a breeze. Big Sur brings improved design, productivity, and performance to MacBook, iMac, Mac Pro, and Mac mini models from 2013 and later.

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