Apple’s latest operating system, a free update for its MacBook laptops and Mac desktops, has a host of features that can make your computer feel a bit more like your iPhone.
Every fall, Apple releases a new operating system (OS) with great fanfare and a new name. MacOS 12, also called Monterey, has been available since Oct. 25; macOS 13, to be christened Ventura, is due in a few months.
An operating system is the most important software that runs on a computer. It manages all the software — also called programs, applications or apps — plus hardware connected with cords and through Wi-Fi, your computer’s memory, and a computer’s processing of information.
Be aware that macOS Monterey won’t seem like a significant cosmetic change from Apple’s previous macOS, Big Sur, the eighth in a series of operating systems named after California locales. But it offers several iPhone-inspired additions such as a redesigned Safari web browser, Shortcuts, and deeper Siri voice assistant integration.
How to upgrade to macOS Monterey
Before we cover the key features of Monterey, let’s first see if your Mac can handle it. The Monterey update will work with almost any Mac built in the past six years and some as old as late 2013.
Your Mac may prompt you to install the upgrade, one way to know your machine is compatible. But these Macs are supported:
- iMac starting in late 2015
- iMac Pro starting in 2017
- MacBook starting in 2016
- MacBook Air starting in 2015
- MacBook Pro starting in 2015
- Mac mini starting in late 2014
- Mac Pro starting in 2013
- Mac Studio in 2022
If macOS Monterey will work on your Macintosh computer, the upgrade is recommended. It won’t slow your machine, and you shouldn’t have compatibility problems with your favorite apps or files.
If you’re upgrading from macOS Sierra or later, be aware your computer needs 26 gigabytes (GB) of available storage. If you’re updating from an even earlier operating system, you will need as much as 44GB of available hard disk space.
Apple’s California geography updates
Since fall 2013, Apple has released Macintosh operating systems named after places in California:
- 2013, OS X Mavericks
- 2014, OS X Yosemite
- 2015, OS X El Capitan
- 2016, macOS Sierra
- 2017, macOS High Sierra
- 2018, macOS Mojave
- 2019, macOS Catalina
- 2020, macOS Big Sur
- 2021, macOS Monterey
- 2022, macOS Ventura
Sources: Apple, AARP research
Tip: Before installing any upgrade, back up your Mac to be safe. Time Machine is a popular method, and it can work with various types of external hard drives. Or you can store files in iCloud or other cloud services.
If you’re using macOS Mojave or later, you can get an immediate update by going to the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen | System Preferences | Software Update. Or if you’re reading this on the Mac you want to upgrade, open the macOS Monterey page in the Apple App Store. Then click the Get button or iCloud download button. That way, you can save the update for later.
After you’ve downloaded the new macOS, the installer will open automatically. Click Continue and follow the onscreen prompts. Don’t close the lid or put your Mac to sleep until installation is complete. Your Mac might restart several times during the process.