[ Update: On March 21, 2021, I finally upgraded to Big Sur. Here’s what I learned in the process. ]
That’s a good question – but it’s also the wrong question. It is better to ask: “When should I upgrade to Big Sur?”
That answer is trickier.
TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF
The two most important things to keep in mind when deciding when to upgrade to ANY operating system is that there are no “hidden” new features in any Apple or Adobe application that suddenly get turned on when you upgrade.
In other words, everything your NLE does in Catalina, it will do in Big Sur. So you aren’t missing any features by waiting to upgrade.
Second, never upgrade in the middle of a project. Facing a deadline is a terrible time for a significant upgrade. Something always goes wrong, which takes time to fix. Wait until you complete a project – or have time to chase problems – before upgrading.
If you are lucky, everything will work perfectly. And, if not, you’ll have time to figure out what broke and get it fixed.
WILL YOUR APPS WORK?
First, like Catalina, Big Sur is a 64-bit operating system. Any apps that didn’t work in Catalina won’t work in Big Sur. This includes older 32-bit media. (Link)
If you haven’t upgraded to Catalina, here’s how to find out which apps on your system are 32-bit:
NOTE: This column does not appear in Catalina, because all apps in Catalina must be 64-bit.
9to5 Mac writes: “macOS 11 Big Sur has been widely seen as the least stable of the major new Apple software releases this year during the beta period from June until this fall.”
NOTE: Here’s a link to 9to5’s comprehensive look at upgrading to Big Sur.
Aaron, in the comments, highlights https://isapplesiliconready.com. “This website is more comprehensive and notes which apps work natively on Apple Silicon M1 and which work (or don’t work) using Rosetta 2.” I like the layout of this website – there are more than 700 applications listed.
As well, RoaringApps.com has compiled a crowd-sourced list (Link) of app compatibility. There are many other compatibility resources on the web. If you rely on 3rd-party software for your daily work, be sure to check out what works and what doesn’t. Be careful to type the name of your application carefully – this list is poorly curated.
As well, most audio applications have problems with Big Sur. Sweetwater.com has also compiled a list focused on audio apps. (Link)
WHAT SHOULD YOU UPGRADE
While Big Sur will run on most Macs manufactured from 2015 on, Big Sur is required for all M1 Macs; that is, those running Apple silicon CPUs.
NOTE: Here are Apple specs for supported hardware for Big Sur.
My general feeling is that if you have older hardware, don’t upgrade. Older gear is designed to run on older versions of macOS. You’ll probably get better performance by not upgrading. Also keep in mind that if you upgrade and decide you don’t like the new version on your older system, falling back to an earlier version of the macOS is a major pain.
If you have reasonably current hardware, upgrading makes a lot of sense – it simply becomes a question of “when.”
NOTE: Here are Apple’s instructions on how to upgrade to Big Sur.
WHEN SHOULD YOU UPGRADE
I am a fan of waiting. Clients want us to get their work done – on time and on budget. Reliability is more important that bleeding edge. If you have a system you can spare for testing, upgrade that now. See what works and what doesn’t. However, don’t feel under pressure to immediately rush to upgrade production systems.
That being said, I also want to stay reasonably current because developers are creating new software for the new OS, not upgrading older versions. At some point, the latest versions of software won’t support older operating systems. (Final Cut Pro 7 is a classic example of this. It is a 32-bit application. It will never run on current versions of the macOS.)
So, should you upgrade? Yes.
When should you upgrade?
Last week, Apple released the 11.1 maintenance update to Big Sur, with a beta release of 11.2 to developers for testing. These maintenance upgrades are significant and needed.
For myself, I plan to upgrade my main production system after the first of the year, when the 11.2 update is released. And I’m keeping two older computers on older versions of the macOS – just in case.
64 Responses to Should You Upgrade to macOS Big Sur?← Older Comments
I am currently running on Mojave because I have a slew of 32 bit applications that I do not want to replace. I am also using an external SSD.
I will need to upgrade to a new MacOS because some new software such as TurboTax will no longer run on Mojave.
I don’t know which version to upgrade to. I have a 2017 iMac 3.4 GHz i5. Suggestions?
I figured I would leave Mojave on the internal fusion drive and have cloned the external SSD to the internal fusion (and another USB A hard drive) as backup using CCC. That way, I can boot to the internal fusion drive if I need to run the old 32 bit programs.
I tried loading those 32 bit programs on VMWare Fusion so I could access them easier, but Adobe has turned off their verification servers so that people like me who paid for the software can no longer reinstall it.
You can update an older computer to run newer versions of the macOS, but you can NOT take a new system and get it to run older versions of the macOS.
So, you’ll need an external drive for your Mojave Mac (an SSD is ideal, simply for performance), then install the new OS on it. Here it gets tricky. You will need to determine which version of the macOS is required by the versions of software you need to run.
If the macOS isn’t current, you’ll need to go to an Apple Store to get their techs to install an older version. But, frankly, if you are upgrading, you are probably wisest to upgrade to Monterey, or Big Sur, at a minimum.