To Upgrade or not to upgrade, that is the question
March 14, 2014 11:56 AM   Subscribe

I've got an older MacBook Pro. I'm on 10.8.5 right now. I'm wondering if I should upgrade to 10.9 or let it be. Specs to follow...

Hardware Overview:

Model Name: MacBook Pro
Model Identifier: MacBookPro3,1
Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
Processor Speed: 2.4 GHz
Number of Processors: 1
Total Number of Cores: 2
L2 Cache: 4 MB
Memory: 4 GB

I don't do anything intensive. Firefox with a few add-ons and at most a half dozen tabs open at once. Some light stuff in Word every once in a while. And cataloging pictures in iPhoto. I don't use iTunes at all (I do everything OTA on my iPhone).

So hivemind... upgrade or leave well enough alone?
posted by kathrynm to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If it works, I'd leave it alone. Wait until it's time to totally replace it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:04 PM on March 14, 2014

Well, 10.9 is a free upgrade and it's reported to improve battery life pretty dramatically for some users (like an hour of additional usage time). Personally I'd upgrade if I were you.
posted by dcjd at 12:11 PM on March 14, 2014

Battery life is supposedly better in Mavericks than in Mountain Lion. On the other hand, it has made the fan in one of our MacBooks go completely insane. I'd say that if you're happy with what you've got there's not much point in upgrading.
posted by bcwinters at 12:12 PM on March 14, 2014

I'd upgrade. It's free, includes OS changes that improve battery charge life, and Apple tends to offer security fixes for the latest OSes. I'd do it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:13 PM on March 14, 2014

I'm running 10.9 on a 2GHz MBP. My experience was that my MBP slowed down a lot when I upgraded to Mavericks. I fixed it by adding a whack of memory (which is super easy to to do yourself). On 4GB memory, my MBP was too slow. On 16GB, it runs fine.

(I also upgraded my hard drive to a hybrid drive twice as big.)

It's hella cheaper to upgrade memory than to buy a new computer.
posted by musofire at 12:13 PM on March 14, 2014

I'm on 10.8.5 myself.

I haven't upgraded because (a) I'm stupidly conservative about this stuff on my primary work machine (see RB's comment above) and (b) one astro package that I might need to use someday hasn't yet been ported to 10.9.

However, I did move my wife's iMac over to 10.9 once 10.9.1 was released (not 10.9.0, obviously - see "stupidly conservative" above) and it hasn't been a problem.

On a laptop, 10.9 brings some real power saving advantages, improves battery life, gets rid of some animations to save CPU, etc. The downside is, you have an older machine with "only" 4GB of RAM (ha ha my first workstations had less disk space than that)...

On balance, if there isn't a specific application holding you back, I'd actually recommend upgrading.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:14 PM on March 14, 2014

The battery is brand new (the old one was completely dead) so battery life isn't an issue. And 4 GB is the max amount of RAM this model will take.

How hard is it to roll back to 10.8 if 10.9 is a disaster?
posted by kathrynm at 12:18 PM on March 14, 2014

I'd wait. Mavericks may be free, but it's still (IME) buggy and has some weird glitches - slow to reconnect from WiFi when waking my laptop is one of them. I honestly think I'd wait until 10.9.3 to smooth out those weird bugs. Whenever a point release of OS X is released (e.g, 10.9.2), the App Store version is updated alongside (right now, the current full downloadable version of Mavericks is 10.9.2 on the App Store), so when 10.9.3 comes out, you'll be downloading the 'latest and best.'

On the other hand, if you have a full backup (Time Machine) of your laptop and you're up to facing some weird bugs, go for it. As long as you can easily downgrade.

Disclaimer: I tried a clean install of Mavericks, same issue. Could be something with my computer, but I doubt it. YMMV, obviously. Some has had rock solid, perfect performance and a completely bug-free experience, some had a congested, incredibly buggy release. There's a reason people often say to wait until 10.x.2/3 to upgrade.
posted by dubious_dude at 12:20 PM on March 14, 2014

I run 10.9 because I have a new Mac. 10.9 is still very buggy but not terribly different from 10.8 otherwise. I'd stay with 10.8. As a general rule with Apple OSes, wait until they hit .5 before installing.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:24 PM on March 14, 2014

Looking at specs for your MBP. Like many other Macs, some have tried and reported success exceeding the default RAM max. In this case, getting 6 GB to work.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:27 PM on March 14, 2014

I've got an iMac of roughly the same specs. I don't think that the upgrade in general has been a problem, but has been an utter disaster if you use Gmail and IMAP. If you're dependent on, Gmail, and IMAP, do not upgrade. I'm sure they'll get the bugs worked out sooner or later.
posted by adamrice at 12:46 PM on March 14, 2014

I think I'll hold off for a few more dot releases.

Upgrading the RAM, when not guarenteed to work isn't an option. The 2x2 kit was a Christmas gift from my brother. I'm out of work and I can't exactly be throwing money at a computer this old for little benefit.

Thanks. Marking resolved.
posted by kathrynm at 1:50 PM on March 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would either upgrade to 10.9 or downgrade to 10.6.8. I'm not seeing the advantage in using 10.8 pretty much at all. I get better stability (once Spotlight indexing finishes) and battery life on 10.9, but better performance on 10.6.8. I run a MacBook Pro 5,3 with 8 GB RAM for reference.
posted by oceanjesse at 2:36 PM on March 14, 2014

I'd stay with 10.8. As a general rule with Apple OSes, wait until they hit .5 before installing.

As a small aside, if Apple follows through on its recent commitment to annual OS upgrades, there may never be a .5 release again. We can expect a 10.10 developer beta this summer - certainly before end-2014, and I'd be surprised if we were up to 10.9.4 by then.
posted by RedOrGreen at 3:07 PM on March 14, 2014

I just upgraded from Snow Leopard to Mavericks this past weekend, on a 2010-model Macbook Air. As you can see, I was very stubborn, but what finally did it for me was the apparent end of security upgrades for 10.6.8. Anyhow, the upgrade went without a hitch, though one or two minor programs I'd been using required Rosetta and went kaput.

I haven't had a chance to experience the supposedly better battery life because I use my machine plugged in almost all of the time. The only buggy thing I've noticed is that sometimes, when I try to change a file name and perhaps start typing "too quickly," Finder will hang and I have to force-restart it. (When I say "too quickly," I mean, "at perfectly normal speeds for me, but speeds that Mavericks seems to have an issue with." If I slow down a bit, I don't run into this problem.) Annoying and dumb, but trivial.

One thing I will say Mavericks seems to be much better at is handling my external monitor. Under Snow Leopard, it felt like my system would, as the day wore on, start to slow down, particulary as greedy Firefox would keep hogging more and more memory. (Restarting Firefox would usually help fix things.) Now, even though Firefox is still hoggy, I don't notice that same kind of lag or have the need to restart. (I'm pretty sure it has to do with my external monitor, a fairly old Dell, because the problem was much less acute when using my laptop on its own.)

Otherwise, not much to report. New versions of OS X have a few behavioral quirks I didn't care for (like the reverse iPad-style scrolling), but if you're already on Mountain Lion, then you're familiar with them and have dealt with them however you see fit.

All that said, I don't think it matters much one way or the other. I don't think Mavericks will bork your system in any way, and I can't see much reason to stick with Mountain Lion. But if you're happy, you're happy.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:09 PM on March 14, 2014

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