How long can I expect a Mac to last?

old computer with keyboard near wall

It’s hard to predict when your computer might become obsolete or when it might start breaking down. And sometimes you just get lucky or unlucky. But in general:

  • MacBook Air typically lasts about 5 to 8 years
  • MacBook Pro typically lasts about 6 to 9 years
  • iMac typically lasts about 6 to 11 years
  • Mac Mini, Mac Pro, or iMac Pro typically lasts about 7 to 11 years

If your Mac is a major tool for your income, it’s normal to upgrade near the beginning of that range or sometimes even earlier. If you’re a casual home user you can usually make it toward the end of that range unless it just poops out. Also be aware that these estimates are from when the computer was released. If you bought an early 2012 MacBook Pro in 2014, you’re already 2 years into its life.

What determines a Mac’s lifespan?

There are typically three different reasons a Mac has to be put out to pasture:

  • Apple has stopped releasing security patches. This typically happens after around 8 to 11 years. Once your Mac has dropped off of the annual upgrades you get two more years of security patches. At that point, if a problem is found with that software your computer could be compromised if it’s connected to the internet.
  • Your needs have outgrown the computer. It could be that you’re using the computer in a more demanding way as you learn more about it and find more ways for it to help you. Or it could be that newer cameras, websites, and software are just pushing it harder and bogging it down more than a few years ago. This is the primary reason I suggest adding a few upgrades when you first purchase it. Adding extra memory can help your computer last you an extra 1 to 3 years. In general I recommend 16GB of memory for most users and 32GB for multimedia professionals.
  • The computer starts physically breaking down. This could be obvious things like a broken screen or hinges, or it could be more invisible things like liquid damage, air pollutant buildup, fractures in the soldering, or chips that are worn out or just starting to degrade. Sometimes this is just due to physical age, sometimes it can be due to humidity, vibration, or just bad luck.

What can you do to extend the life of your Mac?

  • Buy a more powerful computer than you need right now. While it adds a bit of cost up front, adding more memory, storage, or a faster processor can keep you from outgrowing your computer down the line. So don’t buy the computer you need today; buy the computer you will need for the next ten years, if that’s how long you want it to last. Even if you don’t expect your usage to change, websites and apps will get more complex and demand more of your computer in the future.
  • Treat your computer well. As with anything that costs well over $1,000, be careful with things like fast movements and liquids.

A note about Apple Silicon Macs

In 2020 Apple began transitioning away from Intel processors to their own Apple-designed chip. While we won’t know until the early 2030s, one possible reason Apple stopped releasing security updates after about 10 years is that that it is shortly after Intel stops releasing security patches for their processors. Since Apple is making their own processors now, that will no longer be a factor if it was.