If you've never owned a MacBook but are keen to buy one, you may well be wondering how long they last. It's a fair point. After all, they do come at a premium price, and you want to make sure you're getting your money's worth. That's why we've put together this post in which we talk about the average lifespan of a MacBook, and the factors that affect it.
Apple software support
Let's begin with Apple's operating system (macOS). Apple offers their operating system for free, all Mac's will support the latest version of macOS for a period of time, after which your Mac will remain on the latest OS it can run. macOS Monterey is the latest version of Apple's operating system, released in October 2021. Apple's website lists the following devices as capable of running macOS Monterey:
- MacBook Air: Early 2015 and later
- MacBook Pro: Early 2015 and later
- MacBook: Early 2015 and later
- Mac mini: Late 2014 and later
- iMac: late 2015 and later
- iMac Pro: 2017 and later
This information is really useful, because it shows that MacBooks from early 2015 can run the latest version of macOS. In other words, MacBooks can run the latest version of macOS for around 7 years. If you can't run the latest operating system you can still use your Mac on an older OS. While Apple don't have a fixed policy, Apple tends to provide 3 years of macOS updates and security updates per operating system.
When you do the maths, you're looking at roughly 10 years of Apple software support. So, as long as you take good care of your MacBook and don't drop it down a flight of stairs or treat it to a glass of wine, it should last you a while.
One thing to consider, is if you are looking to run the latest version of a particular Apple software, for example Xcode, Apple often require the latest version of macOS installed.
MacBooks can run the latest version of macOS for around 7 years and Apple tends to provide 3 years of macOS updates per OS.
Apple hardware support
If you visit Apple Support, you'll see Apple have a section in which they talk about 'vintage' and 'obsolete' Apple products.
Vintage products are those which Apple stopped distributing for sale more than 5 and less than 7 years ago. So, for example, the Late 2013 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro Retina, is currently listed as vintage. Obsolete products are products which Apple stopped distributing for sale more than 7 years ago. The Late 2012 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro is an example of an obsolete laptop.
Why are these terms important? Because Apple discontinues hardware support and service for obsolete MacBooks. So if your MacBook is listed as vintage, you're fine, and you can still get your MacBook serviced at an Apple store if need be, but if your MacBook is listed as obsolete, then Apple won't service it and will consider it to be nearing the end of its life.
Again, the important figure here is 7 years of guaranteed Apple hardware support.
When thinking about how long do MacBooks last, it's also important to consider battery life. Battery life comes down to battery cycles. If you're unfamiliar with the term, a battery cycle is when you use up all of your battery's power, from 100% down to 0%. But, this doesn't have to happen in one sitting. If you use 50% in one day, charge it back up to 100%, and use 50% the next day, you would have completed 1 cycle.
Batteries have a limited number of charge cycles before their performance is expected to diminish. Every battery is expected to discharge power for a certain number of cycles. For the majority of modern devices, the battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original charge capacity at 1000 cycles. You can find your MacBook's battery cycle count here. Since it's highly unlikely you'll be going through a cycle a day, and more likely you'll be going through a cycle every 2 to 3 days, you can expect the battery to last between 2000 to 3000 days, or 5.4 to 8.2 years.
And, if need be, with battery replacement options available you can continue to use your MacBook for longer.
The Mid 2012 13-inch MacBook Pro, we and many others loved this model!
Ports for days! MagSafe 1, ethernet, FireWire, Thunderbolt 1, USB, SD card, headphone jack, and the good old battery charge indicator button.
3rd party apps
Apple has its own ecosystem of apps, from the App Store, to FaceTime, to its default browser Safari. These are all great options streamlined for macOS. That being said, you might prefer to use 3rd party apps like Microsoft Office, Google Chrome, Spotify, etc. And if that's the case, then there are two things you need to bear in mind.
First, some macOS upgrades and software updates have resulted in compatibility issues. This sounds more serious than it is. Simply put, after macOS Catalina released in 2015, Apple stopped supporting 32-bit apps. Nowadays, most apps are 64-bit, but some, like Microsoft Office 2011, remain 32-bit, and they simply won't work on macOS Catalina or later OS upgrades.
Second, 3rd party apps offer their own period of support and if you are looking to run the latest versions of a particular software, you often need a recent operating system. For example, Adobe Photoshop currently requires macOS Catalina or newer to run.
While 3rd party apps don't strictly impact the life expectancy of a MacBook, they can impact your experience.
How long do refrubished MacBooks last?
As mentioned before, MacBooks do come at a premium price. For good reason though, because they have premium specs. Still, refurbished MacBooks are an excellent, affordable option for picking up a high-end MacBook at a low price.
And just because they are 'old macs' doesn't mean they won't last you a long time. It's 2022 at the time of writing this piece. Based on Apple's historical data, if you purchase a refurbished MacBook Pro model from 2018, you know it will receive macOS upgrades till 2025, with an additional 3 years of software and security updates, taking it all the way through to 2028.
And if you're worried about battery life, the good news is that at Hoxton Macs we pride ourselves on our refurbishment process, which includes ensuring the batteries of the devices we sell are under 500 cycles, with 80% or higher full-charge capacity. We'd argue our refurbished macs are just as good as new macs (and you get a comprehensive 1-year warranty as well). Browse our collections to see what we mean!
For more information, learn how much your business could save with refurbished tech, or check out our Spring 2022 Buyers Guide on the best MacBooks for Students.