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macOS Big Sur vs Catalina: Is it worth upgrading?

Wondering if upgrading to macOS Big Sur is worth it? Check our comparison guide between Big Sur and Catalina, and learn the answer.

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It’s been a year full of change for Mac users. Last fall, Apple released macOS X.15, better known as Catalina. Just a few short months later, they’re announcing an even bigger release.

Big Sur is the first version of macOS 11. This is the first overhaul macOS has had since OS X came out back in 2001. It’s likely to arrive in fall 2020, although there’s no firm date yet.

This leaves Mac users with a dilemma. Should you continue using Catalina, or is it time to upgrade to Big Sur? This guide will help you compare the two operating systems and make the right choice for you.

Catalina Introduced Big Changes

While Catalina builds on the familiar macOS X, it introduced some fairly big changes. One of the biggest was that it eliminates support for 32-bit programs. Mojave had introduced support for 64-bit programs but still run 32-bit apps.

This may mean that older versions of your favorite apps no longer work. Some programs have been discontinued altogether.

Catalina also introduced more functionality between iOS and macOS and devices. Sidecar, for example, lets Mac users add an iPad as a second screen for their Mac.

Other features included an automatic dark mode feature.

Big Sur is an Even Bigger Overhaul

Catalina retains most of the familiar features of macOS X. Over the years, the interface has become somewhat dated and a little bit cluttered.

Take, for example, the icons on the Dock. Catalina’s icons come in many shapes and sizes. Big Sur promises more uniformity on the Dock. It also redesigns app windows to put user content front and center.

Anyone who uses iOS, though, isn’t going to notice these differences as much. In fact, many of Big Sur’s design features bring it more in line with iOS design.

Under the hood, Big Sur also continues the “iPadification” of Macs. Catalyst allows iOS apps to be translated to macOS natively. That means with Big Sur, you’ll be able to run iOS apps on your Mac with no problems.

One of the reasons for this is Apple switching up hardware. The computer giant announced they were switching to their own ARM chips, leading to better integration between hardware and software.

Redesigning Software for Big Sur

Aside from getting iOS apps on the Mac, Big Sur also imports Widgets from iOS 14. This comes complete with a new Control Center and notification center.

Messages will also receive more of its iOS functionality. You’ll be able to pin conversations. An upgraded search function will make it easier to find messages.

Messages also comes with more customization now as well. Message effects and Memojis will be more personal than ever.

Another app that’s hopping on the trend of increased customization is Safari. With the new extensions available in the App Store, users will be able to customize their browsing experience more than ever. The homepage is also customizable.

Safari is also getting some cool new features. It will load your favorite websites faster than ever. Tabs are also being redesigned.

Translating pages will also be a breeze in the upgraded Safari.

Another app getting a much-needed upgrade is Maps. Maps will enhance its functionality by including electric vehicle routes and 360-degree views. It will also have indoor maps of major airports and shopping centers, meaning you’ll be able to find your way around with ease.

Finally, the App Store will be getting an upgrade that allows for more transparency. Users will be able to check the privacy information of any app before they download it.

Big Sur vs Catalina

So, now you’re wondering which operating system you should be running. Big Sur is new and exciting, but it’s also promising big changes for many users.

There are a few reasons to consider getting onboard with macOS Big Sur sooner rather than later. The first is the upgraded privacy settings. Apple has been doing more work to keep users protected.

For anyone who has security concerns, Big Sur seems like a pretty good investment.

The other reason to upgrade to Big Sur is the increased compatibility between iOS and macOS. If you use an iPhone or an iPad, Big Sur is likely going to feel very familiar.

You’ll be able to get all your favorite apps. The design also feels much more like iOS, so chances are you’ll adapt in short order.

Some Changes Aren’t Exclusive to Big Sur

That said, there are a few reasons users may not want to upgrade to Big Sur just yet. One reason is that some changes aren’t going to be exclusive to Big Sur.

Changes coming to Safari, for example, will also be available in macOS Catalina and Mojave.

Another reason you may not want to go all in with Big Sur yet is that it is still in beta testing. While reports suggest the bugs in it are par for the course, it may make sense to wait for a few versions yet.

Think about how buggy Catalina was when it first rolled out in October 2019. Apple’s team has been busy releasing updates that resolve many of the issues.

This is common with OS updates, so it’s never a bad idea to wait. That way, you know you’re getting a more stable version.

What about Compatibility?

Finally, you might wonder if your machine is even going to be compatible with macOS 11. The answer is that if you can run Catalina, you’ll probably be able to run Big Sur too.

The mac OS Catalina requirements include 4GB of memory. Machines that are newer than 2012 can mostly upgrade to Catalina. MacBooks need to be newer than 2015.

Big Sur will be compatible with most machines newer than 2013. MacBooks need to be 2015 or newer.

Upgrade When the Time is Right

So, what’s the verdict on Big Sur vs Catalina? Upgrading to Big Sur seems like a safe bet for most users. Still, you might want to stick with Catalina for a bit longer yet, especially as Big Sur moves through beta testing and into its first releases.

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