To get the latest features and maintain the security, stability, compatibility, and performance of your Mac, it's important to keep your software up to date. Apple recommends that you always use the latest macOS that is compatible with your Mac.

Learn how to upgrade to macOS Big Sur, the latest version of macOS.

Check compatibility

Versions of the operating system earlier than the one that shipped with a particular Mac are not compatible. MacBook Air models running Mac OS X 10.5 'Leopard' or Mac OS X 10.6 'Snow Leopard' are capable of running a great deal of Mac software written for Intel-based Macs and the vast majority of Mac OS X applications written for PowerPC-based systems using the 'Rosetta Universal Binary. Apple has made its latest Mac operating system, OS X Mavericks, available to download free from the Mac App Store. The announcement was made alongside a number of product launches. Installing Adobe Reader is a two-step process. First you download the installation package, and then you install Adobe Reader from that package file. If you're running Mac OS X 10.9 or later, install the latest version of Reader. For step-by-step instructions, see Install Adobe Acrobat Reader DC on. Global Nav Open Menu Global Nav Close Menu; Apple; Shopping Bag +.

If a macOS installer can't be used on your Mac, the installer will let you know. For example, it might say that your Mac doesn't have enough free storage space for the installation, or that the installer is too old to be opened on this version of macOS.

If you want to check compatibility before downloading the installer, learn about the minimum requirements for macOS Catalina, Mojave, High Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, or Yosemite. You can also check compatible operating systems on the product-ID page for MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, MacBook, iMac, Mac mini, or Mac Pro.

Make a backup

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Before installing, it’s a good idea to back up your Mac. Time Machine makes it simple, and other backup methods are also available. Learn how to back up your Mac.

Download macOS

It takes time to download and install macOS, so make sure that you're plugged into AC power and have a reliable internet connection.

These installers from the App Store open automatically after you download them:

  • macOS Catalina 10.15 can upgrade Mojave, High Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks
  • macOS Mojave 10.14 can upgrade High Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks, Mountain Lion
  • macOS High Sierra 10.13 can upgrade Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks, Mountain Lion, Lion

Your web browser downloads the following older installers as a disk image named InstallOS.dmg or InstallMacOSX.dmg. Open the disk image, then open the .pkg installer inside the disk image. It installs an app named Install [Version Name]. Open that app from your Applications folder to begin installing the operating system.

  • macOS Sierra 10.12 can upgrade El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks, Mountain Lion, or Lion
  • OS X El Capitan 10.11 can upgrade Yosemite, Mavericks, Mountain Lion, Lion, or Snow Leopard
  • OS X Yosemite 10.10can upgrade Mavericks, Mountain Lion, Lion, or Snow Leopard

Install macOS

Follow the onscreen instructions in the installer. It might be easiest to begin installation in the evening so that it can complete overnight, if needed.

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If the installer asks for permission to install a helper tool, enter the administrator name and password that you use to log in to your Mac, then click Add Helper.

Please allow installation to complete without putting your Mac to sleep or closing its lid. Your Mac might restart, show a progress bar, or show a blank screen several times as it installs both macOS and related updates to your Mac firmware.

Learn more

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You might also be able to use macOS Recovery to reinstall the macOS you're using now, upgrade to the latest compatible macOS, or install the macOS that came with your Mac.

Like all Macs, the MacBook Air comes with Apple's latest, greatest operating system, and on the 2011 models it's the OS X Lion. With the Lion operating system you'll get a lot of functional software, such as Mail, Address Book, Time Machine, Safari and Screen Sharing. It also has some fun software, such as Photo Booth, iChat and QuickTime.

As far as Mac operating systems go, OS X Lion really changed the way Mac users interact with their computers. In many ways it moved toward the familiar functionality of touch screen devices, like the iPad and iPhone. For example, through a program called LaunchPad you can access and use apps, including ones you've already purchased for your iPad or iPhone through your iTunes account. What's more, OS X Lion allows you to use the laptop's trackpad to swipe and zoom, using hand motions similar to those on a touchscreen device [source: Apple].

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In addition to Mac operating system, the MacBook Air comes equipped with iLife, which is a software package that includes iPhoto, iMovie and Garage Band [source: Apple]. And don't forget about all the additional software Apple offers that you can add. From iWork -- Apple's office software package with spreadsheet, word processing and presentation programs, to Final Cut Pro -- a dynamic, professional video editing software, Apple offers several tools to help you stay organized, have fun and get the job done.

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Even though Apple's standard software is great, there are lots of options to upgrade. For instance, if you love iPhoto but want more professional photo editing tools and options, you can upgrade to Aperture to edit and organize all your photos. Plus, if you already have all your photos in iPhoto, you can easily transfer them to Aperture without hassle [source: Apple].

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A popular software for musicians is Logic Studio, which makes it easy to create, mix, manage and perform your music using professional recording and editing tools. You can also transfer your music projects from Garage Band if you decide to upgrade to Logic Studio [source: Apple].

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Want more? There are all kinds of software that's usable on Macs beyond just what Apple offers, including games, creative software and business tools.