macOS High Sierra has been out for nearly four months, and already it’s on its third update – at least for developers and public beta testers.
It’s new and improved, but not unfamiliar for those who have stayed on top of macOS updates these past few years. As you could probably assume by its subtle name change, macOS High Sierra builds on its predecessor, macOS 10.12 Sierra, well, subtly.
While it does introduce a selection of more comprehensive photo editing tools, a completely overhauled file system and the promise of eventual VR support, most users will continue to use their Macs without noticing much of a difference.
The same could be said for macOS High Sierra’s refinements to itself, the most recent of which – macOS 10.13.3 – brings little more to the table than security fixes and performance improvements. Still, a handful of issues faced by macOS High Sierra have gone unmitigated.
Beyond the obvious Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities faced by virtually everything sporting a modern processor at the moment, we’ve seen various accounts of users being able to change the system preferences of macOS High Sierra’s App Store without the use of a genuine password.
Hopefully by the time you’re reading this, all of the qualms we have with macOS High Sierra at the moment will be addressed. Because otherwise it’s a decent operating system with a steady flow of sustenance from its creators. In the meantime, here is everything you need to know about macOS High Sierra.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The 2017 edition of Apple’s Mac operating system, macOS
- When is it out? Available to install as of September 25
- What will it cost? macOS High Sierra is free to download
macOS 10.13 High Sierra release date
Apple unveiled macOS 10.13 High Sierra at the WWDC 2017 keynote event, which came as little surprise, given that it's traditional for Apple to announce the latest version of its Mac software at its annual developer event.
Yet, it wasn’t until September 12 that Apple revealed that the full version of High Sierra would release just a week and a half later, on September 25. There was a developer version of the operating system you could enroll in leading into the final release, but fortunately that’s no longer necessary to take advantage of the latest features found in macOS 10.13.
Rather, by opening the App Store, it’s now easy as cake to download the full retail version of macOS High Sierra. Better yet, it doesn’t cost a thing, aside from the Apple tax you’ve already paid for owning a Mac computer. It’s 4.8GB in size, which isn’t tiny. But, then again, it’s also replacing your existing build of macOS, or OS X if you’re stuck in dinosaur times.
macOS 10.13 High Sierra features
Despite some Hackintosh users being rightfully worried about the newly enforced security checks on EFI firmware automatically deployed every week, Apple has introduced a number of exciting new features with macOS 10.13 High Sierra.
These include improvements to Safari – which will now thwart ad-tracking and auto-playing videos – and a more comprehensive Spotlight Search in the Mail App. Moreover, when you’re writing emails, the app now allows split view for the compose window – and, to make matters better, it uses up to 35% less disk space.
The Photos app has been updated in macOS 10.13 High Sierra as well, with a better sorting tool to boot. All of this is complemented by a new layout, better facial recognition thanks to neural networks, and better syncing across all Apple devices.
Editing tools, too, have seen improvements, in turn making it easier than ever to enhance the quality of your photos without learning the ins and outs of Photoshop or Camera RAW. And of course, you can count on Instagram-like filters being a part of this.
One of the biggest changes that comes with macOS High Sierra is with the file system. It’s ditching the HFS – which Apple has used for around 30 years, and is now using the Apple File System (APFS) instead.
Every Mac that’s upgraded to macOS High Sierra will make this files system change automatically with the exception of those sporting Fusion Drives and older HDDs. Likewise, all new Macs will ship pre-formatted for APFS.
To be exact, APFS is a 64-bit file system that supports native encryption and faster metadata operation. This may all sound a bit techy, but the bottom line is that this will make your Mac feel a lot faster, while also being more secure and more transparent about the nature of your files and folder contents.
The update also brings HEVC, or H.265, video compression to the Mac. Apple claims that this new standard can compress video files 40% more than the previous-generation H.264 standard. The end result will be faster video streams at higher resolutions – ahem, 4K – and smaller video files sizes when stored locally.
VR finally comes to the Mac
One of the biggest bits of news surrounding macOS High Sierra is that it will finally bring support for virtual reality headsets officially. Namely, the HTC Vive and Steam VR will work with Macs running the new OS this autumn.
However, to use such a device, you'll need at least a 5K iMac or MacBook Pro – or, any Mac that can run the new OS with an external graphics card box attached via Thunderbolt 3. Support for such devices will come part and parcel with macOS High Sierra, but won't be an active function until spring 2018.
macOS 10.13 High Sierra compatibility
Fortunately, in the act of creating a macOS iteration that only moderately shakes things up, the barrier to entry didn’t change at all. As long as you’re rocking one of the following Mac models, you’ll be good to go with macOS High Sierra on day one:
- Late 2009 iMac or newer
- Late 2009 MacBook/MacBook (Retina) or newer
- Mid-2010 MacBook Pro or newer
- Late 2010 MacBook Air or newer
- Mid-2010 Mac Mini or newer
- Mid-2010 Mac Pro or newer
- 2017 iMac Pro
Bear in mind that if you want to take advantage of the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) benefits posed by macOS High Sierra, you’ll need a Mac donning – at the very least – an Intel sixth-generation Skylake processor. Unfortunately, that discounts everything released prior to 2015, but on the bright side, everything else macOS High Sierra brings to the table is fair game.
Joe Osborne and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this report