The follow-up to macOS 10.12 Sierra, macOS High Sierra has been readily available since September 2017, four months ago at the time of writing. Seeing as it’s evolved ever so subtly over the course of its lifespan, it’s time to start asking what’s next.
Right now, the answer to that question appears to be malware combatance, as the latest Mac operating system was recently discovered to be vulnerable to the DNS hijacking exploit.
Mere days after some users found a system preferences password bug that left their systems easily exploitable, it is now being said that macOS High Sierra can be maliciously targeted by changing DNS server settings.
Hopefully by the time you’re reading this, the few issues we have with macOS High Sierra at the moment will be sorted out. Aside from a handful of minor setbacks, it’s a decent operating system with a steady flow of sustenance from its creators.
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.
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.
macOS High Sierra has since been updated several times, with version 10.13.3 now available to eager developers looking forward to stability improvements. For us casual non-developers, the most recent edition of macOS High Sierra is 10.13.2, though in the interim, Apple has notably made the refinements necessary to thwart the infamous Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities hindering everything with an Intel chipset.
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