2016-10-13

Update on MacOS Sierra

At this time we have installed Sierra on about 50% of the Macs we maintain, and so far it is going well.  Performance and reliability seems on-par with El Capitan:
  • No kernel panics
  • No significant bugs/failures or "first party" app crashes
  • No app compatibility issues
  • No performance issues
  • No data migration issues (we use Migration Assistant)
 Here is our hardware minimum:

4 GB of RAM.  We have Sierra running well on machines with 4 GB of RAM.   Although the majority of our Macs have 8 GB, 4 GB is totally acceptable.  We haven't had a machine with less than 4 GB of memory for several years.

As we've said earlier, if you're upgrading from less than 4 GB of RAM and need to buy new RAM, we suggest buying 8 GB.


Amount Today Advice Rough Price
Less than 4 GB Go to 8 GB $40
4GB + Do nothing $0


Non-Traditional Drive.  As of earlier this year, we no longer have any traditional hard drives in our Macs.  All of them have been upgraded to either a hybrid drive ("SSHD"), or a straight-up SSD.

Hybrids are much less expensive per GB, so they're a good option for those with a lot of storage needs on a budget.  SSHDs are not as speedy as a good, low-cost "full" SSD, but they're less than half the price.  And an SSHD is a tremendous boost over a traditional quality hard drive... and only about $25 more expensive.

Here's a matrix summing up my thoughts on storage:


Storage Type Rough Price Storage Performance Reliability Battery Use
Traditional HD $55 1 TB Too Slow!!! Very Good Higher
SSHD $80 1 TB Very Good Very Good Medium
SSD (low-cost) $240 1 TB Excellent Excellent Lower

Age.   We have no concerns about running Sierra on any Sierra-capable Mac.   Even our oldest eligible Macs - models over 5 years old - run Sierra well.

Bugs and Stuff: Broken Keyboard Driver with Bootable Sierra Installer

The only bug we've seen is when performing a clean install from USB boot media.  The keyboard driver of the bootable installer seems to be broken on particular Macs.  A keyboard is required to use Terminal, or to perform some Disk Utility actions.

Our work-around is to use an older bootable OS X installer (from El Capitan, Yosemite, or whatever) to prepare the machine, and then boot with the Sierra Installer to do the actual OS installation - no keyboard required.

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