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macOS Logo [ ]
Type Operating System
Launch Date March 24, 2001[1]
Status Active
Product Line macOS
Platform Apple

macOS is a desktop operating system created by Apple Inc. Initially released under the name Mac OS X, Apple later shortened the name of their operating system to OS X, and then to macOS.[1] macOS was designed to be easy to use for everybody, with a special emphasis on its practicality for creators. macOS is free to install for Apple computer users, but is impossible to legally obtain a copy of macOS without a Mac. Non-Apple computer users are able to turn their machine into a Hackintosh, which is a non-Apple computer running a modified version of macOS. While Apple has never officially cracked down on personal unofficial installations of macOS, Apple took the Psystar Corporation to the Supreme Court in 2008 for commercially distributing Hackintosh computers.[2]

History of macOS

Mac OS X


Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah

Apple's Mac OS X operating system was first released on March 24, 2001 under the name Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah.[3] The first public release of the Apple-developed operating system was received with much excitement in the Apple community. However, this first early version of Mac OS X was laggy, buggy, and generally regarded by experts as not quite ready for public release. However, experts noted the importance of this new operating system. Cheetah includded the first versions of the apps TextEdit, Preview, Mail, and QuickTime.[3]

Mac OS X 10.1 Puma

Mac OS X 10.1 Puma was released on September 25, 2001. Instead of bringing new features, Puma was released with emphasis on performance and stability improvements. Puma added support for native DVD and CD playback through QuickTime, and allowed for customization of the dock.[4]

Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar

Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar was released on August 23, 2002. In addition to further performance improvements, Jaguar introduced a junk mail filter for the Mail app, built-in messaging using iChat, and the Address Book app. Also included with Jaguar was a new boot-up screen, and the iconic "Happy Mac" finder icon.[1]

Mac OS X 10.3 Panther

Mac OS X 10.3 Panther was released on October 24, 2003. The biggest improvement with Panther was the introduction of Exposé, a super fast multitasking interface. Exposé allows for users to swipe to quickly switch apps, see all current windows of an app, or access files on the desktop. Panther also introduced FireVault to secure hard drive data with 128 bit encryption, Xcode for users to develop Mac applications, and Font Book to manage system and user-installed fonts. The Finder app was also redesigned to include a unified sidebar with easy access to common file locations.[1]

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger was released on April 29, 2005. Tiger introduced Spotlight, a universal search tool which allows users to search files, emails, contacts, images, calendars, and applications. Also included with the release of Tiger was the addition of Dashboard, which allowed users to add widgets to their Mac computers for the first time. Mac OS X 10.4 also introduced Automator, a application that allows power users to write robust scripts that have the ability to control every aspect of the operating system, and VoiceOver, a tool for creating and storing audio recordings.[1]

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was released on October 26, 2007, and was touted as the "largest update to Mac OS X." Leopard redesigned the interface of Mac OS X, with new high-resolution icons, a translucent menu bar, larger drop shadows on application windows, and a new glossy 3D dock. Major features included in Leopard include: Quick Look, which allows users to quickly preview file contents with the press of the spacebar, Time Machine, an application which would automatically backup user files for later recovery, and Boot Camp, an application which allows Mac users to install and run Microsoft Windows natively on a partition.[1]

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard was released on August 28, 2008. Snow Leopard was introduced as a supplemental performance update to Leopard, no new user-facing applications were installed. However, many major under-the-hood improvements were made, such as Grand Central Dispatch, a new way for developers to write Mac applications that take advantage of new multi-core processors. OpenCL was also introduced in the backend, and it allowed developers to hook into the power of the GPU to create more graphics-heavy applications. In addition, Snow Leopard was substantially smaller than its predecessor, and users who installed Snow Leopard noticed around 7 GB of new free space. Snow Leopard also introduced the Mac App Store where users could easily install Mac apps from a verified source.[1]

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion was released on July 20, 2011. Lion was the first version of Mac OS X that was not available on physical install disks. Lion was also the first macOS version to officially support multi-touch gestures, page and image zoom, rubbber-band scrolling, full-screen swiping to switch between virtual desktops. Mission Control combined Dashboard and Exposé to create a fully integrated multi-tasking experience. In addition, Lion introduced Launchpad, which presented a full-screen view of all installed apps.[1]



OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

On July 25, 2012, Apple shortened the name of their operating system to OS X with the release of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Mountain Lion was the first version of macOS to officially include iCloud, Apple's integrated cloud-based platform for shared documents, messages, notes, calendars, contacts, reminders, and more. iCloud allows for seamless sharing between iOS and Mac devices for the first time. Successful iOS apps like Messages, Notes, Contacts, and Reminders were ported over to Mac. Notification Center was also brought over from iOS to consolidate all user and app notifications into one compiled list. AirDrop, Apple's WiFi-Bluetooth sharing platform, was also brought to the Mac for the first time. Controversially, Gatekeeper, a security feature which restricts the installation of apps from third-party sources, was introduced with Mountain Lion, but power users were able to disable Gatekeeper through the command line.[4]

OS X 10.9 Mavericks

OS X 10.9 Mavericks was released on October 22, 2013, and replaced Apple's big cat naming scheme with a new naming scheme, popular locations in Apple's home state of California. Mavericks introduced new apps such as iBooks and Maps. In addition, Mavericks also added tabbed browsing for Finder, and interactive notifications actions. For the first time, current Mac users were able to upgrade to OS X 10.9 Mavericks for free. However, this does not mean that OS X 10.9 Mavericks is free-to-install for everyone, it was only available from the Mac App Store, which only runs on Mac computers. However, it was impossible for a Microsoft Windows user to legally download Mavericks for free, making Mavericks only conditionally free.[4]

OS X 10.10 Yosemite

OS X 10.10 Yosemite was released on October 16, 2014 and featured the a major redesign to match the new look and feel of iOS 7. Moving away from the skeuomorphic design used by Apple for the past 10 years, Apple changed the default system typeface to Helvetica Neue, and added blurred effects, a flat graphic design, and light and dark color schemes. Apple also introduced Continuity and Handoff, which allowed Mac users to seamlessly switch between their Mac and iOS devices.[4]

OS X 10.11 El Capitan

OS X 10.11 El Capitan was released on September 30, 2015. El Capitan included new features such as Split View, which allowed for synchronous use of two apps side-by-side, and a smarter Spotlight search which allowed for the indexing of weather, stocks, sports, websites, definitions, and directions. Apple yet again changed the default system typeface to their in-house typeface: San Francisco.[4]



macOS 10.12 Sierra

On September 20, 2016, Apple changed their operating system's name to macOS with the release of macOS 10.12 Sierra.[3] Apple changed the name of their Mac operating system to macOS in an effort to consolidate and simplify their operating system hierarchy. They announced clear naming schemes for each of their device types, iOS for iPhones, iPadOS for iPads, watchOS for Apple Watches, and macOS for Mac computers. The most notable feature of macOS Sierra was the introduction of Siri on macOS.[3]

macOS 10.13 High Sierra

Released on September 25, 2017, macOS High Sierra provided supplemental updates to the major Sierra update. The most important feature included in High Sierra is Apple File System, a more efficient file management system that promises better performance when searching, copying, transferring, and retrieving files. Apple refreshed the design of the Photos app to match the style of iOS, and added performance and security updates to Safari.[3]

macOS 10.14 Mojave

macOS 10.14 Mojave was released on September 24, 2018. The major features included in Mojave include a system-wide dark mode, Dynamic Desktops which change their lighting throughout the course of the day, and the Mac App Store was redesigned to fit Apple's new design language. Apple ported four more successful iOS apps to macOS, the News, Stocks, Home, and Voice Memos apps were added with the same functionality as their iOS counterparts.[3]

macOS 10.15 Catalina

macOS 10.15 Catalina was released on October 7, 2019, and is the most current macOS version at the time of writing. The most notable features in Catalina include Sidecar, which allows iPad users to use their device as a second display, or as a graphic design tablet. Also included in Catalina is the Find My app, which allows users to easily locate and ping their own Apple devices, and allows users to invite friends to share their location.[3]

Ethicality of macOS


OS X 10.5 Leopard Install Disk. Price: $129

When Apple first released macOS under Mac OS X, updates were installed using a physical install disk. For the first four years of Mac OS X updates (Mac OS X 10.0-10.5), Apple charged $129 for an install/upgrade disk. Starting with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Apple dropped the install disk price to $29 in an effort to improve update adoption rates. Just two years/updates later, with the release of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Apple yet again dropped the price to $19. Finally, just one year later, starting with OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Apple decided to stop charging users for updates. OS X 10.9 Mavericks was the the first over-the-air (OTA) update for macOS, and users were able to download and update to OS X Mavericks for free through the Mac App Store.[5]

Once Apple made their operating system free to update, Microsoft soon followed suit and started releasing free-to-install and free-to-update Windows updates. The difference between Microsoft and Apple's approaches to operating system updates is that Microsoft's Windows operating system is free-to-install and free-to-update, while Apple's macOS operating system is only free-to-upgrade.[6] To download Windows for free, all it takes is a quick search online which will bring you to Microsoft's official Download Windows 10 web page. From there, users can select their computer architecture and download a digital install image to install on any device. Unlike Windows, the only way to download a copy of macOS for free is if your Apple computer currently is running an older version of macOS, or if you buy a brand new Apple computer that comes with macOS pre-installed. If you don't have a Apple computer, you would be unable to download this "free" operating system. In reality, the price premium that customers pay when purchasing an Apple computer actually goes to paying for lifetime firmware updates.

It is very ethical of Apple to make their operating system free to download from the Mac App Store, as it encourages macOS users to regularly update their operating system to protect themselves from security threats, viruses, and exploits. However, macOS is not unconditionally free, it's is only free to download with the purchase of an Apple-manufactured computer.


What is Hackintosh?

A hackintosh is any computer not manufactured by Apple that runs macOS. The word "hackintosh" is a play on words of Macintosh, and it implies that the user will have to modify/hack macOS firmware to recreate the functionality of running macOS on a Macintosh computer. There are many reasons why an advanced user might want macOS on a non-Apple-manufactured computer such as: cheaper costs, custom and replaceable hardware, design preferences, and the need for computing power not offered by Apple.[7]


Installing macOS on any non-Apple-manufactured hardware is a violation of the macOS End-User License Agreement (EULA). According to Apple, all hackintosh computers are illegal due to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The macOS EULA states that users do not "buy" macOS, they merely license it from Apple. However, the wording of the license specifically prohibits the install of macOS on any non-Apple device. Installing macOS on a non-Apple computer is a breach of the EULA contract and, by extension, a violation of the DMCA. In most countries, violating a EULA contract is not illegal because the EULA is a contract. However, a breach of the DMCA are is a copyright violation, which is illegal because the DMCA is a federal copyright law.[8]

Psystar Corportation

Psystar Logo.png

Apple has historically turned a blind eye to the OSx86 Project, the largest community of hackintosh enthusiasts. The OSx86 Project has been around for years and provides support for users who want to create their own hackintosh machines. The one time that Apple intervened with hackintosh community was when the Psystar Corporation began selling hackintosh computers through their website. Psystar Corporation's machines were the the first commercially distributed hackintosh computers. In July 2008, Apple filed a copyright lawsuit against Psystar Corporation, claiming that by selling machines with macOS installed, Psystar was in violation of the DMCA. Psystar Corporation responded with two lawsuits against Apple for monopolistic behavior and anti-competitive practices.[2] This case garnered major media attention, and ended up reaching the Supreme Court, which ruled that Psystar Corporation had violated Apple's copyright. In short, it seems that Apple only gets involved when macOS is commercially distributed by a third party company.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 An Illustrated History of macOS
  2. 2.0 2.1 What Is A Hackintosh Computer And Why It's Not For Everyone
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Mac OS X: A Brief History
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 The evolution of macOS (and Mac OS X)
  5. Apple Just Ended the Era of Paid Operating Systems
  6. No, OS X isn't free -- but that might not matter for Microsoft
  7. What Is a Hackintosh Computer?
  8. What is a Hackintosh Computer?