How to check what macOS version you have
You might ask yourself "What version of macOS do I have?" or "What macOS am I running?". Knowing what version of macOS you are using can be useful in several situations. It can come in handy when trying to determine whether your Mac is up to date, or you might want to check if a desired app or game is compatible with your system. Regardless of the reasons behind your query, read this guide to become one of the people who can proudly state "I am currently running my Mac on [insert version name and number here]":
1. Find out your macOS version from the Apple menu
Apple was aware that this issue might come up fairly often, so they made it easy to check the version of your Mac operating system (macOS). How easy? Well, it only takes two clicks, and the info is displayed on your screen. First, click on the Apple logo on the top left corner of your screen. In the menu that opens, click on "About This Mac."
This action opens a window with information about the Mac that you are using, displaying the name of your macOS version first, in a larger font, followed by its version number. In our case, the name of the version is macOS Catalina, and the version number is 10.15.1.
NOTE: To achieve consistency across all platforms, Apple rebranded the operating systems used on its Mac devices from OS X to macOS. This means that, if you are running El Capitan or older, the displayed name of your version is preceded by OS X (instead of macOS).
2. Find out your macOS version from the Terminal
Not everyone has the same needs or preferences, so if you have a special relationship with your Terminal, there are many commands that you can use to find the macOS version. First, open the Terminal app. An easy way to do this is to open Spotlight with the default keyboard shortcut Command (⌘) - Spacebar, type in "terminal" and access the app from the results.
The Terminal app opens, allowing you to enter different commands. Type the command: sw_vers -productVersion and hit Return on your keyboard. The operating system version is displayed in the format "10." followed by some numbers and other dots. In our case, it is 10.15.1.
Another Terminal command that helps you find out the macOS version is system_profiler SPSoftwareDataType. This command offers a System Software Overview, starting with your System Version, which is precisely the piece of information you need.
Commands can be customized to show more or less information and to structure the information in different ways. As a result, there are many other commands you can use to find out your version number from the Terminal, besides the two we illustrated. However, my chief-editor Ciprian was adamant that a 20-page long tutorial was not really an option, no matter how excited I was about Terminal commands, so we decided to only include the two commands above. :)
As you can see in the screenshots above, the version name or the marketing name is not included when you use the Terminal to find out your macOS version. However, you can find out what it is, if you know the version number.
macOS names and versions
While each new major macOS version is released under a different version name, version numbers change with every update since the original major named version. However, the first two sets of numbers from the version number remain the same throughout every major version. In our case, the version number is 10.15.1. The first two sets of numbers (10.15) correspond with macOS Catalina, while the last number (1) means that this is the first iteration of macOS Catalina. To identify the name of your macOS version, we included the list below with all the corresponding OS X and macOS version names, starting with the most recent at the time this tutorial was published:
- 10.15 - Catalina
- 10.14 - Mojave
- 10.13 - High Sierra
- 10.12 - Sierra
- 10.11 - El Capitan
- 10.10 - Yosemite
- 10.9 - Mavericks
- 10.8 - Mountain Lion
- 10.7 - Lion
- 10.6 - Snow Leopard
- 10.5 - Leopard
- 10.4 - Tiger
- 10.3 - Panther
- 10.2 - Jaguar
- 10.1 - Puma
- 10.0 - Cheetah
What would you name your macOS version?
Thank you for taking the time to read this tutorial! We hope it has been helpful and you now know the macOS version that you are using. Did you notice that the first nine major macOS versions are named after big cats? Apple started using California landmarks for the last seven. Before you close this page, let us know in the comments what your favorite macOS version name is. Also, what would you name your macOS version, if you could choose any name?