The march of time: how to tell whether your Mac is no longer supported

Apple products are well known for lasting longer than those of many manufacturers, and many Mac users seem happy to continue to use, even rely on, hardware which is verging on the ancient.

However, Apple does start to discontinue supplies of spare parts for its products when five years have elapsed since the product was last manufactured. This is not a clear, black line: because of laws in some jurisdictions such as California, France and Turkey, it is required to provide some support beyond those five years. Accordingly it uses the terms ‘vintage’ and ‘obsolete’.

In practice, spares and service are normally easy to obtain for models up to three years from their date of last manufacture. From three to five years, some spares start to become more difficult to obtain, and after five years you not should rely on such supplies. This varies according to the part: replacement hard disks are generally available from third-parties for very much longer, but Apple-specific spares such as logic boards (motherboards) and graphics cards are usually limited to Apple’s supplies.

There are two easy ways to determine which models are deemed obsolete and unsupported.

The first is that they are marked as such in Ian Page’s MacTracker, an invaluable app providing extensive information about hardware, peripherals, and OS X; this is now also available in the App Store, and for iOS devices.

The official policy as to which models are deemed obsolete is Apple’s listing, which it updates periodically.

You may be surprised to learn, for instance, that the following models are now unsupported:

  • MacBook Pro Early and Mid 2009,
  • Mac mini Late 2009,
  • iMac 21.5″ and 27″ Late 2009,
  • Mac Pro Early 2009,
  • Time Capsule 2nd generation,
  • iPhone 3G and 3GS.

Some third-party services and support may continue: further details are here.