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I am wondering if installing a new macOS (Big Sur and newer) that is meant for Apple Silicon macs, on an old Intel-based mac will carry any performance penalty. I'm thinking along the lines that all CPU instructions need to be translated to Intel instructions and that would result in worse performance than if using a fully updated macOS 10 (Catalina) which was meant for Intel.

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  • What model (year) is your Mac?
    – benwiggy
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 17:54
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    Any performance penalty would be the result of booting from a traditional hard drive instead of an ssd . If your intel machine doesn’t have the latter built in, then get an external and boot from that. Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 18:03
  • @benwiggy it's an early 2015 MBP
    – Tommy
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 18:04

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Big Sur, Monterey and Ventura contain code for both Intel and Apple Silicon CPUs. (As do most new applications -- they are 'Universal Binaries' that contain both sets of instructions.)

There is therefore no 'translation to Intel' required. All copies of macOS have Intel code (going back to Tiger 10.4 in 2006!). The latest OS, Ventura, supports Intel Macs from 2017 and later. Big Sur supports Intel Macs going back to 2013. These OS versions are not only for Apple Silicon; but for Intel Macs as well.

M-series Macs can translate application code from Intel to Apple Silicon, and there is a slightly performance penalty; but this is at the application level, not at the OS level. No such capability exists for Intel code to run AS code.

It is generally advisable to be on the latest OS that your Mac can support -- though staying on Monterey until Ventura is a bit more mature is also a wise policy.

Your Early 2015 MBP is supported by Monterey (the last OS it will run); and you should find it will run perfectly happily.

It's likely that some future OS will only contain Apple Silicon code, dropping support for Intel Macs altogether. (And halving the size of the OS!) Only then will the OS be 'meant for Apple Silicon'.

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