How old of a MacBook is still good for a student?


Macbook Pro With M1 ChipSource: iMore

Best answer: If you have access to an older or hand-me-down MacBook Air or Pro from the last seven years or so, it should still work well as a tool for most students.

What you’re looking for in an older MacBook

First thing’s first: Whether you’re getting it as a hand-me-down from a relative, finding it on eBay, or buying it from Apple’s own Certified Refurbished store, you’re going to want something from no further back than 2017 or 2018.

macOS Ventura Feature Tiles

Source: Apple

This is because as a student, you’ll want a Mac that supports macOS 13 Ventura, which will arrive in September or October 2022. It’s the upcoming version of macOS. Apple has noted it will work on MacBook Air models from 2018 and later and MacBook Pro models from 2017 and later.

Here are the only older MacBook models we’re currently recommending:

  • 12-inch MacBook, 2017
  • 13-inch MacBook Air (2018)
  • 13-inch MacBook Air (2019)
  • 13-inch MacBook Air (2020)
  • 13-inch MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
  • MacBook Pro (2017), all sizes
  • MacBook Pro (2018), all sizes
  • MacBook Pro (2019), all sizes
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020)

What about older MacBooks?

We understand many students are on a tight budget, which means they can’t afford the devices mentioned above. Of course, you can purchase an even older MacBook for word processing and web browsing. However, support will be massively hamstrung. Plus, it won’t communicate well with newer devices and repair costs could be excessive.

What about Apple silicon?

In 2020, Apple announced it would transition the Mac lineup away from Intel-based processors and introduce machines with in-house chips. The 2020 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro are the first laptops to include Apple silicon. These models offer the Apple M1 chip.

Who should get an older MacBook Pro?

MacBook Pro Apple M1

Source: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore

The MacBook Pro is an excellent series of Macs because it’s the most flexible of Apple’s lineup. Even the lower-end models provide ample power for most tasks such as writing, web browsing, and photo editing. Higher-end models are great for more involved work, such as using complex scientific and engineering programs.

If your schoolwork involves using resource-intensive applications or video editing, you’ll want a MacBook Pro. But even if it doesn’t, if you can find a used or refurbished MacBook Pro for a reasonable price, a MacBook Pro will still serve you well in less technically-intensive fields.

Who should get an older MacBook Air?

Macbook Air 2020 Shelf Hero

Source: Rene Ritchie / iMore

The MacBook Air is also a great option and it has traditionally led our list of the best MacBooks for students. These machines are typically lighter than MacBook Pro models and offer fewer features that probably won’t mean much to non-creatives. It may prove challenging to use, however, for those students who work with high-end scientific, engineering, or content creation applications. But most students, whether they’re studying business administration, early childhood education, or English literature, should get everything they need out of a MacBook Air.

Should you get a MacBook?

Apple’s one-port, now-discontinued MacBook was a relatively thin and light laptop. It was also never that powerful. If you can get your hands on one of the final 2017 models at a great price, it’s worth considering since it will support macOS 13 Ventura. However, for most folks, it just won’t be powerful enough.

Where should you buy an older MacBook?

Unless someone you know is giving or selling you an older Mac, you’ll need to do some shopping. Your safest bet when buying an older Mac is probably to get a refurbished unit from either Apple’s Certified Refurbished store or Amazon. There are Macs available from those outlets at reasonable prices and you shouldn’t need to worry about scams.

Not weighed down

2020 Macbook Air Gold

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

A solid thin-and-light Mac.

The 2020 MacBook Air should still perform well for most tasks. Plus, it comes in more than two colors.


2020 Macbook Pro Keyboard

MacBook Pro (M1, 2020)

A winner with incredible power

The 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro offers Touch Bar, Apple M1, and more.

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