macOS Catalina vs macOS Mojave

macOS Catalina was fundamental in many ways, including its built-in apps and speed. If you are still running Mojave or even an older macOS, you are probably wondering: what’s the difference in Catalina compared to its predecessor? Is it worth upgrading? Well, read on to find out.

macOS Catalina vs macOS Mojave

The easiest way to compare macOS Catalina with macOS Mojave is to break the comparison down into several categories, like performance, features, user interface, etc. That’s what we’re going to do. Hopefully, you’ll get a clear idea of whether Catalina is worth the upgrade. Let’s get started!

If you decide to upgrade to macOS Catalina after reading the article, remember to clear out the junk on your Mac first. Installing any new macOS with a Mac full of system junk is like building a house on shaky foundations. Not a good idea! I don’t often recommend software, but I make an exception in this case. Let me introduce CleanMyMac X!

CleanMyMac X is my favorite way to get rid of junk. I use the System Junk tool that makes it easy to see what’s taking up my disk space and remove unnecessary files. The app is a no-brainer, easy to use, and instantly frees up tons of space. Download it for free and try it for yourself.


Every new macOS brings along bug fixes and streamline support for core technologies. So, in theory, your system should perform sleeker. macOS Catalina is often referred to as a "technology release", meaning it drops support for outdated services and opens the way for new ones, like 64-bit apps.

However, there are some significant differences in productivity compared with macOS Mojave. You will be able to use an iPad as a second display and a graphics tablet with an Apple Pencil. When you use it as a second monitor, you will be able to either add extra screen space or mirror your Mac’s display.

An overhaul of Reminders and improvements to Notes will make those apps much more helpful. And minor enhancements to Safari and Mail should boost productivity. Also, the ability to share folders in iCloud Drive, rather than just files, is another major improvement in this category.

Built-in apps

This is the big focus for the new version of macOS. iTunes is no more. So if you love it, then you should stick to Mojave. For the rest of us, the ancient media monolith gets replaced by three new apps: TV, Music, and Podcasts. All three work in the same way as on iOS, and the TV app is designed to work with Apple’s forthcoming TV+ subscription service.

Photos now have new machine-learning features to improve how it curates and displays your images. It will highlight shots that are important to you based on behavior.

A new Find My app replaces Find My iPhone, Find My Mac and Find My Friends. And it will work even if the Mac you’re trying to find is asleep and offline.


Another big area for macOS Catalina that sees significant improvements is Voice Control. Now you can navigate and control your Mac using your voice to select items, click on them, and drag them. Grids overlaid on the screen will allow you to tell your Mac exactly where you want to relocate something.

macOS Catalina will also allow you to zoom in on one screen while keeping another at 100% and hover a text section to display a larger, high-resolution version.

Privacy and security

Starting macOS Catalina, Apple decided to zero in on privacy improvements. Activation Lock means that only you will be able to erase and reactivate your Mac. And Catalina runs in its read-only volume on your startup disk, so nothing can accidentally overwrite system files. Finally, in macOS Catalina, apps will need your permission before directly accessing files on your Desktop, Documents, iCloud Drive, and external disks. You’ll also be asked before any app requests to capture keyboard activity or a photo or video of your screen.


Yet another focus for Apple in recent years has been reducing the time we spend looking at the screens. In Catalina, Screen Time comes to the Macs as well. You’ll be able to set screen time limits and adjust those limits to different types of activity. You’ll also be able to use Family Sharing to set limits for your family members.

Other Apple devices

In Mojave, Apple introduced Marzipan, a technology that makes it easier to port iPad apps to Mac. With macOS Catalina, Apple has introduced Project Catalyst, a concerted effort to persuade developers to port iPad apps to the new OS.

As we mentioned above, in macOS Catalina, you’ll be able to use your iPad as a second screen, graphics tablet, or Continuity Markup (a method of marking up PDFs on an iPad and transferring it to your Mac). You can also use Apple Watch to unlock your Mac and confirm app installations.

Can you upgrade?

If, after reading about the benefits of Catalina over Mojave, you’ve decided you want to upgrade, the next step is to check your Mac’s ability to upgrade. Apple does a great job of making sure that new upgrades work on as many Macs as possible, going as far back as possible. But, inevitably, some Macs work with Mojave that won’t run Catalina. Here’s the complete list of those that support macOS Catalina:

MacBook 2015 and later
MacBook Air 2012 and later
MacBook Pro 2012 and later
iMac 2012 and later
iMac Pro 2017 and later
Mac Pro 2013 and later

How to prepare your Mac for macOS Catalina

A fresh macOS requires a fresh Mac. I recommend installing new macOS on a drive that’s free from junk. Outdated system files from the old operating system may interfere with the installation. It’s like wiping away dust from all corners before you start redesigning your house.

So get ready to get rid of a few things:

  • application and user caches
  • old and broken applications
  • extensions and launch agents

You can do it on your own, without any app or technician. But I suggest using an app to clean your Mac effectively, CleanMyMac X by MacPaw. It’s so easy and with the stunning design that you’ll almost get addicted to it. It deletes 9-15 GB of junk on average and is notarized by Apple. Download the free version here.

After cleaning your Mac and preparing it for macOS Catalina, back up your Mac using Time Machine.

macOS Catalina was and continues to be an excellent upgrade. And when you compare it with Mojave, it’s clear that there are many improvements and brand new features to try. And don’t forget to use utility apps like CleanMyMac X to clear out junk files before upgrading.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.