macOS Big Sur review: What’s new in macOS 11

Apple’s 31st WWDC has brought many amazing updates and gave us a sneak peek at macOS Big Sur. Many users have predicted that the new operating system will be traditionally named after another beautiful spot in California. Apple didn’t disappoint us; the company even exceeded our expectations by introducing considerable improvements to the OS.

As a Mac user, you probably want to know what massive updates the new macOS Big Sur brings along. So let’s discuss the new OS in more detail.

macOS Big Sur release date

macOS Big Sur has become publicly available starting November 12, 2020. This time, it took longer for Apple to polish the update from the Beta stages. Users can download the update from the Mac App Store. It’s also listed in the Software Updates section in System Preferences. Now, all the perks of macOS Big Sur are out for everyone to enjoy, not just Apple developers.

Can your Mac run Big Sur?

There is only one thing to check before you get all excited to install a new release — compatibility. Unfortunately, not every Mac can run macOS Big Sur. The new operating system has its own system requirements, so if your Mac is compatible with those, you can install a new OS. So, here’s a list of all Macs that are compatible with the macOS Big Sur update:

  • MacBook Air models from 2013 or later
  • MacBook Pro models from 2013 or later
  • Mac Pro models from 2013 or later
  • Mac mini models from 2014 or later
  • iMac models from 2014 or later
  • iMac Pro (all models)
  • MacBook models from early 2015 or later

What if your Mac isn’t compatible with the new OS? Then make sure it is running macOS Catalina 10.15 or the latest compatible version. Apple releases security patches for previous operating systems, but still, they won’t be addressing all vulnerabilities.

Some users circumvent the restrictions: they install the incompatible OS on their computers using third-party software. This may have its own consequences for your Mac, so we don’t recommend doing it unless you’re 100% sure.

Prepare your Mac for the big update

If your Mac is compatible with the new macOS Big Sur, you will be able to install the OS. However, for a smooth and more stable update, there are a couple of things to do. The first one is to clear your Mac of needless junk and data. These can be old system logs, outdated cache files, or items you trashed a long time ago.

The best tool to deal with those files is CleanMyMac X. This is a dedicated Mac cleaner software created to turn cluttered and slow Macs into organized and speedy ones. CleanMyMac X has a couple of other helpful features, making it easier to manage your storage, find old and large files, and clear your system of unused apps, old files, and even malware.

So, here’s how you can clean your Mac before installing macOS Big Sur:

  1. Download and install CleanMyMac X (it has a risk-free trial version).
  2. Launch the app and press Scan.
  3. Press Run to delete old junk or
  4. Click Review Details to manually select what you want to delete.
CleanMyMac X - Smart Scan complete

Now, as your Mac is clean and more organized, you can move to the next step — backing up your data.

Backup is a must thing to do before any system update. No one can predict what bugs can appear after you install the new OS on your Mac. In some cases, you may even need to revert to the previous OS. If you don’t want to lose your data if anything goes wrong, back up all your files before updating your Mac to macOS Big Sur.

What’s new in macOS Big Sur?

macOS Big Sur is something all designers have been waiting for as it features a fresh appearance with the simplicity Apple is known for. Apple brought macOS more in line with iOS in this new update: macOS Big Sur features iOS-style widgets and expands Messages and Maps functionality, adding features limited to iOS earlier. Let’s discuss what’s new in macOS Big Sur in more detail!

A modern and fresh look

In Big Sur, Apple has reimagined the look and feel of macOS. The new design features softer, rounded edges. Apple has also changed the usual look of the icons of the native apps, transforming them into squircles. The menu bar now looks like a customizable Control Center on your iPhone: it gives you prompt access to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirDrop, display brightness, volume, and other settings.

The Control Center appears in macOS Big Sur, bringing all your favorite menu bar items together. You can also customize the Control Center the way you like it.

There’re also changes in the Notification Center. Its new look combines both notifications and widgets, which allows you to perform some tasks without opening an app. For example, if you want to reply to an email, all you need to do is click and hold on a notification and use the options that appear.

Speaking of widgets, Apple first introduced those in OS X Yosemite. But this time, the same widgets will be available on both iOS and macOS, which allows you to conveniently use your apps across two platforms.


If you’ve been using another browser before, with the update to macOS Big Sur, you’re likely to switch to Safari. The new Safari is going to be 50% faster at loading pages than other browsers. There’s great news for streamers: Safari will offer 3 hours more battery life for streaming videos compared to Chrome and Firefox.


If your browser feels slow, there’s a quick solution that optimizes your whole Mac’s performance. CleanMyMac X has an Optimization feature that helps you increase your Mac’s output. It terminates heavy-consuming apps and gives your Mac’s CPU some room to breathe. Try it out — a free version is available.

Another exciting feature introduced in Safari is called Privacy Report. It enhances your privacy on macOS even more, adding a rundown of all trackers on a site you’re visiting. Safari goes another step ahead of other browsers blocking those trackers to provide a secure browsing experience.

With the macOS Big Sur release, you can expect to see more of your favorite Chrome or Firefox extensions in Safari. Apple now supports WebExtensions API, which provides an easier way for developers to convert Chrome and Firefox extensions to Safari.


Messages on your Mac will be in complete sync with the app on your iPhone. You can pin up to nine of your most important conversations, customize group chats with photos or Memojis, respond with inline replies — and do all of that and more conveniently on your Mac.

Apple definitely wants you to use Messages more: the app gets more organized and fun with the upcoming OS update. A new search interface helps you find links, photos, and texts much faster. Some older functionality, such as Message Effects, will also be available, automatically adding a suitable effect to liven up your conversation.


Maps seem to get closer to the Mac users with the new OS update. Now, you can plan your cycling route on your Mac and let Maps sync it with your iPhone. If you’re driving an electric vehicle, Maps can help you build a route, including charging stations in it.

Maps get even more detailed in macOS Big Sur. Now, you can see inside the airports and shopping malls to make sure you won’t get lost.

Another thing introduced to Maps is guides. The guides contain suggested lists of places to eat, shop, and visit arranged by trusted brands. Those lists are perfect for tourists and also people who want to explore their own city — you can follow the suggested route or even create one yourself.

Other exciting features

In Big Sur, Apple puts emphasis on responsible data tracking. Safari is packed with features that prevent online trackers from keeping an eye on your activity.

Apple has also made some similar improvements in the App Store, displaying the data each app collects on you. Now, developers will have to provide clear information on data used to track you across apps and websites and whether this data is linked to your identity or not.

Another exciting and requested feature — automatic AirPods switch between devices — has been added in the macOS Big Sur. Now, you won’t need to manually reconnect your AirPods; they will switch between devices paired to the same iCloud account automatically.

Apple Silicon and what it means for macOS users

With the announcement of macOS Big Sur, Apple also introduced its own Apple Silicon that is going to power future Macs. What does it mean for macOS users? The new Silicon is faster, and it’s expected to considerably prolong the battery life of the new Macs.

But Apple Silicon is also a challenge for the developers, as they will need to update their apps to support a new chip. In fact, the update period was turbulent: some of the apps were temporarily unavailable, while others have never been updated. In case of the latter, users will have to switch to alternatives compatible with Apple Silicon.

Free up space to install macOS update

Now, you’re probably too excited to install macOS Big Sur. Apple suggests having 20 GB of free space in order to successfully update your macOS. The best way to check how much free space you have and clear up your hard drive is by using the Space Lens feature by CleanMyMac X.

Space Lens builds a virtual map of your storage space, providing details on each folder and its contents. It also lets you remove unneeded files and apps, thus freeing up space for the new OS. Here’s how to build your storage map:

Scan completed in Space lens module in CleanMyMacX

  1. Launch CleanMymac X.
  2. Go to Space Lens and press Scan.
  3. Browse folders and select files that you can remove. CleanMyMac X won’t let you delete important system files.
  4. Press Remove button to delete selected items.

Done! Now, you should have more free space.

Apple’s 31 WWDC brought a lot of exciting announcements: a huge redesign, Safari update, the revival of widgets, and improvements to Messages, Maps, and other apps. This event revealed Apple’s revolutionary step to power Macs with their own Apple Silicon. Has macOS Big Sur met our expectations? As Mac users around the globe finally tried it in the flesh, the reviews were positive. So, if your device is compatible and you haven’t updated yet, you should definitely give it a try.

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