macOS Monterey vs. Catalina

There have been two upgrades to macOS since Catalina. First Big Sur, and now Monterey. So there are quite a few differences between Catalina and Monterey. If you’re thinking about making the leap from Catalina, skipping Big Sur, and going straight to Monterey, we’ll tell you here about the main differences between the two. Some are changes made in Big Sur; others are upgrades in Monterey.

macOS Monterey vs.Catalina: Performance and compatibility

As you would expect, there are several Macs that could run Catalina which Apple doesn’t support to run Monterey. The table below shows you which Macs can run each of the two operating systems.



Any Mac Pro or iMac Pro

MacBook 2016 or later

MacBook Pro and MacBook Air 2012 and later

MacBook Air 2015 or later

iMac and Mac mini late 2012 and later

MacBook Pro 2015 or later

MacBook 2015 and later

Mac mini 2014 or later

iMac autumn 2015 or later

iMac Pro

Mac Pro 2013 or later

Once you’ve checked the table above to make sure your Mac is compatible with Monterey, there are a couple of other things you should do before you upgrade. Think about it this way: installing a new operating system on top of all the old junk files currently on your Mac is like building a house on shaky foundations. You want nice firm foundations for your house and for Monterey. So it’s a good idea to clear out the junk and optimize your Mac before you upgrade. CleanMyMac X makes it easy to do that. It can track down and remove all the junk files you don’t need and carry out tasks like removing launch agents, repairing disk permissions, and freeing up RAM. You can download it for free here.

Maintenance Scripts in CleanMyMac X

User interface

Big Sur saw a significant change in Mac’s user interface compared with Catalina. Apps like Mail and Photos now have sidebars that stretch the full height of the window, and Finder windows now have curved corners and plain light or dark backgrounds on title bars or toolbars. The Dock was also re-designed. Its corners are rounded and all stock icons, and most app icons, are the same shape - a rounded rectangle, making it look neater.

Control Center

The Control Center, a feature of iOS for many years, is now on the Mac, added in Big Sur. Just as on the iPhone and iPad, it allows you to quickly access things like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controls and display and brightness. It sits in the menu bar, and you can drag elements from it onto the menu bar itself. In Monterey, Apple added an indicator that lights up when your Mac’s microphone is in use.


Safari got a significant upgrade in Big Sur, and its user interface was changed again in Monterey. Here’s a summary of the major changes compared with Safari in Catalina:

  • Reduced energy consumption
  • Customizable homepage background and contents
  • Built-in web page translation
  • Details of cross-site tracking
  • Web page previews when you hover over a tab
  • Tabs displayed to the right of the Smart search bar
  • Smart search/tab bar same color as the page background
  • Tab groups
  • Re-designed sidebar

Messages and FaceTime

Messages got a significant upgrade in Big Sur, and in Monterey, it was the turn of FaceTime.

In Messages, you can now pin conversations to the top of the list, reply directly to messages in group conversations, and ‘mention’ people in group chats. You can also search for and add GIFs and trending images to messages and create Memoji in Messages on Mac.

FaceTime now allows you to view participants in a group call in a grid, use Portrait mode to blur your background, and invite anyone to a call, even if they don't use an Apple device. You can also hold watching and listening parties with friends, where the video you're watching or music you're listening to is synced across everyone's devices and where the volume for everyone dips automatically when someone speaks.


Privacy has been a key theme for the last several macOS releases and Big Sur and Monterey are no different. Upgrading from Catalina will make your Mac and your data much more secure. Here are some of the privacy features added since Catalina:

  • App Store privacy reports
  • Cross-site tracking attempts displayed in Safari
  • Safari tells you if saved passwords have been compromised
  • Mail hides your IP address and prevents senders seeing whether you have opened an email
  • iCloud+ includes private really with hides your IP address from websites you visit
  • Mail allows you to create ‘throwaway’ email addresses

macOS Monterey vs.Catalina: other improvements

Several macOS apps have been upgraded since Catalina. Maps got a big overhaul in Big Sur, as did Photos. Music and Podcasts also got new features to bring them into line with their iOS versions. Spotlight is now much faster and includes Quick Look and Markup.

Notification Center has also been improved, with the ability to add widgets from third-party apps, and Dark Sky now powers the weather widget.

In macOS Monterey, text in images is now recognized as text and can be edited. Universal Control allows you to use the same mouse and keyboard with your Mac and iPad without disconnecting or reconnecting - just put them next to each other. You can even drag and drop files from one device to the other.

There’s a new AirPlay mode that allows you to send audio or video from an iOS device to your Mac. And iOS’ Low Power Mode is now on the Mac to help preserve battery life on your MacBook. If you use Shortcuts on the iPhone, you’ll be pleased that there’s now a Mac that allows you to create them.

As you can see, there are lots of differences between macOS Monterey and Catalina. A lot has happened on the Mac in the last two years. So, if you’re still running Catalina, you should consider upgrading. Before you do, remember to get your Mac ready by clearing out the junk and optimizing it using CleanMyMac X.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

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