Is Snow Leopard 'vulnerable to attacks?' Has Apple really abandoned it?

"Apple retires Snow Leopard from support, leaves 1 in 5 Mac vulnerable to attacks," reads the headline on Computerworld. Is it the end for Apple's venerable OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" operating system, and are you at risk if you're still using it? Hardly.

(Do the world a favor and don't click on that link. I put it here in the interest of full disclosure, but let's not reward bad behavior.)

No, Apple hasn't "retired" Snow Leopard. In fact, Snow Leopard is alive and well and still available for sale (opens in new tab) in the Apple Store.

Apple releases updates to software as they're needed. Mavericks, Lion and Mountain Lion all needed security updates. Snow Leopard didn't. End of story.

What's going on here is some hysterical, goggle-eyed reporting from Gregg Keizer at Computerworld, who has a very long history of twisting whatever he can find with an anti-Apple slant. He's one of the most prolific and long-running Apple trolls out there. Unfortunately, Keizer's shoddy report served as rich fodder for a whole slew of second-rate tech blogs who piled on with uncritical regurgitations.

Keizer does a fancy little two-step here, conflating the recent SSL exploit discovered in iOS 7 and Mavericks with a security update released for Mountain Lion and Lion. Keizer notes the absence of a security update for Snow Leopard and then draws the erroneous conclusion that Snow Leopard is somehow vulnerable.

But Snow Leopard didn't have that problem to begin with!

Neither did Lion or Mountain Lion, in fact. If you check the release notes (opens in new tab) for that security update, you'll find that the SSL/TLS bug is very specifically related to Mavericks, not Mountain Lion or Lion.

Apple keeps Snow Leopard around for a few reasons. There are still some users plodding about with even older versions of the operating system, and Snow Leopard is more or less the baseline for application and peripheral support. Most printer makers will tell you that you need 10.6 or higher, for example. Many apps that don't make use of iCloud or other newer features will work on 10.6 or later.

10.6 is also, as Keizer points, the last version of OS X to include "Rosetta," a virtualization tool that Apple used to bridge the gap when it switched to Intel chips. Rosetta enabled Mac users to continue to use software optimized for the PowerPC processors found in Macs designed before 2006. That's an important compatibility point for some users who still rely on software that was discontinued after Apple's transition to Intel hardware. That transition happened almost a decade ago by the way.

There's very little question that Apple wants its Mac users to transition away from Snow Leopard to more modern versions of the operating system. That's why over the years Apple steadily ratcheted down the cost of new versions of OS X, culminating in Apple's decision to make Mavericks free and available to anyone running Snow Leopard or later. (Snow Leopard was the target because that's the first version of OS X compatible with the Mac App Store, which is how you get Mavericks to begin with.)

I won't contest that Snow Leopard is squarely in Apple's rear view mirror. It wants people to upgrade to Mavericks either by upgrading their software - for free - or by buying new Macs that are capable of running the software. As it should: Apple makes its money when people buy its hardware.

Apple continues to sell Snow Leopard, and support it (as recently as last September with a security update (opens in new tab), by the way). There is a finite amount of work that Apple has and will put into Snow Leopard in recent years, but it's irresponsible to imply that Snow Leopard users have been abandoned by Apple, and it's irresponsible to claim that Snow Leopard users are somehow suddenly at risk when they didn't have any that vulnerability to begin with.

But hey, anything for page views, right?

There's an old adage in the news business: "If it bleeds, it leads." The implication was that readers were drawn to news of calamities, which sold newspapers. These days, if you're a tech blogger, if it bleeds Apple colors, it leads. The worse you can paint Apple, the more traffic you're likely to garner.

It's a shameful practice, which is why I implored you at the start not to click on that link. Ignoring trolls is one thing, but letting disinformation create fear, uncertainty and doubt is something I just can't allow.

What do you think of alarmist Apple coverage in the media? Let me know in the comments.

  • It's really sweet when people who know nothing decide to spout nonsense. If Snow Leopard was affected by any of the issues described in HT6150, Apple would have patched it as well.10.6 is still fully "supported" (as far as tech support) by Apple, even if it may not be updated frequently.
  • My allegation isn't that Gregg Keizer knows nothing, it's that he knows all too well, and deliberate misleads his readers with FUD to drive page views. Ignorance is excusable. Misinformation is inexcusable.
  • Understood. That's even worse. Anyway, just wanted to make sure that everyone knows, we still support 10.6 and it is not "vulnerable" to attacks such as this, or it would have been patched.
  • Thank you Peter for a very good fact-finding article, that I will recommend to others!
  • Thanks!
  • Why doesn't apple put their legal machine on these bloggers? Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • Computerworld? Didn't they shut that down for shoddy reporting and scandal? Oh wait, I'm thinking of one of Murdock's fine reporting establishments, News of the World. Hard to tell them all apart these days.
  • I still use Snow Leopard for Studio Recording.
    Super stable with my Mac a late 2007 iMac. Sent from the iMore App
  • I received an interesting email the other day. It reads as follows: "Dear [Becjr's email address], We have detected an unauthorized login attempt to your AppIeID from another IP address location.
    Please confirm your identity today, otherwise your account will be disabled due to our concern for the safety and integrity of the AppIeID community.
    In order to confirm your AppIeID details, we recommend that you go to: Click here >>
    (*The "Click here" link leads to - Thank you, The Apple Support team." (* AKA - "") Regardless to say, I didn't follow any provided links.
    My point is you always have to be vigilant with tech reports & contacts. I feel confident when I say Apple wouldn't disregard their products that are still in use (and we know that they know what is and isn't still in the loop) especially if it could pose complications (for Apple, their customers, and Apple's products).
    Keizer's fishing. Who took the bait?
  • Peter, you need to call this one out too:
  • Very informative Peter. The article was republished extensively. I don't remember where I read it but I initially thought it was a serious oversight on behalf of Apple. It is also interesting that while there are several reports that Apple has ended support for Snow Leopard, Apple's own support page ( ) clearly states that Apple continues support for earlier OS X releases as far back as OS X 10.5 Leopard! Can't these people check their facts first?
  • These guys have no qualms Peter. It's a shame that this is what reporting is boiling down to in the 21st century. Apple is simply the big tech target that everyone likes to shoot at because folk will read it. Thanks for keeping things clear for us lesser techies. Right now I just read iMore and Appleinsider for anything that resembles fair reporting on Apple news. Most websites these days favor who writes they paychecks. ZDNet, Cnet and the like have lost my interest over the years. Not to long ago it was Microsoft who was in their crosshairs. Losers. Sent from the iMore App
  • That's why I ignore many bloggers. I get my information from a small few and iMore is at the top of my list. Sent from the iMore App
  • I just reinstalled Snow Leopard on my parents' 2009 iMac. It does not, in fact, support Rosetta anymore. Even after I explicitly installed the Rosetta component from the DVD, when I attempt to launch a PowerPC app a dialogue box tells me "...the Classic environment is no longer supported.
  • I guess you've found out the difference between a PowerPC OS X app and a Classic app (OS 9.x or prior) by now.
  • Thank you, thank you for clearing that up! This supposed "end of support" is all over the web. Both my husband and I have early 2008 Macbooks that do not support the move to Mavericks. I was really worried that our otherwise well working computers were now going to be deemed unsafe. Why invest in Apple, which is more expensive, I wondered, if your computer that is supposed to work longer than a pc, becomes obsolete after 6 years? My faith has been restored and I am becoming an Apple convert (my husband is already firmly in that camp).
  • It is irresponsible of you to lull people into a false sense of security about their outdated OS simply to bash another journalist who (also) went too far to one side of the spectrum. At least it got you your page views, though, huh? Top of the list in my search results, right above the article/journalist you're bashing. Snow Leopard users are certainly vulnerable. Not a single security update in over a year now. This is what end of life means. Sure, you can buy a CD and reinstall it again or use the CD for the recovery tools, backing up, etc. That has nothing to do with Apple providing security updates for the product after it has been declared end of life. Your whole conclusion at the end of this article is about the shameful practice of letting misinformation lead to fear, doubt, and uncertainty. It is just as bad to have misinformation lead to overconfidence and inaction when, in all honesty, any Snow Leopard user needs to be highly aware of how to manage their system to avoid exposing the vulnerable software installed. If at all possible, they need to cough up the $19.99 to move up to Lion and start getting security updates again.