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There's no denying that macOS Sonoma, so far, is the most polished and capable OS for Apple's computers, especially when running on the latest Mac models. Though, at the same time, we can't ignore its predecessors, as they're what shaped the operating system via gradual improvements introduced throughout the years. For this reason, let's take a walk down memory lane and observe Mac OS X Snow Leopard (version 10.6), which launched on this day back in 2009.

Mac OS X Snow Leopard compatibility

Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6 launched on Aug. 28, 2009 as an optional operating system update. It required an Intel-powered Mac with at least 1GB of RAM and 5GB of storage. Notably, it was the first update to drop the single-use license's price from $129 to just $29. That could be due to the fact that Mac OS X 10.6 was marketed as having zero new features and instead focused on boosting the performance and underlying infrastructure.

Features and changes

As mentioned above, Mac OS X Snow Leopard didn't concentrate on new features and apps, as Apple's resources were mostly allocated to rewrite parts of the software from scratch. As a result, this release was able to fully utilize the latest Mac tech at the time, such as the 64-bit architecture and Cocoa. Nonetheless, version 10.6 still offered some user-facing introductions that we will be highlighting below.

  • Mac App Store: Apple computers finally catch up with the iPhone by offering an official marketplace for apps. Though, this was included in a later 10.6.6 update, rather than the initial release.
  • Boot Camp upgrades: Through Snow Leopard, users can view and copy data from HFS+ partitions when using Windows partitions.
  • Smaller OS footprint: By default, version 10.6 takes up around 7GB less space when compared to its predecessor. That's partially because many optional drivers were no longer pre-installed on users' machines. Instead, they would be downloaded on-demand based on each user's specific needs.
  • Better Microsoft Exchange support: Mac OS X Snow Leopard introduces Microsoft Exchange integration in Mail, Address Book, and iCal, making it easier for users to rely on Microsoft's service using Apple's native apps.
  • Safari upgrades: Mac OS X 10.6 also includes Safari 4, which offers a wide range of new features and additions. These include Top Sites, Cover Flow, VoiceOver, crash resistance for plug-ins, and more.
  • Time Machine optimizations: Apple's local backup service establishes connections and backs up devices at a much faster pace, thanks to Snow Leopard.

Beyond Snow Leopard

While Snow Leopard's focus was performance and optimizations, it still packed plenty of welcome additions that supercharged the company's computers. These include the Mac App Store, faster icon refreshes, slightly lighter "traffic light" buttons, new wallpapers, rewritten Finder and QuickTime X, and more. Notably, it was the last release to run PowerPC-only apps, as Rosetta support was dropped when its successor, Mac OS X Lion 10.7, launched in 2011.

Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6 acted as a polishing update before 10.7's debut. After all, the latter release brought a ton of new additions that Mac users running macOS Ventura still rely on today. These include AirDrop, Apple Push Notification Service, FaceTime, Launchpad, and much more. This pattern can also be observed in the iPhone department, as Apple typically dedicates every other annual OS update for performance improvements and to keep the tech debt under control.