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I'm new to OS X so bear with me. Suppose I have version n of OS X. There is version n+1 out and I forgot to (choose not to) upgrade. And then there is n+2 n+3 out.

Can I upgrade to n+3 and only pay once?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

Apple doesn't have a consistent upgrade policy from release to release of OS X. I can tell you what the rules have been for each release, but I can't extrapolate a believable trend from this data. So when it's time for 10.9 to come out, it's hard to know what upgrade offer Apple will make.

Here's the history:

  • As of Mountain Lion (OS X v10.8.x, due out any day now), you can upgrade from either Lion (10.7.x) or Snow Leopard (10.6.x) for $19.

  • Lion was $29, and you could only upgrade from Snow Leopard.

  • Snow Leopard was $29 if I remember correctly, and you could only upgrade from Leopard (10.5.x). BUT, if you had Tiger (10.4.x), you could legally get Snow Leopard as part of the "Mac Box Set" which was like a $199 bundle of Snow Leopard, iWork (Pages/Numbers/Keynote), and iLife (Garage Band/iMovie/iPhoto).

  • Tiger (10.4.x), and all major releases before that, were $129 each, and could upgrade any supported Mac from any version of Mac OS. That is, there was no "upgrade pricing", everyone just had to pay $129 outright each time they wanted a new major version of the OS.

Note that each time, once you got your hands on an installer disc or disk image, you could usually install it over any older version of Mac OS X. That is, the installer wouldn't enforce any licensing terms; you were kind of on the honor system to not violate Apple's licensing terms. What I've listed above were what Apple's licensing terms legally allowed.

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Only up to 10.6, Snow Leopard. This is the last edition with physical copies for sale. Once you have 10.6.8, and the Apple App Store, you can get 10.7, and according to unconfirmed rumours, 10.8, as downloads in the App Store.

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