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Apple patches Meltdown for older versions of MacOS

If you're running Sierra or El Capitan, you can now protect yourself from a design flaw that could let hackers access sensitive information.

Tim Cook stands onstage at Apple's annual developer conference in 2017. On Wednesday, the company patched the Sierra and El Capitan operating systems against the Meltdown security flaw.

Apple, run by CEO Tim Cook, has patched the Sierra and El Capitan operating systems against the Meltdown security flaw.

James Martin/CNET

You want to stay safe from hackers while still using an older version of Apple's MacOS, the underlying software that runs its laptops and desktops. Now, there's a patch for that.

On Tuesday, the company released updates to the Sierra and El Capitan operating systems that will protect users from Meltdown, the design flaw that could let hackers access sensitive information from a computer's processor.  The update means more Mac users will be safe from a vulnerability that affects hundreds of millions of chips made by Intel over the past 20 years. Patches to operating systems are one of the key ways to protect computers.

The patch arrives more than two weeks after Apple updated its most current operating system, High Sierra. That was shortly after reporters revealed that security researchers found the Meltdown design flaw, along with a similar flaw called Spectre. The Spectre flaw affects chips made by AMD and Arm in addition to Intel chips.

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on why the Sierra and El Capitan updates arrived after the patch to High Sierra. 

The industry-wide effort to patch the design flaws has run into turbulence since the vulnerabilities became public. On Tuesday, Intel called on manufacturers and users to halt some patches to its chips after reports the fixes were causing computers to unexpectedly reboot. The company is also fighting a perception that the updates will slow computer performance. And some Microsoft updates to chips made by AMD reportedly caused some computers to stop working.

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