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OS X 10.8 'Mountain Lion' Q&A - Published September 9, 2012

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How can I upgrade or 'hack' an incompatible Intel Mac to run OS X 10.8 'Mountain Lion'? Is it even possible?

As noted elsewhere within EveryMac.com's Mountain Lion Q&A, Mountain Lion entirely drops support for many 'older' Macs, some of which were sold as new only a little over three years ago.

Some users may view this increasingly short support timeline unimportant, as they wish to purchase a new computer or a newer computer every couple of years and have little need for 'legacy' software or document support. Others may be quite happy with the computer they have -- even if it is a few years old -- and are not interested in upgrading to Mountain Lion, regardless.

Optiarc dvd driver. However, for those who would like to run the latest operating system and have a Mac officially capable of running Lion, but not Mountain Lion, there are obstacles to overcome.

Mountain Lion Installation Obstacles

There are three issues that keep these unsupported Macs from running Mountain Lion:

  1. Although 32-bit EFIs were supported in early builds, Apple removed support for systems that have a 32-bit EFI during the development process and only 64-bit EFIs are supported in the final release.
  2. Even for Macs that have a 64-bit EFI, Apple does not provide drivers for Intel GMA 950 or X3100 graphics amongst several other graphics cards.
  3. The installer performs an identification check and refuses to install on an unsupported system.

Installing Mountain Lion on an unsupported Mac involves defeating these issues. Where there is a challenge, it is a safe bet that hardworking hackers will rise to the occasion.

However, please note that any attempt to install or use an unsupported operating system could wipe out all of your data and/or cause other software or hardware problems.

Do not attempt to install Mountain Lion on an unsupported Mac if it is 'mission critical' or data is important. Any hacks are performed at your own risk. Be absolutely sure to backup everything before proceeding with any experimental hacks (or before proceeding with any official operating system upgrades, for that matter).

Upgrades & Hack Options for the Original Mac Pro

Most of the attention has focused on the original Mac Pro -- the Mac Pro 'Quad Core' 2.0 (Original), 'Quad Core' 2.66 (Original), 'Quad Core' 3.0 (Original), and 'Eight Core' 3.0 (2,1) -- as these models are quite powerful and can be substantially upgraded.

Although the process of installing Mountain Lion on these Macs is complex, and involves a hardware upgrade of the graphics card, a second hard drive, and an assortment of 'Hackintosh' tactics, the diligent hacker 'Jabbawok' prepared a straightforward tutorial (archive copy, original no longer online).

Software Hack Options for Other Intel Macs

The equally diligent hacker 'hackerwayne' has provided a detailed tutorial to install Mountain Lion on other unsupported Macs, including custom kexts (drivers) from hackers 'kylegray' and 'trunkz' for partial support of GMA 950 and X3100 graphics.

Should you be interested in installing Mountain Lion on any of the other unsupported Macs, be absolutely sure to pay close attention to the 'What works, what doesn't' section in the tutorial.

In particular, note that some systems have significant RAM capacity limitations that are not an issue running an earlier version of the operating system or have issues with sound and graphics, as is common for Hackintosh systems. It is very important to understand these limitations.

Mountain Lion Hacks Summary

Ultimately, it is quite possible to install OS X Mountain Lion on many Macs that Apple no longer supports, although as is often the case for 'hacks,' these systems may not be fully functional and many users with these older Macs likely would be better off sticking with Snow Leopard or Lion or alternately switching to Windows.

At least some of the Macs that are not supported running Mountain Lion likely could run the operating system without difficulty had Apple simply not removed support for 32-bit EFIs as well as written graphics drivers to support the hardware. In an odd twist of fate, Microsoft provides everything needed to natively run Windows 8 on these Macs.

It's certainly a strange world where Microsoft provides better support for older Macs than Apple does.


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It is incredibly frustrating to be sitting at your computer, trying to type a document while listening to your favorite cool jam, when out of nowhere, you get the dreaded Pinwheel of Death. Those reds, blues and greens spinning in a circle, telling you that your computer is fighting back, taunting you and telling you that you “didn’t say the magic word” to make it work correctly. While the following tips can’t keep your computer safe from a hacker bent on stealing your dinosaur embryos, they can help you make your Mac computer run a little faster.

Clean Up Your Computer

I know that cleaning your computer makes it onto every list for ways to speed up your computer, but that is because it is so important. If you are the kind of person that hoards documents on your desktop, it is time to organize them into folders. If your computer is filled nearly to capacity, then your computer does not have enough room (called “swap space”) to run many of its functions at optimal efficiency. Once your hard drive is more than about 85% full, you should definitely consider investing in an external hard drive and moving some files off of your computer.

Run Fewer Programs

Your computer can only do so much at one time. If you quit programs that you are not using, it will not only make your laptop’s battery last longer, but it will also make everything else run faster.

Remember, on a Mac, just closing the program by clicking the red button in the upper left corner is not enough to actually shut down the program. You have to quit the program. The easiest way to do this is just to push Command (a.k.a. Apple)+Q. You can also find the Quit command in the program’s dropdown menu.

Turn Off Login Items

Login Items are applications that launch as your computer is booting up. Launching many applications can drastically increase the amount of time it takes to not only boot up your computer, but also to use your computer. To see what is launching when you boot your computer:

  1. Macintosh HD > Applications > System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items
  2. Click on any applications that you do not need to launch automatically and click the minus symbol (will be grayed out until you select an application)

Note: Clicking the checkbox beside an application will merely hide the application, not remove it as a login item. It will still launch and slow you down; it will just do so in the background.

Verify and Repair Disk Permissions

Disk Permissions are files installed on your computer to control different levels of ownership and permission when it comes to using various aspects of your computer. Sometimes when you install a new program, it messes with some of the permission files on your computer. When a permission file is not working properly it can cause programs to quit unexpectedly or respond very slowly. Fixing these permissions is easy on a Mac:

Mac
  1. Macintosh HD > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility
  2. Click “Verify Disk Permissions”
  3. Let it run for a few minutes
  4. Click “Repair Disk Permissions”
  5. Let it run for a few minutes

Empty Your Trash

This one is simple, but easy to forget (in the nature of full disclosure, I just emptied 41 files from mine). Make sure you keep your trash clean. Just open it and click “Empty.”

Turn Off Bluetooth and Wireless When Not in Use

If you are not using Bluetooth or wireless internet, turn them off. This will help your Mac think about one less thing, which is always good for a computer.

To turn off Bluetooth:

  1. Macintosh HD > Applications > System Preferences > Bluetooth
  2. Make sure the checkbox next to “On” is not checked

To turn off Wireless:

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  1. Click on the wireless icon on the menu bar (it is next to the clock and looks like a slice of pizza filled with bars)
  2. Click “Turn AirPort Off” in the dropdown menu
  3. To turn it back on, just click “Turn AirPort On” in the dropdown menu (intuitive, I know, but I don’t want anyone stuck without wireless internet)

Clean Up Your Widgets

Press F12. You will see your widgets come flying onto the screen. If you have a lot of widgets, get rid of them. They run in the background on your computer and can eat up resources, causing your computer to operate more slowly than it could otherwise. To get rid of widgets:

  1. Push F12 to open your widgets
  2. Click the + icon in the circle (likely in the bottom left corner)
  3. Click the x icon that pops up in the upper left corner of each widget that you want to delete

These are just some of the tips out there to help your Mac run faster. For some additional tricks, try this site. Also, it is worth noting that as programs become more complex and powerful, older machines may have trouble running them quickly. At this point, you may have to either upgrade the RAM on your computer or consider purchasing a new computer. But, hopefully these tips will help your computer function more efficiently without purchasing any new hardware.

Do you have any additional questions? Any other tips that have worked for you? We would love to hear your thoughts.

Resources

An Article on Minimum Space Requirements
52 Ways to Speed Up Your Mac
Perhaps the Greatest Movie of All Time
An Explanation of RAM

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