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OS X Mavericks to be widely compatible with older Macs

updated 02:02 am EDT, Wed June 12, 2013

Beta supports models up to six years old, bucking trend

Apple generally is a company that likes to look forward more than back, and in recent years this has led to an ever-shortening gap between buying a new Mac and watching it become unsupported by the newest OS release, particularly as the company has gone to a yearly refresh cycle for OS X. In something of a surprise move, however, Apple has (at least thus far) made OS X Mavericks (10.9)'s system requirements all but identical to those of Mountain Lion -- meaning Macs as old as mid-2007 may be able to run it.

After Apple's move to Snow Leopard in 2010 -- which itself left behind all previous PowerPC-based models, which had been in production as recently as two and a half years prior -- the company again cut its list of supported machines with the release of Lion in 2011. At the time, even early Intel models that relied on the Intel Core Solo and Core Duo processors -- Mac minis and MacBooks in particular -- were cast aside in what was seen as a particularly short cycle, given that Lion also dropped built-in Rosetta support for PPC applications as well as built-in Java.

Mountain Lion's release precluded machines from 2007 and 2008 that still had Intel Core2Duo chips, but were saddled with very basic video chipsets; though not explicitly spelled out, machines that would have otherwise met the specifications were dropped because they used the GMA 950 and earlier chipsets, which didn't offer sufficient video power to support features such as Core Animation. By mid-2012, only machines made within the last four years -- with two exceptions, the mid-2007 iMac and the late 2007 MacBook Pros -- were able to run the current operating system, Mountain Lion.

The news that the first beta of OS X 10.9 supports the same machines as Mountain Lion will be welcome news for those who have older machines. In addition to increasing the longevity of those models, the new efficiencies introduced in the operating system update (including App Nap, time coalescing and compressed memory) are likely to inject new life into processors and batteries that struggle to keep up with the more intensive modern programs, which are largely aimed at models with Core-class processors, higher-capacity custom batteries and plenty of RAM.

Though it is possible that Apple could choose to pare the list of supported machines ahead of its final list, currently the OS X Mavericks beta supports the following machines: from 2007, the mid-2007 iMac and late-2007 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros; from 2008, all iMac models, all 2008 Mac Pro models, all 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro models, the late 2008 "unibody" MacBook and the late 2008 debut MacBook Air. 2009's 13-inch MacBook models and the 13-inch mid-2009 MacBook Pro, along with all 2009 Mac mini models and the early 2009 XServe are also supported. All models from 2010 on are able to run OS X Mavericks as well.

One catch in the requirements is that in order to be able to upgrade to OS X Mavericks, all models must be upgraded to at least Snow Leopard version 10.6.7 or later (the current version of Snow Leopard, which is still available for order from Apple for $20, is 10.6.8). This suggests that Mavericks, like Mountain Lion, will only be available to buy through the Mac App Store. OS X Mavericks also requires at least 8GB of space free for installation as Mountain Lion did.

by MacNN Staff



  1. bobolicious

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 08-15-02

    Unfortunately I'm staying on snow, until an effective virtualization option for legacy file & digital client asset access is available. To date attempts to use 3rd party solutions have not been anywhere near as reliable or effective as rosetta...

    I had hoped rosetta might become available as an independent app, for those that might want such...

  1. Inkling

    Senior User

    Joined: 07-25-06

    As an author, I'm most concerned about whether the iBooks app is going to be available for older versions of OS X. Not everyone has or can afford the latest hardware. That's particularly true of one of the main audiences of iBooks, school children, who either must use the Macs their schools have or perhaps a hand-me-down Mac at home.

    And a previous poster is right. If Apple is no longer going to support Rosetta, perhaps it should sell the code, at a most reasonable price, to a development team that will keep it alive. That'd be win-win. Apple would sell more Macs and get a some money, developers would get jobs, and those who need Rosetta would get the support they need.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    bob: I think that avenue is closed. PPC developers should have -- certainly by now -- developed Intel versions of their products ... or, to be blunt, you need to move on in case they haven't. This is how the digital world has worked for decades (unless you're still running your old Radio Shack TRS-80 Visicalc spreadsheets somewhere, perhaps?). The documents generally survive. The programs come and go.

    Inkling: Rosetta was not invented by Apple, and I'm not sure of the status of the company/developers, but see my answer above. If it hasn't happened by now, you might was well hope for someone to make a third-party System 7 Mac clone at this point.

    Addendum: it seems very, very likely that the iBooks reader for Mac would be compatible with at least Mountain Lion, which means anything newer than 2008 should have no problems. Apple may well make it compatible back to Snow or Lion (I can think of no reason why they couldn't, but that's not to say they will).

  1. James Katt

    Junior Member

    Joined: 03-02-08

    The last PowerPC PowerBook G4 is now 8 years old. That is ancient hardware. If you had a Windows PC that was 8 years old, you would have already replaced it four times with newer models. It is time to move on. Apple isn't waiting on you, it has moved ahead. Rosetta is dead. If you need Rosetta, then keep the old Mac to run the software, and buy a new Mac and enjoy.

    When I made the switch to Intel Macs, I was surprised how quickly I switched to non-Rosetta-dependent software, particularly as the big software companies like Filemaker, Microsoft, and Adobe updated their software.

    As always, with Apple products, if you can't afford it, get a second job or better job. Even poor people will save in order to get the Apple product they want.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    The problem is software that cannot or will not be updated, ever: I have hardware control applications and specialized software built for machines that are ten years old. This software will never be re-written, but the hardware will be around for a long time.

    10.6 CAN be run in virtualization, so I'm told, so that is what I will eventually have to resort to.

  1. markuswinter

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 07-06-13

    You can run Snow Leo SERVER in virtualisation (e.g. Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion) but not the non-server version. Fortunately Apple has massively reduced the price of this version, possibly because a lot of people asked for being able to run Snow Leo in VMs.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    The non-server version can apparently be hacked to run.

    And I can't buy Snow Leopard Server via the online store. Might be a different matter if you call them, but they sure don't make it easy.

  1. Waragainstsleep

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: 03-20-04

    Kind of annoying that my 2008 Xserve (8 core) isn't supported to run Mountain Lion or Mavericks. Its still a seriously fast machine.

  1. angelmb

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: 10-24-01

    Ditto for my 2006 Mac Pro that can support up to 32 GB RAM and has been upgraded with an ATI Radeon 5570 HD with 1G RAM whereas a 2007 iMac C2D that tops at 6 GB RAM and comes with a 256 MB GPU will happily run Mavericks.

  1. cgc

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 03-25-03

    Originally Posted by angelmbView Post

    Ditto for my 2006 Mac Pro that can support up to 32 GB RAM and has been upgraded with an ATI Radeon 5570 HD with 1G RAM whereas a 2007 iMac C2D that tops at 6 GB RAM and comes with a 256 MB GPU will happily run Mavericks.

    Yeah, I'm still mad at Apple for that move. They were quick to ditch us 2006 MacPro 1,1 users. Still, I will replace my wife's HP laptop with the next Mac Mini when it's released this fall. I will never buy a MacPro or iMac again...

  1. Waragainstsleep

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: 03-20-04

    Yet the 2008 Mac Pro is supported and my Xserve is basically the same damn machine in a different box and it it tops out with Lion. Grrr.

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