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I would like to run OS X El Capitan on an older, black MacBook 4,1 (Early 2008 model with 2GB of RAM).

However, after looking at the El Capitan specifications, it appears that OS X 10.11 requires at least a "Late 2008 Aluminium" unibody MacBook.

My first question is:

  • Does anyone here have OS X 10.11 running on a MacBook 4,1?

Probably a more realistic second question is:

  • What is the latest version of OS X that I can get running on a MacBook 4,1 Early 2008 model?
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    As AruAkise correctly states, Lion is the latest you can install. With only 2GB RAM, you will find Lion to be a painful experience, i.e., incredibly slow. The MacBook4,1 unofficially handles a maximum of 6GB RAM. If you're planning on sticking with such old hardware, it's a good upgrade, as is an SSD. It's worth noting that Apple will no longer repair this system in case of breakage (outside of Cali.) and Lion no longer receives security updates. As such, it might be time to consider a newer system. (Written on an Early 2008 MacBook4,1, 6GB RAM, 960GB SSD.) – Trane Francks Oct 28 '15 at 5:50
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As you mentioned, OS X El Capitan will run on the MacBook (13-inch Aluminium, Late 2008) model, known as MacBook 5,1.

The latest version of OS X that you can get running on a MacBook 4,1 (Early 2008 model) is Mac OS X 10.7.5. El Capitan will not run on the non-Aluminium 2008 models (Early or Late).

I have verified this information against the Mactracker app (not affiliated with Mactracker in any way).

  • Correct. The reason for the OS X Lion 10.7.5 cutoff is the hardware uses a 32-bit EFI. Mountain Lion and later require a 64-bit EFI. – Trane Francks Oct 28 '15 at 5:44
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On the plus side the MacBook4,1 has not only a 64-Bit CPU but also a 64-Bit EFI. But that's about it, because...

The problem is the integrated graphics processor (GMA), in the case of the MacBook "Core 2 Duo" Early 2008 aka MacBook4,1 the Intel GMA X3100. There are only 32-bit drivers (in OS X terms: kexts) available. Since OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion the OS is exclusively 64-Bit.

Apple did try to get 64-Bit drivers for the Intel GMA950 as well as the GMA X3100. They were even briefly included in Mac OS X 10.6.2 Snow Leopard. They had only very basic functions (I think they lack support for both Quartz Extreme and Core Image) and were in a very early develpment state.

The problem is that without the graphics drivers the OS doesn't work.

There are unofficial attempts to get Mountain Lion (10.8), Mavericks (10.9) and Yosemite (10.10) on those otherwise unsupported Macs. One of those attempts is MacPostFactor and macOS Extractor by OS X Hackers. AFAIK only Mountain Lion (10.8) works with the incomplete 64-Bit drivers from Mac OS X 10.6.2. It seems to be possible to get up to El Capitan (10.11) but all of it without accelerated graphics. If you search the Internet you will find verious reports, e.g. this guide on MacRumors for OS X Yosemite (10.10).

In any case such an endeavor is not trivial.

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you can use this hacked EFI to boot 10.11 on older 64bit CPUs with 32bit EFI https://github.com/Piker-Alpha/macosxbootloader

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I did run the mac 4.1 on El capitan, it runs very smooth, however I not sure what I did wrong , my mouse and key board were not functional, again with 2 GB of ram the elcapitan ran better then I expected, I downgraded with a clean install of the mountain lion after that 10.6.0 as the computer ran 10 times faster on it. bottom line elcapitan was possible, the EFI was not working , so I had to use options in my boot. any ways it does run and I am not an expert.

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