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My situation: I have a "late '08 aluminum" Intel 64-bit MacBook, still have Snow Leopard installed, and XP via Bootcamp, all on the original hard-drive. Yes, it's my "legacy" setup. The HD is 7 years old, and every time I move the computer and the HD makes that clicking "disengage" sound for impact protection, I cringe a little bit.

What I want to do: I want to put in a new Intel SSD with the latest OS (Mavericks, Capitan, heck even Mountain Lion, whatever will work in my situation), and put the old HDD in a drawer. I want the ability to swap in my old HDD to use Snow Leopard/XP without any difficulties. I don't want to jeopardize backwards-compatibility with Snow Leopard at the bootloader or EFI level. I am worried that Mavericks, Capitan, etc. will go all crazy and re-wire the whole EFI, because Snow Leopard was the last version to use a 32-bit kernel, even though my Mac has a 64-bit Intel processor. (Source)

Extra info: I have never turned on FileVault, Time Machine, or signed in with an Apple ID on the current installation, but plan to use Apple ID on the new one. -- Model Identifier: MacBook5,1 -- Boot ROM Version: MB51.007D.B03 -- SMC Version (system): 1.32f8

What I have questions about:

  • Which OSX version, if any, can I upgrade to without jeopardizing my old setup? So if I swapped in my old hard-drive, Snow Leopard and XP will boot as if nothing happened?

  • Once EFI firmware is updated to work with the latest OSX, is it backwards compatible with older versions by means of swapping in an old HD? I also know OSX has some form of Keychain security, but is it used in the booting process? I will use the same local username/password.

  • Does signing in with Apple ID on Mavericks/Capitan/Yosemite lock the EFI to that specific OS installation? Like an anti-theft kind of deal? I know Apple is big about security...


Thanks in advance for any expert advice in this situation!

  • I would suggest to do it along this process of quality control: ---- 1) DU checking, 2) backup, 3) upgrade without jumping more than one version, 4) DU checking, 5) mandatory application checking, 6) reboot from the previous one, 7) run the new one for a few days, 8) if still alive, GOTO 1. – dan Apr 17 '16 at 8:26
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Since I am currently using a 20-inch, Mid 2007 iMac, I am somewhat familiar with upgrades. When I installed Snow Leopard, it ran as a 64 bit operating system. I have installed every version of OS X since Snow Leopard without any problems. I am currently running both Yosemite and El Capitan. I have run Vista 32 bit, Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 64 bit, even though Apple only officially supports up to Windows 7 32 bit on my iMac.

According to the site: OS X El Capitan - Technical Specifications, you can run El Capitan on your Mac. I assume then, you could also install an older version of OS X. Of course, finding one to download might be a problem.

Your question:

Which OSX version, if any, can I upgrade to without jeopardizing my old setup? So if I swapped in my old hard-drive, Snow Leopard will be accessible and boot as if nothing happened?

Any OS X newer that Snow Leopard. You could even move your Snow Leopard to the new SSD and install another OS X version.

Your question

Once EFI firmware is updated to work with the latest OSX, is it backwards compatible with older versions by means of swapping in an old HD? I also know OSX has some form of Keychain security, but is it used in the booting process? I will use the same local username/password.

People often return you computer's OS X to factory conditions. Whether this means using a DVD that came with your Mac or downloading from the internet, I do not think any Firmware upgrade would disable your ability to do this. In other words, Firmware upgrades should not prevent Snow Leopard from running on your Mac.

Your question:

Does signing in with Apple ID on Mavericks/Capitan/Yosemite lock the EFI to that specific OS installation? Like an anti-theft kind of deal? I know Apple is big about security...

No. I currently have two versions of OS X installed. Your Apple ID has nothing to do with the EFI.

  • Thanks for answering each of my questions. Quick dilemma: you gave me the impression that you were just an average Mac user up in the first sentence, just want to know where you learned all this info, did you receive special training? Thanks – Aaron Gillion Apr 15 '16 at 23:09
  • @Aaron: I have had no special training on Apple computers or other Apple products. Most of the time, I only post an answer that I can first verify. I did learn a lot by participating here a "Ask Different". Some users have gone to incredible extremes to answer a single question. As I learn, I will go back and read some of my old answers. Occasionally, I will find an answer that I now know was wrong even though the other user marked it as correct. Who knows, may this answer is also wrong. – David Anderson Apr 16 '16 at 1:06
  • Okay. I still appreciate the post. Now I just need to make sure I do backups before trying. :) – Aaron Gillion Apr 16 '16 at 1:09
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Your plan seems solid. You should be able to just swap your HDD with a SSD and install the most recent OS version. But I would recommend to download the installer for 10.11 from the App Store first and make an USB installer. How do you do this is explained here in detail or in short use this terminal command with an 8GB USB stick plugged in.

sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/ElCapInstaller --applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app --nointeraction

Even with a new OS, you will be able to boot the old MacOS partition. About the Bootcamp partition I am unsure.

  • I am more concerned with the "you will be able to boot the old MacOS partition / drive" part of the deal. And how EFI will react to multiple versions & disks. Thanks for the link tho – Aaron Gillion Apr 15 '16 at 10:20
  • This shouldn't be a problem. The Mac should always be capable to install and boot from its original OS version. You should be even capable to boot 10.5 – Sebastian Semmler Apr 15 '16 at 10:58
  • Even with an updated EFI? That's good news to hear! Snow Leopard doesn't have the app store though, and apparently there's no other way of obtaining El Capitan. I guess I'll have to get a copy from a friend. – Aaron Gillion Apr 15 '16 at 11:31
  • Shouldn't you have the Mac Store App be available on 10.6? – Sebastian Semmler Apr 15 '16 at 14:08
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I'd recommend putting your old drive in a USB enclosure. Then, you could simply hold option on boot and boot off of this old drive without issue.

This would save you the effort of having to take the computer apart every time you'd like to boot off of the old operating system -- and this won't have any impact on your newer drive and OS. It'll even make it accessible in the older booted OS if you need files from it.

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