Can I install Mac OS X Snow Leopard on a 2011 Mac Mini Server? (I own the Server model because of its better CPU)

I tried, connecting my MacBook (running Snow Leopard natively) via FireWire (in Target Disk Mode) and thereby installing Snow Leopard on my Mac Mini. It worked, however, glitches in graphics as well as an overall bad performance really freak me out.

Is the 2011 Mac Mini really that different from the 2011 MacBook Pros? Might it be that Snow leopard just doesn't load the correct drivers since it does not know the 2011 mac Mini? If so, is there a way of manually adjusting this?

I don't like Lion on my Mac Mini since I run two monitors with it, and Mission control plain sucks in that regard compared to Spaces. I'm not interested in the Server Features.

2 Answers 2


Short answer: no.

The i7 in the new 2011 Server model doesn't support anything less than pretty much the original OS.

Up Shitcreek

Sorry dude. I wanted to do the exact same thing.


Simple - virtualize it.

I am not a lawyer, but the end user license for Snow Leopard has zero references (and therefore zero restrictions) on virtualiziation and simply requires you to run one copy of the software on Apple hardware.

... you are granted a limited non-exclusive license to install, use and run one (1) copy of the Apple Software on a single Apple-branded computer at a time.

As long as you don't run two copies of "the Apple Software" which is Snow Leopard you should be in compliance with the licensing terms. You also happen to be running a copy of Lion and some VMWare or Parallels or other software, but why not look into this? It's clearly the best way to get a real Snow Leopard environment without sacrificing hardware drivers needed to run the newer hardware and graphics. You will have to google the "tricks" to get this running, but many tech blogs have the details depending on which VM you choose to run.

And yes, the drivers are both new and missing on Snow Leopard to make the new hardware run properly. Fans, CPU performance and other issues are reported from people that have tried this on several late 2011 models and not just the Mac Mini.

  • Ha! That's what I'm doing right now. Dec 1, 2011 at 23:23
  • Thanks for the legal assistance :-) Besides: Seems to be the only option, technically. I'm going to try this.
    – scravy
    Dec 2, 2011 at 0:52
  • The way VMWare and Parallels made their software it feels more like illegal assistance. ;-)
    – bmike
    Dec 2, 2011 at 15:51

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