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I recently acquired an older iMac 5,1 with 3 GB RAM, currently running Mac OS X 10.6.8, and from what I can gather online it is able to run "Mac OS X 10.7.5 Lion". I found that it is available for purchase on Apple's website for $20, but I do not consider $20 worth fixing up this old machine.

However, if this purchase was tied to my Apple ID or something and worked on multiple machines, that would be nice since it would mean I could fix up any other vintage Mac computers with this version of Mac OS X by signing into my Apple ID?

So, if I purchased an old version of Mac OS X, such as 10.7.5 Lion, what do I get exactly? An upgrade for just one machine? A license tied to my Apple ID? An ISO file for installing Lion? Do they ship a physical disc? Also, am I able to do a clean install or is it just for upgrading?

  • You probably want to edit out all your un-answered side questions into single follow on questions. The site strongly discourages asking several distinct questions in one thread. – bmike Jul 10 '18 at 0:45
  • You can run at least mavericks, using a third party patching tool. I've used it before to run a macOS version 3 major versions ahead of what my 2008 Unibody MacBook supported. It's quite straight forward, too! – Alexander Jul 10 '18 at 0:52
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    @bmike They're not really separate questions. They're just elaborations about what information I don't know. My main question is asking for an explanation of what purchasing an old edition of Mac OS X means and what do I get. – Aaron Franke Jul 10 '18 at 1:42
  • Don't do this. Or don't do it without a full, restorable backup. I have an old MacBook that ran perfectly on 10.6.8 but became slow and sluggish when I upgraded to 10.7. When I googled, I found I was not the only one. 10.6.8 is the best MacOS 10 before they started with all the fancy stuff. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of all this cloud-hyper-connectedness (typing this on High Sierra 10.13) but the road's been slow and bumpy. You couldn't pay me to use anything between 10.6.8 and 10.12. – Elise van Looij Jul 10 '18 at 9:37
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In the past you could buy USB physical media for Lion but the item you linked to is a redemption code delivered by email. You then have the ability to associate that purchase with one Apple ID of your choosing so you can download and install.

Apple offers pre-sales support if you need more questions about this (or any product) and the end user license allows you to run Lion redeemed from the store on all of the machines you own and control but likely no virtualization or time-sharing allowed. Full details are online if you want to read through things before ordering or calling pre-sales support.

  • So can I use it on any vintage Mac without re-buying if I sign in with my Apple ID? – Aaron Franke Jul 10 '18 at 1:28
  • @AaronFranke Actually once you have downloaded the installer, or make a USB from the installer, legally or otherwise, it will work on any Mac. Apple doesn't do any DRM or activation on the OS. The signing in just lets you redownload it. I believe, but don't quote me, the App Store OS license entitles you to run it on 5 personal computers or 1 shared business computer. – user71659 Jul 10 '18 at 6:04
  • @AaronFranke Correction, it appears to be licensed all your personal computers or 1 shared business computer. See section 2 B: apple.com/legal/sla/docs/macosx1071_usb.pdf – user71659 Jul 10 '18 at 6:11
  • Thanks, your information is correct. I posted my experience as an answer. – Aaron Franke Jul 27 '18 at 20:49
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From the Apple Store page you linked for 10.7:

What you receive: An email with a content code for the Mac App Store.

You should be able to link the code to the Mac App Store, and, subsequently, your Apple ID.

  • Thanks, your information is correct. I posted my experience as an answer. – Aaron Franke Jul 27 '18 at 20:48
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Thanks to everyone for posting their answers. I went ahead and purchased it. This is my experience.

I purchased Mac OS X 10.7.5 Lion and received and E-mail that I would be receiving the item in future E-mails. A few days later I was delivered two E-mails, a password-protected PDF file in one, and a password in the other. I downloaded the PDF and unlocked it with the password. It contained a code, which I redeemed in the App Store.

I was then able to download Mac OS X 10.7.5 Lion, but only from the old Mac, the download does not show up under Purchases on newer Macs. I downloaded it and it launched the installer.

Since I wanted installation media to keep for later, I closed the installer and pulled out the DMG image. Unfortunately this file is too large to fit on a single-layer DVD (you need 5 GB of space). So I copied it to my Linux computer, converted to an ISO, then used dd to put it on a flash drive.

This flash drive successfully booted, and I was able to wipe the old Mac OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard. Unfortunately for me, the installation fails, so now I have an iMac with no Mac OS installed... and since I need older Mac OS X to download Mac OS X, I can't legally re-download Snow Leopard.

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