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Can I install macOS 10.6.8, Snow Leopard, to a mid-2011 MacBook Air that came preloaded with macOS 10.7.0, Lion, like the MacBook Pros can?

Or even a mid-2012 MacBook Air that came with 10.7.4 to capitalize on the 8 GB RAM upgrade?

I’m looking at purchasing an early model MacBook Air, preferably the 2012 model where they bumped up the capable RAM to 8 GB. In 2011 the early MacBook Pros came with macOS 10.6.6, Snow Leopard, the late 2011 models came with Lion 10.7.2 but from what I’m told these late model MacBook Pros are capable of having Snow Leopard installed even when Lion was pre-installed.

I know that you can’t back install macOS platforms on MacBooks like you can with iMacs but 2011 seems to be a particular case between late models having the ability to accept early model macOS 10.6, Snow Leopard.

  • someone did something similar forums.macrumors.com/threads/… – Ruskes Oct 21 '18 at 18:46
  • hmm, that's good that you did try it on the 2012 Air so I know not to buy that one then. All those used the Sandy Bridge chips that year and since the MBP's could have Snow Leopard downloaded to that chip i have to assume that the Air could be loaded with the same. – Megatron Oct 21 '18 at 19:24
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This really ends up build you asking yourself "What installer do you have to install 10.6.8?"

You can know the exact build and version of the potential installers and go through the documentation to see which models "support" that installer.

Furthermore, even if you don't have Apple official support, then you can see if you want to consider modifying the OS to hack it to try the install anyhow and see how badly it breaks. Lastly, some people use an installer to install from a supported machine to an external drive and then take that drive to the Mac that's not supported and see how badly things break when you boot. On iMacs, typical failure modes are WiFi not working and AirDrop / bonjour not working. Some of those items you can get around with USB adapters, other items you can't get around since the kernel and low level drivers are just not present to start up unsupported machines.

That last link shows all 2012 MacBook Air shipped originally with 10.7 so you would not expect 10.6 to have the drivers needed for full compatibility.

  • I have many Snow Leopard install discs from 10.6.0 to 10.6.8 I think all versions on original install discs, maybe a version of some of these install driver may work, possibly the earlier versions like the 10.6.0 or something you think? – Megatron Oct 21 '18 at 19:28
  • I'd try the one with the build that's numerically greatest - closest to 10.6.8 in the hopes that Apple put in the drivers your 2012 Air needs later. The 10.6.0 has less chance to have the drivers you need, but trying an install won't take much time other than connecting a drive and installing. – bmike Oct 21 '18 at 20:23
  • okay good point, I will try the 10.6.6 disc that I have and if that doesn't work then I will have another disk preloaded with Snow Leopard and just sap the drives and see what happens. – Megatron Oct 21 '18 at 21:24
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Several years ago, I attempted to install Snow Leopard on my 11-inch, mid-2012 Macbook Air. My memory is a bit hazy, but I remember for sure that:

  • Booting the OS normally resulted in a kernel panic.
  • Installing a custom kernel (intended for Hackintosh machines with AMD CPUs) allowed the OS to boot without Graphics Acceleration.
  • There was no way to get Graphics Acceleration working.

I think, but am not sure, that graphics acceleration was the only showstopper, and that Bluetooth, wifi, etc worked properly out of the box. If my memory is correct, I'm relatively confident that a 2011 Macbook Air would work in Snow Leopard without issue. The Sandy Bridge CPUs in the 2011 Airs came with Intel HD Graphics 3000 (as opposed to 4000 on the 2012 models), with which Snow Leopard is compatible.

I don't know if that's enough to make a purchase on, but I hope it helps! I have massive nostalgia for Snow Leopard, and a large part of me legitamately wishes I were still running it...

  • yeah me too, I've tried all succeeding OSX platforms and honestly I hate the dumbed-down OSX for dummies approach Apple has been taking with the OSX's trying to make it a bloated iOS for the non-skilled user. – Megatron Oct 22 '18 at 1:58
  • I have another question the 2010 model has the Mini Display Port, can I run an ethernet adapter through there? ...albeit lower speeds than the Thunderbolt replacement port for the 2011 models. And is it true that the 2010 Air doesn't have a backlit keyboard but the 2011 does? – Megatron Oct 22 '18 at 1:59
  • I don’t remember specs off the top of my head, I’m sure you can find them on Google if not Apple’s own website. Minidisplayport (without thunderbolt) is like an hdmi out, you can’t use it for input. – Wowfunhappy Oct 22 '18 at 3:41
  • "Minidisplayport (without thunderbolt) is like an hdmi out, you can’t use it for input." ...wow, damn i didn't know that :0 good to know. so then only the 2011 Thunderbolt port can be used with an ethernet adapter to get wired internet access instead of wifi? – Megatron Oct 22 '18 at 7:04
  • Use usb for ethernet – Wowfunhappy Oct 22 '18 at 17:05

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