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In the past, older Mac Pro machines have not been supported by newer macOS releases due to standard features on the machine (e.g. Bluetooth wasn't standard on 2008s, limiting Sierra) or by CPU extensions (SSE 4.2 required for Mojave). With the announcement of Big Sur, Apple states that you must have a 2013 "trash can" Mac Pro or later leaving the older cheese graters behind.

What is it about the 2013 that would prevent Big Sur from running on a 2012 Westmere or even back to a MacPro4,1? One of the benefits of having a Mac Pro was that you could upgrade the Bluetooth and GPU modules and this is how we got (say) a 2008 machine to work all the way up to High Sierra and even Mojave if you were brave enough. But those upgrades aside, I believe the CPUs of a 2012 and 2013 supported the same features so I'm wondering if there is something else?

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  • Apple does not release "why" information. And any answers you get will be pure speculation and run up against the AD ban on questions that are "opinion based." You may want to rephrase your question so to avoid opinion and focus on the thing you are trying to solve, other than not having to buy another Mac. – Steve Chambers Jun 26 '20 at 14:02
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    The cheese-graters were already left behind. Mojave required you to have a Metal GPU upgrade, Catalina was no-go, unless you go for the dosdude method. – Tetsujin Jun 26 '20 at 14:16
  • @Tetsujin I revised the question since I was making the assumption that people understood that the Bluetooth and GPU upgrades were a natural part of making these older machine last longer. – bjb Jun 26 '20 at 19:40
  • Is this an actual question on how Apple decides this or are you more interested in people’s opinions on the trade offs I listed? I can see this getting closed as opinion based or off topic as it’s not clear what problem you face. If this is knowledge gathering, that’s fine, just it’s not so clear it’s on topic if there’s not something specific or practical you are trying to solve. It’s pretty clear Apple intends to drop support on some hardware this release, so we all hack or we get new gear. – bmike Jun 29 '20 at 17:09
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    @bmike this is not looking for opinion on how decides, but rather if there is something concrete like (as from examples) the software expects SSE4.2 and that is not supported on pre-2013 machines. If we simply don't know yet, then the question remains open IMHO. – bjb Jun 29 '20 at 19:37
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As to the reason why Apple chose this exact model as the cut-off point for support cannot be answered by anyone but Apple. Everything else is just speculation.

There exists an non-official guide on how to install the Big Sur beta on the older 2010/2012 Mac Pro's (amongst others):

https://parrotgeek.com/bigsur/

Note that because this is non-official, it might not work or exhibit problems. Also it might only work for the current beta, and not when you get to the final release of Big Sur.

As indicated in this guide, the built-in WiFi does not and there could be issues related to sleep mode. This could hint at why Apple does not support this model - i.e. having to support these older WiFi chipsets.

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  • " As to the reason why Apple chose this exact model as the cut-off point for support cannot be answered by anyone but Apple. Everything else is just speculation. " I speculate it's the lack of Thunderbolt and USB 3.x ports. This will not impact many functions of the OS but it does mean leaving behind a lot of testing for drivers as well as not impacting user expectations on performance of attached peripherals. By the time Big Sur gets to being a standard install on new hardware these 2012 Mac Pro models will be ten years old, and how many "pros" keep the same computer for ten years? – MacGuffin Jun 28 '20 at 2:43
  • I will be watching the 2012 Mac mini space more closely than the Mac Pro space for selfish reasons... Great answer. – bmike Jun 29 '20 at 17:49
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On a technical level, the installer has to have all the drivers needed to make the hardware boot, so the installer will check and abort if the model is not on the white list of eligible gear. Also, Apple may have run the code on the drivers and found they lacking entirely and had an estimate to support it that didn’t match expectations.

On a program management level, Apple has to spend time testing each release against a fleet of hardware so they can test everything. That money and time is surely reviewed to determine the costs to support older hardware.

Finally, on an experience level, Apple has to measure how the software performs and decide if they can even support the new code running on hardware that may not execute code as fast for whatever reason (drivers, latency, CPU features) and might decide the experience isn’t going to be good or they would rather invest money and time elsewhere.

In the end, only Apple can know what and why the decided this, but I’m sure people will figure ways to hack gear that’s not officially supported, but the official support moniker means a lot for some so it’s worth checking your requirements before you upgrade.

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