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I need to upgrade from Mac OS X Lion 10.7.5 (11G63) to a newer version.

My specs are:

  • Processor: 2x2.4GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
  • Memory: 12GB 1066 MHz DDR3 Ecc
  • Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 5770 1024 MB

What is the best version to of macOS to upgrade to?

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  • 4
    What are your limiting factors and budget? The 699 Mac Mini is a powerhouse and can be had for less than 60 a month with financing. We’re hard pressed to do anything other than part out Mac pros older than 2013 now.
    – bmike
    Jul 8 at 21:59
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    What do you use the machine for? As nboted mac mini might run most GUI apps better, then it might make sense to run Linux or BSD on the MacPro which are updated for security etc
    – mmmmmm
    Jul 9 at 11:22
  • Knowing more about what you want to do with it is crucial. Why the 'need' to upgrade from Lion now? Any OS you update to is still 'legacy', and will likely require old versions of any software you want to run.
    – benwiggy
    Jul 9 at 15:22
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According to everymac.com, the latest version of macOS for your Mac is Mojave (10.14.X). However, according to this Apple article, you need to first be running at least High Sierra (10.13.6). You will also probably need to upgrade your graphics card.

According to this Apple article to need to first be running at least Mountain Lion (10.8.X), before upgrading to High Sierra. The upgrade to High Sierra will also upgrade the firmware so your Mac can boot from APFS.

According to this Apple article, you can upgrade to El Capitan (10.11.X) from Lion (10.7.X).

This Apple article explains how to download older versions of OS X and macOS.

I should first point out Tetsujin has a more extensive answer to the question How can I download an older version of OS X/macOS?

Although upgrading from a USB flash drive installer may be optional, I will include this Apple article on how to do so.

Upgrading to Mojave will require using APFS. If you are using a HDD then you may discover the Mac will run much slower than High Sierra without APFS. You might consider upgrading to a Nvme SSD.


So start by upgrading to El Capitan.

Next upgrade to High Sierra.

Finally, upgrade to Mojave. This may require hardware upgrades.

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  • Yup, to run Mojave would cost about $£€ 200 to get a metal2 GPU. Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 7950 or similar, Mac-flashed, go for about that these days.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 9 at 6:37
  • Agreed. You will need a new graphics card to go to Mojave (MacOS 10.14). High Sierra (Mac OS 10.13) should be possible with your existing graphics.
    – GEdgar
    Jul 9 at 12:30
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Don't upgrade the Mac Pro. It is currently 11 years old and cannot run the current stable OS, which means security updates simply won't come.

Instead sell it to an Apple collector (yes they exist) and use the profits to fund a replacement device that is supported.

You might be able to install another OS like linux or perhaps win10, but realistically it won't be able to run the same software as you're used to and becomes nothing more than a curiosity.

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    Thing is, there's nothing really you can replace a Mac Pro with, unless you've got the money for a new one, still fetching 10 grand & more second hand.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 9 at 11:13
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    I'd agree with @Criggie. Also, don't forget the power consumption of these things. A new Mac Mini - even a secondhand 2018 one -- would be more powerful for most tasks.
    – benwiggy
    Jul 9 at 12:02
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    @Tetsujin My iPhone X is more powerful, in nearly every way, than that Mac Pro. This is, if I'm not mistaken, the same Mac Pro that John Siracusa (Accidental Tech podcast, Ars Technica OS X reviews, etc.) replaced when they finally made the new one... so not literally useless, but replaceable for basically any purpose by any current Mac unless your workflow is absurdly parallelized (bitcoin mining maybe?). For that matter it only has 8 cores, so I suspect even that workflow a M1 is dramatically superior.
    – Joe
    Jul 9 at 14:21
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    @Joe - You'd be surprised at how much grunt there still is in these old Mac Pros. Admittedly the OP has a lower-end one, but mine just scored 6467 on Geekbench 5, only really beaten by almost brand new machines. I'm not ready to give it up just yet - plus I've got 6 drives in here, I'd have to store all that data externally.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 9 at 14:35
  • @Tetsujin Oh, it's not a totally useless machine by any means - just saying that claiming you would have to replace it with a $10k+ new Mac Pro is not accurate; my wife's M1 Macbook Air is vastly faster. And yes, you would have to store the data externally, but odds are a Mac Mini could handle that for you if you really cared about that much storage... or just store it externally like the rest of us ;)
    – Joe
    Jul 9 at 15:51
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High Sierra it is. I just spent US$235 for a Nvidia GeForce GTX 760, to update my monitors' resolution higher than the current 1920x1200 I'm seeing. It's a Metal Capable card, and will let me run Mojave if I'd like. Still, the OP needs to share what his use case is. The best upgrade on these machines is moving the boot drive to an SSD.

To that point, given all the HD bays you have, I'd highly suggest you first get an SSD loaded with the OS. You'll find that some software breaks as you move up, and having the ability to boot from 2 drives can help you avoid an unpleasant surprise. How to create a bootable macOS High Sierra installer drive should help. You can create a new installation, and use migration assistant to copy apps over to the new boot drive.

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