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I have installed macOS on an external drive for use with my MacBook Pro laptop. What will happen if I plug this drive into my Mac Pro desktop and boot it up?

I ask because the hardware of both devices is very different, so am wondering if the initial installation on the external drive was with a specific computer, it can be used only with a computer with the same hardware. Or if macOS will just adapt when connected to a device with different specifications?

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    If both machines can run that version of macOS, then it should just work.
    – lhf
    Feb 27, 2022 at 15:08

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You must make sure that the machine you boot on, supports the version of macOS on your external drive

Then it will work, you just need to go to the boot menu and select your external drive.

Why you can’t “trick” a newer version on macOS into al older machine like that?

Most probably because macOS, being and OS, has drivers incorporated into it, designed for specific hardware. Most probably newer versions of the OS remove or deprecate code for older hardware.

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  • The machine supports that version of OS, but my concern is that somewhere the OS must’ve storing data regarding the system hardware so that it knows how to run…. When I plug into the new machine and there is different hardware… I wonder what happens…. Feb 28, 2022 at 1:36
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    If the hardware is a model that's supported by that OS, it should have all the necessary drivers. So you'll only run into compatibility problems with very old hardware. E.g. Monterey supports some models as old as 2013.
    – Barmar
    Feb 28, 2022 at 3:54
  • @KaizerSozay also, just as an anecdote. I've cloned once a Windows 7 disk with nvidia drivers and it booted just fine on AMD/Radeon, I guess the OS does some checkup at startup, but again, this is just an anecdote.
    – Dan
    Feb 28, 2022 at 8:11
  • So what you're suggesting is that the OS already has all required drivers regardless of what device was used for creating the installation, and then at runtime, based on the hardware it detects it uses the appropriate driver? Also was just wondering... have your tried this with Mac OS ? Feb 28, 2022 at 8:36
  • @KaizerSozay macOS only supports a very limited set of hardware by default. Apple can include drivers for all hardware on machines that support that release of macOS.
    – Scottmeup
    Feb 28, 2022 at 8:38

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