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I have a Mac computer I haven't used for a long time and I want to upgrade to the latest version. Is it possible? If so how?

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    Which exact Mac model?
    – lhf
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 9:57
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    What research have you done already? Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 18:48
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    Aside - If you want a more modern and current OS (ie, patched for security) then consider some of the linux alternatives.
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 22:14
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    The machine is most likely too old. You can update to the latest supported by the model. Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 20:25

5 Answers 5

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No Mac compatible with OS X 10.5.8 (Leopard) is also compatible with macOS 13 (Ventura).

Note: You can goto EveryMac.com to determine which versions of OS X and macOS are compatible with your Mac.

According to the Apple website macOS Ventura is compatible with these computers, Macs older than the 2017 models are not macOS 13 (Ventura) compatible.

Using dates from the Wikipedia article macOS, one can determine Macs newer than the 2009 models are not OS X 10.5.8 (Leopard) compatible.

So basically all 2010 through 2016 Macs are not compatible with either Leopard or Ventura.

For instructions on upgrading to the latest version compatible with your Mac, your should include information that can help identify your Mac model and year. According to Apple, you could have a Mac computer with an Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 (867MHz or faster) processor.

I should also include a reference to How can I download an older version of OS X/macOS?.

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You don't really need the latest version

You've already heard the bad news - you can't get the latest version.

By the way, you can't run Windows 10 on a 2006 PC either.

But you also don't need the latest version. Your Mac can be functional at previous versions. Apple will still let you download older versions of the OS.

Use resources on the web to determine the latest OS your system can support. Some people are skittish about running the latest version because they worry it'll bog their system; see the last 3 paragraphs for answers on that.

El Capitan (10.11) is a particular "version sweet-spot". Apple made a point to have it support most of the early Intel-based machines (many owners had gotten unusually short useful lives out of their prior Mac due to the Intel switch, so Apple wanted them to have unusually long lives out of their first Intel Mac).

And OS X 10.11 is perfectly usable; notably its web browser will support TLS 1.2, so it works properly with Web sites.

You will have to be careful with iOS versions on your mobile devices, however. Each iOS version has limits on how much it will interact with older systems. They generally will talk to even a 2005 iPhoto/Photos, however the ability to sync with iTunes will vary. So decline iOS major-version updates until you have confirmed through research that the iOS version will play with your MacOS version.

PowerPC apps and 10.5

If you have any PowerPC applications that rely on Rosetta to function on your Mac, any upgrade beyond 10.6 will break Rosetta and those apps will be dead as a stone. To solve this problem, I recommend before you upgrade using CarbonCopyCloner to copy your entire hard drive out to an external USB keyfob, so you can boot back into 10.5 by holding down "option" while starting up.

Maybe change your hard drive too?

Here's food for thought - depending on how easy this is on your system. (Mini: pretty easy, iMac: PITA). You might just keep your internal hard drive exactly the way it is, mount it in an external hard drive chassis, and then install an internal SSD kit. The SSD will run dramatically faster, because all data is instant access - no long latency as hard drives have. It will feel like a new machine.

It's a lot easier to buy a USB keyfob drive and use it as your primary hard drive. Really. Keep it in an internal USB port - don't put it out on a USB hub. If you can find a FireWire SSD then all the better.

USB doesn't have a burst speed as fast as an internal hard drive, but the "zero seek time" thing more than makes up for it, boy howdy and then some.

Older Apple systems can boot from any drive, and will permanently boot from an external drive just as easily as from internal. (the newest systems see some interference from the T2 security chip, at the very least you have to disable much of its benefits.)

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The newest Mac that can run Leopard 10.5.8 was released in 2009. Macs of that era can probably run El Capitan (10.11) at best, see How can I download an older version of OS X/macOS? for installation instructions.

While that will certainly be an improvement in terms of compatibility with more recent software, web standards and other technologies, it's still likely that the latest versions of software won't run on that (six-year-old) OS.

Either way, you're looking at 'retro-computing', and will have to seek out versions of third-party apps that are contemporary and compatible with your OS.

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    There are 2009 Macs that are compatible with macOS 10.13 (High Sierra). However, of the ones I found by searching everymac.com, these are not compatible with OS X 10.5 (Leopard). I suppose this makes sense since OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) was released August 28, 2009. Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 10:36
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This actually is possible although not officially supported so its not 100% guranteed to work. Dortainas Opencore has a project "Legacy Patcher" https://dortania.github.io/OpenCore-Legacy-Patcher/ It will require you to read the instructions carefully, I did this for a friend a few weeks back and it worked very well.

It is possible as your mac is very old that you cant run the latest and greatest but you should be able to get a recent enough version, much newer than what is "approved" by apple that you can use modern applications on, make sure you read the hardware list of what models can run which versions. Although keep your expectations low as 15 - 20 year old computers will struggle with lots of modern tasks and apps.

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If you start in recovery mode with ALT + Command + R your device will check automatically with Apple-Servers the latest possible macOS fitting on your machine. If you have a backup you can erase the HD with the Disk Utility and install the suggested OS.

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    Your answer is not possible with the OP's Mac. Because the Mac has Leopard installed, the Mac must be a 2009 model or older. Macs that can use Internet Recovery must be at least a 2010 model or newer. Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 10:58

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