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I recently acquired a 17" MacBook Pro 2011 (the one known for GPU failure) and I'm trying to get macOS High Sierra on it.

Method 1:
I first tried to install High Sierra via macOS internet recovery (Cmd+Opt+R). Sometimes this stalls completely, showing only a screen with the Apple logo with a progress bar. Rarely, it goes to completion and once I was somehow able to get to the install screen but am prompted with "Unable to reach High Sierra server". I heard this was shut down recently, which makes sense given how old the OS is. I also tried the date trick but it didn't work.

Method 2:
I then tried a USB bootable installer using Apple's guide. I tried the High Sierra installer from both the softwareupdate CLI tool and gibMacOS. I am able to see the bootable USB when I hold Opt when the computer starts. It ends up stalling on an Apple logo and the progress bar slowly creeps to the end but never goes anywhere.

Method 3:
After resetting NVRAM and SMC, I let it boot to the normal Recovery Mode using Cmd+R. This allows me to install OS X Lion. I decided to try to do incremental updates from OSX Lion to High Sierra but was never prompted an entire software update, only some minor security updates, iTunes, etc. While on Lion, I tried to access Apple's page where you can directly install macOS installers, but I'm unable to connect to the page (even on wifi) likely due to security reasons or an unsupported version of Safari.

Method 4:
In hopes of going from OSX Lion -> El Capitan -> High Sierra, I got the El Capitan installer on my newer Mac and transferred it to the 2011 MBP via USB. I ran the El Capitan installer on Lion and when it restarts, I see the Apple logo and progress bar briefly and then a white screen. When I restart, it tries to finish the installation but the same white screen occurs.

Conclusion:
I suspect some sort of hardware failure such as the GPU even though there are no artifacts. I ran Apple Diagnostics and the only thing it brings up is a bad battery, which I have since then removed. When I was on OSX Lion, the GPU appeared under system report but it could still be defective, correct? I am out of ideas.

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  • Is it the original hard drive, or have you replaced it with an SSD?
    – benwiggy
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 6:36
  • @benwiggy i've replaced it with an SSD. I've reformatted it to macos extended journaled and repaired it in disk utility (since I can access disk utility by doing command+R)
    – bruteforce
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 6:55
  • 2
    It's very difficult to do more than guess hardware problems remotely. With no battery, the CPU will throttle dramatically. I'd see if you can get a local friendly Apple repair shop to diagnose it, and then decide whether it's worth doing anything with. (It's out of service at an Apple Store, but if you smiled sweetly, they might at least tell you what the problem is.) But at best, it's a 12-year-old laptop, no battery, known flaky GPU, USB 2 only; 5-year-old OS. I'd try putting Linux on it; else hand it in to an Apple Store for recycling.
    – benwiggy
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 9:50

2 Answers 2

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I would suggest the following variant on Method 4. Step 1 below uses Lion to download El Capitan directly from Apple. This was not done in your original version of Method 4.

  1. Start will Lion (OS X 10.7.5). Open Safari and goto http://maclinks.publicvm.com. Download InstallMacOSX.dmg for El Capitan by either selecting the link shown below or by copying and pasting the URL shown below into the Safari search field.

    maclinks

  2. Use the downloaded InstallMacOSX.dmg file to create the Install OS X El Capitan application shown below.

    Install OS X El Capitan

  3. Use the Disk Utility application to shrink the existing Mac OS Extended (Journaled) partition to create a second Mac OS Extended (Journaled) partition of approximately equal size. An example is shown below. This answer will assume the first partiton (holding OS X Lion) is named Macintosh HD and the second empty partition is named Macintosh HD 2.

    two partitions after

  4. Install El Capitan to the Macintosh HD 2 volume, as shown below.

    Install El Capitan

  5. From El Capitan, use the Disk Utility application to erase the Macintosh HD volume, as shown below.

    Erase Macintosh HD

  6. Open Safari and go to How to download and install macOS (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211683). Select the link (as shown in the image below) to open macOS High Sierra in the App Store. Download the Install macOS High Sierra application.

    How to download and install macOS

  7. Install High Sierra to the Macintosh HD volume, as shown below.

    Install High Sierra

  8. From High Sierra, use the Disk Utility application to remove the Macintosh HD 2 volume. Example results are shown below.

    One partition

4
  • Thank you for the reply. To test this out, I went into recovery mode and attempted to install Lion (my ssd is blank right now) but this time it gives me “unable to install additional components” which is weird because I just installed it the other day. I tried the date trick as well but I get the same error message. And before it shows the message, it says -29283738399 hours, x minutes remaining. It may be because I took out the battery but I doubt it. Will keep trying
    – bruteforce
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 21:06
  • Do you have an Apple ID? BTW, the date trick is unnecessary. Apple fixed that problem. Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 21:59
  • Yes, is there somewhere to input it?
    – bruteforce
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 22:00
  • Yes. See this answer. Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 13:07
0

You seem to have problems installing OS X/macOS when Internet Recovery has to download the operating system installation files. This answer downloads the operating system installation files by using either Safari or the App Store.

The steps follow:  

  1. Boot to Internet Recovery. Use the Disk Utility application to partition the internal drive into two partitions of approximately equal size, as shown below.

    Note: The images below were taken from a virtual machine where booting from Internet Recovery is not possible. Instead, the virtual machine was booted from an OS X Lion installation drive. The Disk Utility should operate the same as booted from Internet Recovery for OS X Lion.

    Below is before selecting the Apply button.

    before 2 partitions

    Below is after selecting the Apply button.

    after 2 partitions

  2. Open Safari and set "Save downloaded file to:" to the Macintosh HD 2 volume in Safari Preferences, as shown below.

    downloads location

  3. Use Safari to goto http://maclinks.publicvm.com. Download InstallMacOSX.dmg for Mountain Lion by either selecting the link shown below or by copying and pasting the URL shown below into the Safari search field.

    maclinks for Mountain Lion

  4. Open a Terminal application windows and enter the following commands. This will create a bootable OS X Mountain Lion installer volume on the internal SSD of the Mac.

    TMP="/Volumes/Macintosh HD 2"
    hdiutil attach "$TMP/InstallMacOSX.dmg"
    pkgutil --expand "/Volumes/Install Mac OS X/InstallMacOSX.pkg" "$TMP/MacOSX"
    hdiutil attach "$TMP/MacOSX/InstallMacOSX.pkg/InstallESD.dmg"
    asr restore --source "/Volumes/Mac OS X Install ESD" --target "/Volumes/Macintosh HD" --erase
    diskutil rename "/Volumes/Mac OS X Install ESD 1" "Install OS X Mountain Lion"
    
  5. Restart the Mac and boot from Install OS X Mountain Lion. Install Mountain Lion to Macintosh HD 2 as shown below.

    Install Mountain Lion

  6. From Mountain Lion, use the Disk Utility application to erase the Install OS X Mountain Lion volume. Below is before selecting the Erase button.

    Before Erase Install OS X Mountain Lion

    Below is after selecting the Erase button.

    After Erase Install OS X Mountain Lion

  7. Open Safari and goto http://maclinks.publicvm.com. Click on the "High Sierra 10.13" link shown below to open the App Store for High Sierra.

    maclinks for High Sierra

    From the App Store windows shown below, select "Get" to download the Install macOS High Sierra application. This will require entering an Apple ID, as shown below.

    Note: In the Password field, enter your password followed by the 6 digit two-factor authentication (2FA) code sent to your other devices.

    Login

  8. Install High Sierra to the Macintosh HD volume, as shown below.

    Install High Sierra

  9. From High Sierra, use the Disk Utility application to remove the Macintosh HD 2 volume. Example results are shown below.

    remove Macintosh HD 2

1
  • Update: using your guide, I made it as far as El Capitan and just downloaded the high sierra installer from the app store. However, it's taking a bit of time to install it to the partition due to slow CPU caused by non-functioning battery. For some reason, the system CPU usage is constantly 85% without any active processes (not sure why). Hoping this will resolve after getting a new battery. I'll accept your answer now thank you so much!
    – bruteforce
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 20:38

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