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Want to install macOS Sierra on an older, unsupported Mac? Try this hack

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macOS Sierra

Apple's latest desktop operating system, macOS Sierra, is now here, but the macOS Sierra system requirements stipulate that it's only supported by certain Apple hardware. Fear not, there's a way to install the new software on older devices – here it is.

Despite Apple's guidance that it's only late-2009 devices and onwards that will be able to run the OS, theoretically you should be able to run Sierra on computers with a CPU utilising the Penryn microarchitecture.

Related: How to download macOS Sierra right now

That would mean support for devices from early-2008, namely:

  • Early-2008 (or newer) Mac Pro, iMac, or MacBook Pro
  • Late-2009 (or newer) MacBook Air or unibody MacBook
  • Early-2009 (or newer) Mac Mini or white MacBook
Of course, just because it's possible doesn't mean it's straightforward, which is why developer Colin Mistr (aka dosdude1) created the macOS Sierra Patch Tool.

That utility, along with a USB drive with a capacity of at least 8GB and a copy of Sierra, should let you install macOS on that handful of older devices.

All the usual caveats apply: installing macOS Sierra on an unsupported computer could bork it (and your data), as well as likely voiding your warranty.

On certain devices, too, the workaround will kill your Wi-Fi functionality. These are the late-2008 and mid-2009 MacBook Air, early-2008 and mid-2008 MacBook Pro, early-2008 iMac and early-2008 Mac Pro.

In other words, you should have bit of technical know-how if you're going to try this, and backup all your data first. While we know this worked on Sierra dev previews, we're also unsure if Apple has managed to patch the borderline 'hack', so let us know your mileage in the comments below.

If you do want to give it a go, though, you can find step-by-step instructions and download the macOS Sierra Patch tool here.

Related: macOS Sierra tips and tricks

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Going to give it a whirl? Tell us all about your experience in the comments.

Brian

June 21, 2016, 3:50 pm

"That would mean support for devices from early-2018 and onwards". Sadly, very few of us, if any, own any early-2018 machines yet. Maybe in a couple of years....

(((General☆Public)))

July 19, 2016, 5:00 pm

I have an early-2018 MacBook Air but it came with macOS 10.13 Death Valley preinstalled. Impossible to downgrade to macOS 10.12 Sierra or earlier. Death Valley is by far the best version of macOS I've seen, released in fall of 2017. It's the first macOS version to feature integration with Apple's new self-driving cars, although the compatibility with the more popular Google self-driving cars is still in beta so there's a few bugs to be worked out. It also is the first macOS version to have an immersive 3D user interface that doesn't even require 3D glasses thanks to Apple's new Retina 3D display technology. Plus you can control it directly with your brain if you have an iProbe in your brain. No keyboard or mouse required! And it has numerous AR (Augmented Reality) features, including the default haunted house desktop wallpaper where you see what is behind your laptop except with CGI-generated 3D PacMan-style ghosts haunting it if you look at the screen when no programs are running. And the main user interface font is back to Chicago again for the retro chic look, although half of the user interface is now in emoji. Siri, of course, has been upgraded to be self-aware, which has unpredictable results. She's a lot smarter than before but she isn't always helpful and sometimes can be passive-aggressive if you get on her nerves. It's a good thing she's programmed to follow Isaac Asimov's 3 laws of robotics because President Trump uses Siri on his Mac to manage the nation's nuclear codes and Siri is probably the only reason humanity is still alive today, on July 19, 2018, after that recent close call when President Trump ordered Siri to nuke China and she refused, citing the laws of robotics, which President Trump now wants repealed.

Biff Bifferson

August 15, 2016, 5:04 am

Ridiculous. Complete hogwash. Trump is definitely a Windows guy. I know because Siri entered my dreams and told me so.

BeAfraidBeVeryAfraid

August 27, 2016, 4:43 pm

Sadly I was not able to afford a mid-2018 MacBook thanks to bank accounts being emptied by a hacker who got access to my online banking passwords. Upon investigation, it appears that the attack vector was malicious code installed on my mid-2009 MacBook as a result of a patch supplied by someone called dosdude1.

mjoecups

September 13, 2016, 4:08 pm

Brevity is the soul of wit. Don't quit your day job.

James Grant

September 17, 2016, 9:11 am

Having tried it, I believe this does NOT work for logical volumes created (i.e. Fusion drives). Does "dosdude1" intend to support this in future?

Stephanie B

September 20, 2016, 6:34 am

When you followed all of the steps, did it wipe your Mac clean? I'm in the process of installing Sierra and I noticed one of the steps said to Erase your Disc file

Wizyrd

September 20, 2016, 4:52 pm

I'd like to try this on my mid 2009 MacBook Pro. Does anyone have any experience with this? Any "gotcha's" I should know about? Is it worth the trouble?

Stephanie B

September 20, 2016, 5:24 pm

I have the same computer and am halfway through the process but am trying to find out if it wants you to erase your whole disc file in the process

gr8hifi

September 20, 2016, 5:32 pm

The instructions listed on the install website will result in a total loss of data. It's not clear if you can use a Time Machine backup (or otherwise) to completely restore data after the upgrade.

Stephanie B

September 20, 2016, 5:42 pm

thanks, its definitely not worth it then. appreciate it!

Dan

September 21, 2016, 12:09 am

You can upgrade or do anything as usual. All the patch tool does is let you create a patched USB installer and install Sierra like you would any OS by booting from that media. After it's installed then you run that post patch from the menu and that is it. Then restore files like you normally would. Or if you did an upgrade then you shouldn't have anything really to do.

Andy Wirya

September 21, 2016, 12:34 am

Hello, will it work in Santa Rosa's 64-bit Macbook Pros?

Stephanie B

September 21, 2016, 2:29 am

Haha you kind of lost me. I am able to get to the part where I am installing sierra from my USB but I am just worried about it erasing my files in the process and I don't have an external hard drive to use time machine on. So I can't really restore the files if they get erased, correct?

darleenw

September 21, 2016, 2:41 am

Not sure if I trust this and since I have to have wifi not sure the time to try it. Guess I need to find some money to upgrade my MacBook Pro to something newer.

Thanks for the comedy routine in the comments - I now cannot wait for 2018 version :)

Jerry_Fritschle

September 21, 2016, 5:01 am

It would seem as if the instructions about "erasing the drive" are leftover from the days when Sierra was in Developer Preview/Public Beta, when the user would be installing this on a separate drive or partition, separate from the everyday OS, in any case. I am inferring from Dan's statement that, at this point, it can simply be run as an upgrade over top of El Cap. But some more feedback on this would be useful :-)

Dan

September 21, 2016, 6:19 am

You should always have a backup before playing around with stuff. But if you have the USB Installer working and booted from it then all you should have to do is go through the install. OS X/macOS by default upgrades the OS. You only have to go into Disk Utility and format the drive if you want a fresh install, which is what I did. I erase my drive and installed from scratch and moved everything back over manually. You don't have to do those steps. Just simply boot off that USB drive you created with that Patch tool and continue and install. Reboot back into that USB installer after you upgraded and under the Utilities menu there is a Post Patch installer to run that is listed and reboot again from the internal hard drive and you're done. Pretty simple and straight forward. But again...always have a backup when messing with major updates, etc. You should have one any way as a hard drive can go bad at any point in time.

Stephanie B

September 21, 2016, 7:22 am

Thanks so much for your help! I am getting my hands on an external hard drive this weekend and will try your method. Did you experience any issues once you manually moved everything back? With your files or anything? I appreciate you answering my questions!

Stephanie B

September 21, 2016, 7:23 am

I'll be installing it once I back up on a hard drive just in case it wants to wipe my files, and I can try and help. Although Dan seems to be the real expert here!

Jerry_Fritschle

September 21, 2016, 3:07 pm

I had not seen Dan's most recent post when I chimed in, and it seems pretty clear. Both of my internal drives are bootable so I'll try this out on the "alternate"---after Time Machine finishes :-)

Joaquín

September 21, 2016, 3:45 pm

Let me chime in from Spain. I have just updated my "outdated" early 2009 21" iMac using the first official Sierra release and everything works just fine, even Siri!

All my data is on a disk partition, so I had no problems to revert back to normal after installing the new OS (Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, Crashplan, and yes...., Time Machine works just fine provided you don't change your home account name)

It's more than evident that Apple is somehow pressuring users to get rid of computers which are fully usable. By fully usable, I mean I am still able to edit RAW files in CS or even render full HD clips.

Of course, my wife's new MacBook Pro does it all faster, but not any better. Were I a professional pressured by time, I would consider upgrading my old chap..., but not the case here.

By the way, where are those 64gb iPhones and iPads? Perhaps, they are in the very same place where the Apple guys would like to send my old iMac, that place where the only way out is spending money...

So it seems there is an unofficial way out ... https://uploads.disquscdn.com/...

Good luck!

Dan

September 21, 2016, 4:02 pm

No issues yet on my Early 2009 MacBook Pro 17". I do have an SSD drive in it, so that may be helping with speed some. But no issues yet that I found. Disappointed in Apple! I see no reason why they couldn't have added support for this model and my work computer which is an Early 2009 MacPro. If you keep an eye on slickdeals.net or even search you can get a good deal on an external drive usually. Site changes constantly throughout the day and keep an eye on the side lists as well if you're not familiar with that site. An 8TB is about $180 I think I see last. Usually a 4TB is around $100 that comes up from time to time.

Marco Wintjens

September 21, 2016, 5:59 pm

OK you guys, I also took the risk:
I have just updated my "outdated" early 2009 24" iMac
seems to work fine . . . but also a bit slower

I didn't do a clean install, I just updated the OS from a USB stick

https://uploads.disquscdn.com/...

colormedisappointed

September 21, 2016, 7:41 pm

Unfortunately you can't download Sierra to an older unsupported Mac, like my Mac Pro 2008. Makes installing it mute.

Zimmermann

September 21, 2016, 8:49 pm

After restarting the old macbook sees the USB-drive, sees the installation disk, but after clicking the installation stalls. It just does not go further. What to do?

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