2008 24" iMac - which OS is best - no hardware upgrades

Discussion in 'iMac' started by kirkla79, Dec 9, 2014.

  1. kirkla79, Dec 9, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2014

    kirkla79 macrumors newbie

    Dec 9, 2014
    I have a 24" 2008 iMac with 4gb ram and 3.06 C2D processor.

    Mine is still running Leopard.

    I have no interest in investing in any hardware upgrades.

    However, I am running into a lot issues where software cannot be updated due the OS no longer being supported. I also cannot install drivers for any of my printers due to this.

    The iMac itself runs without issue.

    I primary use this computer for guests so they can check their email or do some basic internet surfing.

    Which OS would be the best to upgrade to? While it does not have to the fastest, I don't want to end up with a machine that is too slow to be usable.

    I realize there are many such questions already like this one but most seem to involve people who have upgraded their hardware.
  2. jji7skyline macrumors 6502


    Aug 10, 2011
    I'd recommend Snow Leopard 10.6, just one update above your current version for the best performance and compatibility. So many people still use this version of OSX that most developers have support for it in their apps and products.

    The only problem is that Snow Leopard can be very expensive to buy at retail price. You may be able to buy at cheaper prices though, considering that it is an older software anyway. Make sure you get the retail version though, otherwise it will not work on any Mac.

    If you want to save money, Lion is much cheaper, but from my experience it requires more RAM and CPU to run. The experience won't be as good on older hardware. In fact, Lion to Mavericks has the same system requirements, and the performance is very similar, so you may as well download Mavericks for free and try it out. If it is too slow you can bite the bullet and buy Snow Leopard. Note that it may be cheaper to buy more RAM and run Lion. RAM upgrades are super easy on older iMacs.
  3. Brian33 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2008
    USA (Virginia)
    Hi! I use (daily) a similar machine. I've got an Early 2008 24" iMac 2.8 GHz C2Duo, although I've been running with 6 GB of RAM for quite some time.

    It's my opinion that you would be quite well served by Mountain Lion, and probably by Mavericks, too. I would hesitate to recommend Lion or Yosemite (yet). Snow Leopard was great, but I think there's little reason to stick to it, and it seems to me that many apps are dropping support for it.

    Here's my (limited) basis for my opinion: my iMac also came with Leopard, which I soon upgraded to Snow Leopard and ran that until fall 2013. That worked well with the stock 320 GB drive and 6 GB of RAM, and I have little doubt it would work well for you.

    However, in fall 2013 I installed an SSD, Fusion drive, etc., and upgraded to Mountain Lion, which I've been very happy with ever since. Based on my experience, I think Mountain Lion would work well for your needs. Although I have 6 GB RAM, there's pretty much always more than 3 GB free when I'm just emailing/browsing. (The exception is when I fire up VirtualBox to run a Windows XP or an OS X virtual machine.) And I don't think the SSD is needed for reasonable performance during the uses you describe, either. (Although it IS nice!)

    The "gist" of what I've read about Mavericks makes me believe it makes no higher memory or cpu demand than Mountain Lion, so I think that it would be OK, too. If it were me I'd jump to Mountain Lion or Mavericks instead of Snow Leopard, to get a longer useful time period after the OS upgrade.

    I hope something works out well for you. I still really like this machine! Even though I've got a much faster MBP and Mac Mini, this old 24" iMac is what I use most of the time, every day! If you have questions, I may be able to help.

  4. eRondeau macrumors 65816


    Mar 3, 2004
    Canada's South Coast
    I've got a Mid-2007 24" iMac 2.8GHz "Extreme" w/ 4GB + 1TB WD Blue HD running Mavericks. My family uses it daily at our cottage with absolutely no issues. I plan to install Yosemite whenever I get around to it. I expect it'll be a little slow booting-up but still entirely usable. Someday I'll put a SSD in there too; wish I'd done that when I put-in the WD Blue but I wanted high capacity for media files. What ya gonna do?
  5. Intell macrumors P6


    Jan 24, 2010
    On your machine, 10.9 may be the best choice of an operating system. It's fast, good on older hardware, and still has a few years left of support.
  6. Alimar macrumors 6502a


    Sep 17, 2014
    New York State
  7. hologram macrumors 6502

    May 12, 2007
    I have the same setup as you, but it's a c2d 2.8, and I'm having really good luck with Yosemite 10.10.1.

    I've been keeping the OS up to date because I need a new computer (I ordered a new 5k iMac a week ago) and I wanted to have the latest OS and apps so I could be ready for it.

    You're going to have occasional beachballs, and it's going to slow to a crawl once in a while, but it will run fine most of the time and on a computer this old with so little ram and a weak processor it really runs great for me. It's noticeably faster for me than Mavericks, and the memory management is better, so it squeezes more out of the little ram there is.

    I think it's worth keeping everything as current as possible for security reasons alone, but with a computer this old you never know when something will fail and you'll be forced to get a new one. :eek:

    Oh, and I downloaded the 10.10.1 updater from the app store, ran it right over the existing 10.9.5, and didn't have a single hitch. Most people recommend a clean install, but I had a good backup clone so I figured I try it, and it updated perfectly.

    Make sure you have a good backup.
  8. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    Either 10.6.8, or 10.8.5.

    I would NOT recommend that you go "beyond" 10.8.5 without a hardware upgrade. And since you said "no hardware upgrades", that pretty much answers that.
  9. Ray2 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 8, 2014
    I'm running Yosemite on an iMac 8,1. Best OS since 10.6. Fresh install. Love it.

    Issues are FireWire drives no longer sleep. I got the Mountain menu bar app and control them manually.
  10. hologram macrumors 6502

    May 12, 2007
    Why? Mavericks ran better for me than ML did, and Yosemite runs better than Mavericks.

    I have the same computer as the OP, but with a slower processor.
  11. librarian macrumors regular

    Sep 24, 2011
    Snow Leopard offers the best performance for this model, but it is no longer supported by apple security wise.
    Mountain lion is more feature complete, offers a secure and updated environment but performance is somewhat reduced with heavy multitasking.
    Mine (same spec as yours) is stuck on Snow Leopard because I still use it as production machine; for your needs is probably better to go Mountain Lion.

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