Become a MacRumors Supporter for $50/year with no ads, ability to filter front page stories, and private forums.

Aii

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Dec 16, 2023
25
2
Which MacOs (ie Mountain Lion, Yosemite, El Capitan, High Sierra) is most compatible, from a hardware / machine perspective, (NOT from an internet security / new applications / updated apps perspective) with a Mid-2011 21.5" i5 2.5 Ghz iMac?

The machine is currently as originally built, with 4 GB of ram, and a 7,200 RPM 500 GB hard drive.

I have considered upgrading the ram to either 16 GB (4 x 4GB) or 32 GB (4 x 8GB) but am concerned about choosing between 1333 Mhz vs 1600 Mhz SoDIMMS that are presently on the market, such as those offered by OWC (macsales). I don't care about having the fastest speeds... I only care about having the most compatible, reliable, and interoperable ensemble of components and operating system.

It is currently running Yosemite, an upgrade from whatever OS it originally shipped with. There are files on the machine that indicate prior failed attempts to upgrade the OS to Sierra, to High Sierra, and to El Capitan. Apparently none of those attempts at upgrades succeeded.

I have the original OS and Software CD's from Apple, if restoring the machine to as shipped configuration is advised. I fear that doing so may make it less usable, or less recognized by the resources that Apple offers in the form of .dmg files for unsupported MacOS.

But I also need to wipe the drive of all files from the prior owner, and set myself up as the Administrator of the machine, so that I can use it.

Since joining MacRumors, I have read of MacOS upgrade tools, the most frequently mentioned having an acronym similar to, but not exactly spelled as, "OCLP" (OpenCore something or other). There is also a user name that is commonly mentioned that appears to be the author of this tool. (1dosdude or dos dude, something to that effect) I'm sorry that I cannot remember the exact name of the tool or the user, but the significance of what I read was not fully appreciated at the time.

In fact, I glossed over it because I was reticent to consider 3rd party solutions to running an Apple operating system on an Apple computer, thinking, perhaps naively, that everything required could and should come from Apple.

I am out of my depth here, and need a place to start.... which seems to boil down to making a decision about which MacOS to adopt.

Goals:

To use the new to me 2011 iMac to work with the legacy software and old files still on the hard drive of the 2008 MacBookPro, which I bought new from the Apple store, and which failed a few years later, likely due to the commonly reported ball grid array graphics chip heating and unseating issue.

Rather than repair the MBP to access those files, I want to pull the drive out of the MBP, place it in a powered drive enclosure, and then use a working iMac to access the files.

Legacy Software I want to run:

- Full Retail Boxed Adobe CS3 (still have all the original discs and packaging, but am concerned that Adobe shut down the activation servers)
- Adobe Lightroom of the same era (2008)
- Apple Aperture (final version)

I don't really care to use the iMac for anything else. No games. No modern applications. No "upgrades" for the Adobe applications.

I never learned or took advantage of all the tools available in Photoshop 1 on my 128K Mac that I bought in 1984 and upgraded to a 512K "Fat Mac" in 1985, so having CS3, despite now being 15 years old, is plenty "advanced" for my purposes, and I couldn't care less about any new features that have been added during the time since, no matter how amazing. I don't have enough years in life left to learn them.

So, which MacOS version is most appropriate for this Mid-2011 iMac?

One resource I read said I should use nothing newer than EL Capitan (10.11).

Another resource I read said I should reach up to High Sierra (10.13).

The current MacOS installed is Yosemite (10.10.5), but I do not have administrative privileges to make changes to it, and have also promised the prior owner that I would wipe the hard drive. I will not ask her for her user ID and PW. I only have access to the machine as a Guest. I cannot download "MacTracker" app for answers.

I do have the original software discs that shipped with the machine.

Despite being one of the earliest adopters of the Mac, and a founding member of BMUG now approaching 40 years ago, I am a very long ways away from understanding how Macs of the last 30 years operate, since I was obligated to use Windows environments.

Therefore, I appreciate any and all advice you can provide, as I am starting over at square 1.
 
Last edited:

Bigwaff

Contributor
Sep 20, 2013
2,074
1,375
You probably can’t go wrong booting from the original system disk, erasing the internal HDD, and installing the version of Mac OS on the system disks. Then determine the most recent Mac OS version the legacy software supports and update to that version.

Personally, I would install 16GB ram if it is supported and remove the internal HDD (those drives are so very slow) and replace with a SATA SSD.
 

Aii

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Dec 16, 2023
25
2
@Bigwaff Thank you for your suggestions. Is there a rule of thumb as far as size of SSD that is most reliable?

Given that the same 2.5" form factor can be outfitted with a range of capacities spanning from 240Gb to at least 4.0 Tb, is there any general field experience that has found that higher capacity SSDs (more chips crammed in same small box) are less reliable than smaller capacity SSDs? Do 4.0 TB SSDs fail more than 1.0 TB SSDs?

If reliability is equal across capacities, then I would be inclined to select the upper midsize SSD, as these appear to have the lowest cost per GB. For example, with the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD's I found just now on macsales, it appears that the 2.0 Tb size is the lowest cost per GB. On edit, I just now scrolled down to find shorter warranty SSDs where the highest capacity 4.0 TB is the lowest cost per GB.

However, if the much smaller 480GB size is known to be more reliable, due to perhaps less heat generating components in the same size form factor, then I would be inclined to go smaller. Even though I always calculate cost per unit of measure (ie, cost per gb), price doesn't really matter as much as reliability does.

What are your thoughts and observations on SSD size to failure ratio, if any such correlation exists?
 
Last edited:

Bigwaff

Contributor
Sep 20, 2013
2,074
1,375
What are your thoughts and observations on SSD size to failure ratio, if any such correlation exists?
I don't purchase or install SSD in quantities enough to give you any observations. I'm inclined not to worry about it, especially if you purchase the SSD from OWC. As for capacity, it depends on your workflows and types of files you frequently store and use. Personally, I would opt for a larger capacity SSD (750GB - 1TB) as external storage options on these old systems is slow with USB2, FireWire 800, or Thunderbolt1 via the TB/miniDP port (if you can find any on eBay). Word of caution ... this is a 10+ yr old iMac. The GPU in the 2011 models are known to fail eventually. Replacing the GPU is possible with a customized and modified laptop PC GPU of the same era. Many long threads in this forum on the topic - just search "2011 iMac GPU".
 
  • Like
Reactions: Aii

Aii

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Dec 16, 2023
25
2
Good point about the through-put of the external interfaces. I intended to use the FW800 port for a CF card reader.

Thank you for the tip about replacing the GPU with a customized/modified PC laptop GPU.

Such an irony that I am using a failure prone GPU in a 2011 iMac in order to "see" and rescue the contents of MacBook Pro whose GPU already failed. Coupled with my 30" Cinema Display of the same era that also already failed, the odds are not looking very good.

Point taken about not pouring too much money in upgrading the hardware of a doomed machine.

It has been difficult for me to accept that it is "normal" for GPUs to fail, or that 10 years is "too old" to expect hardware to work. I still have a 26 year old Compaq laptop, a 22 year old HP laptop, and an 18 year old Fujitsu laptop, all of whose screens and GPUs continue to work perfectly, along with their original hard drives. These laptops are still used today as an offline "library" for referencing service data.

I only wish all these PC machines I have that work reliably could run the Mac based versions of software that I bought for editing photos, a now regretted decision that I had based on the incessant recommendations of the instructors of the Photoshop classes that I took about 16 years ago.

With that water under the bridge, I'm rowing back to rescue my photo projects with this new to me iMac, and while I immediately saw the sense in getting an SSD for reliability over a hard drive, it is discouraging to learn of a high probability of GPU failure. Yet a new Mac won't run the legacy software that I have a perpetual license for.
 

Aii

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Dec 16, 2023
25
2
Update: Reversion to Snow Leopard 10.6.7 has failed (from the original MacOS optical drive install disc)

The list of error messages is as long as my posts, x100.

My guess is because I didn't zero out the destination drive, and therefore there are remnants of the recovery files from the existing OS on the destination drive which are newer files than the OS I was trying to install.

I'm searching for guidance on the proper procedure to follow.

The original questions in Post #1 now re-emerge to the forefront:

1. The process of upgrading MacOS, now from the even older Snow Leopard (instead of Yosemite), especially if Apple no longer supports point and click updates through the Apple menu, and if/whether Apple still wants $29 to upgrade to Lion (which I recall paying when upgrading my MBP)

2. The level of MacOS upgrade where I should stop, in order to avoid little glitches and perpetual tweaking, such as I read from the very advanced group of users here.

3. Are "OpenCore LC" or "dos dude", which I understand to be 3rd party applications, necessary to obtain in order to upgrade Snow Leopard 10.6.7 back to Yosemite 10.10.5, and or further on to El Capitan 10.11 or High Sierra 10.13?

Thanks in advance.
 
Last edited:

Aii

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Dec 16, 2023
25
2
Command + R on Restart: Disk Utility




500.11 GB ST3500418AS Media (Info/Disk Identifier: disk0 )

Macintosh HD (Info/Disk Identifier: disk0s2 )​

SuperDrive (Info/Disk Identifier: disk2 )

Mac OS X Install DVD (Info/Disk Identifier: disk2s3 )​

___________________

disk1 (Info/Disk Identifier: disk1 )

OS X Base System (Info/Disk Identifier: disk1s2 ) (Disk Image) (Unmounted)​

Mac OS X Install DVD (Info/Disk Identifier: disk2s3 )
 

Bigwaff

Contributor
Sep 20, 2013
2,074
1,375
@Aii Boot from the install DVD again. In Disk Utility, erase the internal HDD - you shouldn't have to zero the drive, but you can, the fastest option should suffice. Do not connect to the internet for the install. Attempt the install once again. These older installers have security certificate issues which may require one to change the date of the system to a date before the certs expired. You can do this once booted from the install media by selecting Utilities > Terminal and using the Unix "date" command.
https://gist.github.com/pjobson/56208d5f34faef25b1aebf5f2981ea7c

What errors specifically are you witnessing? There should be an option in the menu to display the installer log.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Aii

Aii

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Dec 16, 2023
25
2
The error list was loooooooooooooonnnng.

Many lines, and much scrolling.

Because I did not have administrator privileges, I could not set up a printer in order to print the list.

I tried to save it to a place on the hard drive, but the directory options presented were Applications and Root, which are locations that I would not know how to retrieve if saved there.

I shut the machine down last night, and now have to work, so I won't be able to get back to it for a couple of days.

As always, I very much appreciate your participation in my small plight, as well as your help, which I do not take for granted.

I spent more time reading about MacOS's of the early teens, and I'm just wondering, once all is said and done, if I should stick with Snow Leopard... maybe just upgrade it from 10.6.7 to 10.6.8 and keep it there?

I forgot that I have another Mac that I abandoned in the mid nineties... it was a rare Mac called a MacTV. Apple recycled the Mac TV name a decade or two later, in a headless Mac Mini form factor, but the original Macintosh TV that I have has a screen, a mobo, an HDD, a wired keyboard and mouse... in all black... in a Performa style housing.

Anyway, it is a PowerPC processor, and I forget why I had to stop using it, but I'm pretty sure it was because something stopped working. It has been gathering dust for the last 1/4 century, but I would like to see some of the files that I had to abandon. I can't quite remember, but I think that machine still had a 3.5" floppy drive. It also has a broadcast TV tuner on the mobo, and an RG6 coaxial input on the I/O panel.

Since Snow Leopard appears to be the final MacOS that supported Rosetta which enabled PowerPC platform applications to run in Legacy mode, maybe I should NOT go any higher than Snow Leopard until I have a chance to dig up my old discs and have a look at what I left behind? From what I've read, Yosemite does not have this ability.
 

Dronecatcher

macrumors 603
Jun 17, 2014
5,209
7,795
Lincolnshire, UK
I have the very same model iMac as my daily driver. It dual boots El Capitan (for internet compatibility) and Snow Leopard for my graphics work in Adobe CS3 and Photoshop CS5.
As it has a HDD I've no desire to go to High Sierra as that is terrible on a spinning disk and El Capitan with Opera 89 keeps the internet working.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Aii
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.