What version of OS X should I run on an early 2008 (pre unibody) 15" MacBook Pro 2.4GHz 4GB RAM?

Which version of OS X is best for this machine?


  • Total voters
    12

astromoose

macrumors member
Original poster
Jul 27, 2008
76
7
NC. SF.
Yes I know it will run all the way up to El Capitan.
I'm using this machine as a server (plex, file sharing, VPN for when I'm away on unsecured wifi, torrentbox).

I was going to keep it old school and run 10.6 but I was wondering what you all thought the sweet spot for performance would be for this machine. Perhaps Mountain Lion, or Mavericks?

Running 10.6 it's just a hair too slow for plex server to do high bitrate 1080p transcodes. I was hoping (perhaps erroneously) that something like Mavericks might have better performance.

I've included a poll as an experiment but please post your thoughts.
Thanks.
 

Czo

macrumors 6502
Dec 30, 2008
414
257
Debrecen, Hungary
I'm running 10.11 on my Early 2008, 17" MacBook Pro (6G RAM/SSD upgrade). Video transcode with plex limited by the CPU, not the running OS. Plex can use hw assisted decoding/encoding when the right hardware is available, but neither is it in your machine.
 

Brian33

macrumors 6502a
Apr 30, 2008
832
70
USA (Virginia)
OK, I voted for 10.8.5 based on my experience with my 24" Early 2008 iMac (Core2Duo 2.8 GHz, 6 GB RAM). It ran really well, and until recently it was my daily use machine and server, including Plex Media Server. However, note these caveats:

-- I'm unsure how your machine's CPU compares to mine
-- I'm not sure if it was doing "high bitrate 1080p transcodes", but it could do whatever transcodes were necessary to stream 1080p movies to my (very old!) Roku and my (very old!) television without any noticeable problems
-- Probably irrelevant, but it had a DIY Fusion drive with a very large SSD component (512GB)

I expected that 10.11 would run fine on it too, but its graphics card finally died before I upgraded to it. So, my "other vote" would be for El Capitan. If you went with 10.6, wouldn't you be worried about not getting any security patches? And now I'm wondering how much longer 10.8 will get them -- if you don't want to upgrade OS X again soon, that might be reason to go with something newer.
 

astromoose

macrumors member
Original poster
Jul 27, 2008
76
7
NC. SF.
Thanks for the responses
Update: I ended up trying OS X Mavericks. To my surprise, the Plex transcoding performance is slightly better than 10.6.
It will transcode more files smoothly to whatever the PS4 Plex client requires, but doesn't work with everything. The passmark of the Intel Core2 Duo T8300 is 1492; Plex recommends a score of 2000 for 1080p transcodes.
FYI the passmark score for your Early 2008 iMac @ 2.8GHz was 1945. http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php
 
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Brian33

macrumors 6502a
Apr 30, 2008
832
70
USA (Virginia)
Good to hear there's an improvement. Looks like my 2008 iMac almost met Plex's recommendation. I have since moved my Plex server to a 2012 quad-core Mac Mini, which obviously has no problem handling it.
 

BrettApple

macrumors 65816
Apr 3, 2010
1,102
396
Heart of the midwest
I had this one before I bought my early 2013 MacBook Pro.

The answer is none.

Thing couldn't run past Snow Leopard.
Sounds like you had an original 2006 Core Duo model... Even the Late 2006 MBP will run Lion, and the '07+ runs up to El Capitan. I had one a while ago that I put an SSD + 4GB RAM in (Mid 2007 2.4 GHz model) and dual booted Snow Leopard + Yosemite. Honestly they both ran totally fine and the 8600m was still able to push pixels without much lag. 10.6 will run a bit cooler and smoother from my experience, but 10.11 would certainly be useable.

If it's not doing much and you don't need the extra security, I'd probably keep it on Snow Leopard personally.

As for the transcodes, I doubt the OS would make a huge difference, since that's handled more by the CPU and the GPU, but different video drivers may have an impact. I'd put El Capitan on it and see how you like it, you can always downgrade if you want. Or Mavericks of course. I still use Mavericks on our production Mac Pros that handle our live stream and encode our sermons on the go into Apple ProRes. El Capitan had major issues with the software and would drop frames like nobody business.
 

varian55zx

macrumors 6502a
May 10, 2012
748
260
San Francisco
Sounds like you had an original 2006 Core Duo model... Even the Late 2006 MBP will run Lion, and the '07+ runs up to El Capitan. I had one a while ago that I put an SSD + 4GB RAM in (Mid 2007 2.4 GHz model) and dual booted Snow Leopard + Yosemite. Honestly they both ran totally fine and the 8600m was still able to push pixels without much lag. 10.6 will run a bit cooler and smoother from my experience, but 10.11 would certainly be useable.

If it's not doing much and you don't need the extra security, I'd probably keep it on Snow Leopard personally.

As for the transcodes, I doubt the OS would make a huge difference, since that's handled more by the CPU and the GPU, but different video drivers may have an impact. I'd put El Capitan on it and see how you like it, you can always downgrade if you want. Or Mavericks of course. I still use Mavericks on our production Mac Pros that handle our live stream and encode our sermons on the go into Apple ProRes. El Capitan had major issues with the software and would drop frames like nobody business.
Nope, early 2008 Core 2 duo MacBook Pro 15 inch.

2.4 ghz core 2 duo I believe. 2gb ram.

When I put lion on it it lagged so much it was unusable. It was an embarrassment.

I might as well throw the thing in the trash heap but it's worthless so I won't sell it. It's a glorified paperweight.

But no, it definitely didn't run past snow leopard. Nothing even close.

Maybe if I fitted an SSD it would be a different story
 

AleXXXa

macrumors 6502
Feb 22, 2015
332
223
Snow Leopard. If you have an SDD you can try Mountain Lion or Mavericks.
Stay away from Lion, Yosemite and Elcapitan.
 

BrettApple

macrumors 65816
Apr 3, 2010
1,102
396
Heart of the midwest
Thing couldn't run past Snow Leopard.
When I put lion on it it lagged so much it was unusable.
So it did run past Snow Leopard. Just not up to your expectations.

I did have Mountain Lion running on my '07 with the standard 5400 rpm HDD and 2GB of RAM and it was fine once it was up and running but it would easily get overwhelmed since it only had 2GB of RAM in it, and Lion likes RAM more than SL but it did run it. You do still have a good machine that is more than a paperweight, but you'd likely need to put in 4GB of RAM and an SSD. But since you had the money for a new one and/or don't care about the old one than it won't matter of course. Just saying. I fix up old Macs that I find on eBay or from friends/family every so often and regift them to people in need of a computer that can't easily get/afford one and they are always grateful for what they have and how they run with the newer parts (SSD&RAM). You could give that a shot.
 

varian55zx

macrumors 6502a
May 10, 2012
748
260
San Francisco
So it did run past Snow Leopard. Just not up to your expectations.
Yes, that is correct.

I was able to successfully install it

I did have Mountain Lion running on my '07 with the standard 5400 rpm HDD and 2GB of RAM and it was fine once it was up and running but it would easily get overwhelmed since it only had 2GB of RAM in it, and Lion likes RAM more than SL but it did run it. You do still have a good machine that is more than a paperweight, but you'd likely need to put in 4GB of RAM and an SSD. But since you had the money for a new one and/or don't care about the old one than it won't matter of course. Just saying. I fix up old Macs that I find on eBay or from friends/family every so often and regift them to people in need of a computer that can't easily get/afford one and they are always grateful for what they have and how they run with the newer parts (SSD&RAM). You could give that a shot.
It ran it, but imo simply wasn't worth mentioning because the performance was so abysmal.

I agree, with 4 gigs of ram and an SSD that thing would be up and running. However simply instead of putting the time and effort into that upgrade, I opted for a new machine instead.

Those pre unibodies are so ancient now. I still love them, I love all Macs / MacBooks. But the current ones are just so sleek. I absolutely love them.
 
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msh

macrumors 6502
Jun 13, 2009
331
107
SoCal
I have an early '08 MBP upgraded to a SSD. It runs Yosemite perfectly but El Capitan (10.11.5) is a problem. It installs and runs well except for one thing: the trackpad mouse cursor freezes briefly every 15 seconds or so. Console messages indicate a problem with IO from the trackpad. To eliminate any possible interface from other software I did a virgin install of El Cap - same problem. So unless the next update fixes it, it looks like Yosemite is the end of the line for this MBP.
 
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