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alexmartinpc

macrumors member
Original poster
Sep 28, 2020
42
3
Hello everyone,

I'm new here and I'd love to understand the Mac OS universe, because I'm 100% lost.

A little bit of background story: I've been repairing, configuring, installing and optimizing Windows PCs and laptops for more than 10 years, and I'm very savvy about anything that has something to do with PCs, laptops, Windows configuration, hardware errors, software errors, etc... actually electronics in general. The only thing that I can not do is repair hardware (motherboards, graphics cards...) at a very deep level, that require expensive machines (something like Rossmann). Summing up, I'm so used to know absolutely everything about any kind of problem a Windows customer may have, or at least I know how to troubleshoot it. Same with Android, by the way.

Now, I've never ever worked with an Apple laptop or desktop, and I know absolutely nothing about Mac OS, never used it. However, a good friend of mine came to me with his MacBook Pro 13" mid 2009, which had several issues: battery damaged, keyboard and touchpad damaged, some ports were not working, it was very slow... He asked me if I could do something about it. So I took it and found the perfect opportunity to introduce myself to Apple. The first thing I did was repair everything that was not working properly or at all, so, new keyboard, new touchpad, new battery, full disassembly of the laptop, cleaned everything (it was so dirty, but it's been 11 years), re-pasted the completely dried thermal paste, repaired the ports that were not working, repaired the magsafe thing that was not doing a solid contact with the charger cable, put an SSD, put 2x4GB = 8GB RAM 1333Hz (yeah, apparently this Macbook supports 1333Hz)... So, hardware-wise everything is now brand new, looking great, huge change and very good news for my friend, who is so excited about it. However, here comes the second part: the software.

Basically, I'm looking for a clone of mine that can translate all my Windows knowledge to Mac OS. As in: the equivalent of Task Manager in Windows 10 is this tool, the equivalent of BIOS menu is this other thing, etc...

I'm gonna make a series of numbered questions so it's all clear and neat:

1. Where's the motherboard battery, so I can take it out, do a full CMOS reset and start fresh even from the BIOS?

2. Where's the BIOS? How can I access what's BEFORE the OS loads? Can I update it?
I've read that it's this thing called Open Firmware, but after pressing "Command + Option + 0 + F" when booting up, it does absolutely nothing. In order to force the mac to enter the BIOS, I put the empty SSD instead of the original HDD with all my friend info, so there's nothing to load, but I always get a blank white screen, nothing going on, and sometimes a folder with a question mark blinks. I'd like to enter the BIOS or whatever it is that is before the OS so I can look into it, get familiar with the menu, see if the hardware is recognized correctly, etc...

3. I've seen that the last OS version this Macbook supports is the OS X El Capitan 10.11.6. I want to know if I can install, after the 8GB of RAM upgrade, a newer version of Mac OS. I've read something about patching Catalina to make it work in these laptops, but I've never done it, and I don't know if it's problematic as in WiFi not working, or sound, or if it can be done perfectly.

4. Where are the drivers? How does the dedicated graphic card nVIDIA 9400M driver get updated?

5. Since I don't understand if there's a BIOS or not, or if it works as it does in Windows... can I put the empty SSD, "mess around" installing Catalina, El Capitan or whatever, and in any time I want, remove it, put the original OS X El Capitan HDD from my friend and boot it up like normal?
I'd like to back up all his data to an external drive, install everything fresh in the SSD, and then move his files and stuff into the SSD with the fresh installation. I'm a newbie here, and who knows, may be if you install Catalina, even if it's in a different storage drive, the BIOS/Open Firmware gets affected and cannot boot from the El Capitan HDD anymore. Just thinking what can go wrong...

That's for now, I'm sure I'll have more questions later. Thank you!
 

leman

macrumors Core
Oct 14, 2008
19,351
19,406
I don't think that I can answer your questions with enough technical depth to satisfy you (also please note that the 2009 model is fairly old, so some things I write below might not apply), but I hope that I can at least give you some pointers (in no particular order):

- Mac's don't have BIOS. They use UEFI with a custom Apple boot loader

- As far as I know, most Mac laptops don't have a CMOS battery (or even if some older have it, it won't be a easy to replace as it's likely to be soldered on). You can reset the CMOS (Apple calls it PRAM/NVRAM) by using special key combinations on bootup (google for it, Apple has support pages detailing the procedure, they depend on the laptop model)

- There are apparently ways to boot unsupported MacOS versions, but it will all depend on the model and OS version. I never did it myself.

- Drivers are part of the base OS installation. You only need third-party drivers for third-party hardware, but even then MacOS includes drivers for most stuff you are likely to encounter (like every single printer)

- You can just put in an empty SSD, the system should automatically boot into internet recovery and download/install the most up to date OS for you. Although I am not sure if the 2009 model supports internet recovery to be honest...

- You can switch the internal drive with different OS installations, it should work. Unless you do some custom mods to the firmware, in which case you might have a problem. You can also boot from external drives, which might be simpler if yo just want to play around

Finally, if you are interested in learning about Macs from this kind fo angle, I would recommend you to familiarize yourself with Unix (unless you already have). You might also find the source code of Apple core OS useful (it's all open source, google it).

Have fun!
 

alexmartinpc

macrumors member
Original poster
Sep 28, 2020
42
3
Thank you Leman!

1. Yeah, by BIOS I meant any interface that tells you info about the machine. I do believe that most modern (like since 2010 or so) PC's in Windows do use UEFI instead of BIOS, but we still call it BIOS, even I do it. So... how do I access UEFI in this MacBook Pro 13" mid 2009?
The open firmware shortcut is not working.

2. I'm making a bootable USB from Windows using TransMac. This MBP has an Intel P7550, which is a 64 bit CPU. I'm downloading this DMG:
support.apple.com/kb/DL1885?viewlocale=en_AU&locale=en_AU
How do I know that it will install a 64 bit OS instead of a 32 bit? Or that's no even a thing in MacOS?
The file is only 1.5GB... I'm starting to believe it's only an update instead of the whole OS X El Capitan. Where can I find a dmg of El Capitan 10.11.6, which is the latest, so I install directly into the SSD via bootable USB the latest version?

3. OK, the CMOS battery was simply to clear all the UEFI data and start fresh... by the way, aren't the UEFI's updated?
In Windows, every motherboard has a section with firmware/BIOS updates, and there are like 10 or more over the years. Shouldn't Apple also update the UEFIs of their laptops? Is it done in the process of a new OS update may be?
Because in Windows, you have to manually update it, you can't do it from the OS (normally) because it's something that it's before the OS, so you usually use an USB, enter UEFI and update it.

4. About the drivers... so, I guess then that if nVIDIA updates the drivers of a given GPU, and that one is used in a macbook, that update will come to your macbook via a new update of the whole macOS, right?

5. I don't think this MBP has that cool feature of ethernet. I believe I have to install a fresh El Capitan OS from a bootable USB.

Thanks for the time!
 

DEMinSoCAL

macrumors 601
Sep 27, 2005
4,902
6,963
I'm a Windows guy forever, but also support and use Mac's so maybe I can help.

First, I would have to say that I probably would not have invested much into getting a 2009 MacBook working. That is very old and soon (if not already) major apps will no longer install or run on El Capitan. It'll be all but abandoned.

Also, it's my understanding that while you are officially capped at El Capitan, you might be able to use a bootloader like Clover to "fool" a newer version of macOS into thinking you have a newer MacBook. BUT, it's not guaranteed because things like the GPU in that old MB may not be compatible with newer versions. So you can try Sierra or High Sierra, then Mojave, but Catalina will not work I believe because it is mostly 64-bit and probably won't work.

A cheap SATA SSD would be your best bet for experimenting. It'll be sort of quick, and doesn't cost a lot.

Good luck!
 
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DEMinSoCAL

macrumors 601
Sep 27, 2005
4,902
6,963
To reset things, I think that is like resetting the PRAM and SMC. There are key combinations you hold down while turning it on that resets what you call the CMOS. But keep in mind Macs are not PC's and CMOS and PRAM/SMC are not 100% the same thing.
 

leman

macrumors Core
Oct 14, 2008
19,351
19,406
- I’ve never tried to enter the firmware interface, so I’m not sure. CMD+OPT+O+F is not working you say? Why do you want to go there anyway? I don’t think there is much there beyond boot settings.

- MacOS doesn’t have the silly 32bit vs 64bit split. Later OS versions are all 64Bit. Some earlier are hybrid 32/64 bit

- Firmware updates are part of OS updates. So are driver updates. Since Mac drivers are completely different from Windows/Linux drivers they Have very different release schedules. Nvidia used to offer custom driver updates for Mac, but if course, that ended when Apple and Nvidia parted ways

- For El Capitan, try this link (no idea if it works) http://updates-http.cdn-apple.com/2...cf50-4516-9011-228c78eda3d2/InstallMacOSX.dmg
 

DeltaMac

macrumors G5
Jul 30, 2003
13,547
4,454
Delaware
1. Open Firmware (entered by CMD-OPT-O-F) has not existed as such since the arrival of the Intel processor on Macs in 2006.
2. The capability to download and install a system through an internet connection (Internet recovery boot) is too new for a 2009 MacBook Pro. Did not exist until 2011 - although certain 2010 Macs got firmware updates to provide that functionality.
3. Firmware updates sometimes are made available separately, although for the last few years, most often are part of system software updates.
4. Good luck on making a bootable Mac system installer through TransMac. Sometimes you get lucky, but I read more stories from people who can't get that to work (Using TransMac to make a USB thumb drive that will actually boot a Mac)
 

alexmartinpc

macrumors member
Original poster
Sep 28, 2020
42
3
OK, I'm getting quite frustrated. If I use the original HDD which has the OS X already installed, I can enter the "recovery" menu pressing down OPTION while booting up, which looks like UEFI but it's not.

However, if I put the blank SSD, I can't enter any recovery, I always get this white screen. So clearly, this recovery thing is HDD dependent, which means it is installed in the HDD, which means it's not what I am looking for. How in heavens can I access any interface that comes to play BEFORE the HDD is read?
Where is the data and files that this MBP uses before loading the HDD and OS?

Like, how do you troubleshoot something if you don't want to use any HDD or SSD. If you don't want to use the OS.

Surprise: after creating the bootable USB, it's not working, I plug it in, nothing, I try to get to recovery, nothing, if the storage is blank/empty, I always get this white screen. Weird because I'm checking the USB and it's actually GPT, and everything looks fine. So I guess I'll have to make the bootable from the mac itself. Now I ask... what if the HDD broke and I didn't have any HDD with mac OS installed? I'm starting to love Apple... I know I've never used it, but come on, I'm a total expert at Windows and computers in general, how is it that I can not figure it out? Neither the UEFI access, neither the bootable USB startup...
 
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cwerdna

macrumors 6502a
Jan 19, 2005
563
210
SF Bay Area, California
I'm a PC guy at heart and don't even own a Mac at home. But, I worked on Mac software for over 4 years (between 04 and 08) and now work on iOS stuff so I have to use a Mac for work (been at this for another 7 years).

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201255 may help. Ages ago (between 04 and 08) at work, I had failed Mac OS X update that rendered one of my test machines unbootable. A co-worker helped me out as we had a Netboot server so we could boot it off the network. My memory was foggy but I think we re-applied the update to get it going again.

I'm not sure if you got the vintage right. https://everymac.com/systems/apple/macbook_pro/index-macbookpro.html and https://everymac.com/systems/apple/macbook/index-macbook.html might help. The machine has a DVD drive, right? If not, you should be able to hook up an external USB optical drive then hold down the C key to boot from that drive (https://web.archive.org/web/20141109042412/https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201255).

Sorry, haven't had time to read your post carefully and all the replies. The Mac is definitely a weird beast compared to old-style BIOS or even (weird to me) UEFI.
3. I've seen that the last OS version this Macbook supports is the OS X El Capitan 10.11.6. I want to know if I can install, after the 8GB of RAM upgrade, a newer version of Mac OS. I've read something about patching Catalina to make it work in these laptops, but I've never done it, and I don't know if it's problematic as in WiFi not working, or sound, or if it can be done perfectly.
Apple dead-ends machines at a certain OS version. I don't know of any official way to get a newer Mac OS on it.
4. Where are the drivers? How does the dedicated graphic card nVIDIA 9400M driver get updated?
For display drivers, they're normally part of the OS. There's nothing to install.

Earlier statements like "Firmware updates sometimes are made available separately, although for the last few years, most often are part of system software updates" are basically correct. Once in a blue moon is there some separate firmware update made available via Software Update.
Like, how do you troubleshoot something if you don't want to use any HDD or SSD. If you don't want to use the OS.
https://support.apple.com/guide/mac-help/diagnose-problems-mh35727/mac and https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201257 are ways. Older versions of the latter at https://web.archive.org/web/*/https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201257 might be better.
 
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doobydoooby

macrumors regular
Oct 17, 2011
209
255
Genève, Switzerland
Forget what you know about windows and how you expect it to be and welcome to mac os. Its like learning a new language, eventually you have to give up trying to translate everything from your home language and go with the flow. With some things theres an equivalent, with others not.

OSX isnt like windows for tinkering under the hood, its much harder to do. Have a look at
to get your laptop a bit closer to modernity but dont push too far or you may bring it to its knees accidentally!
 
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Peacock22

macrumors newbie
Oct 29, 2018
17
21
I used to be a Windows-only guy, have a custom-built PC and stuff, but I got my first Apple computer a couple of years ago and have learnt a lot about how Macs work. So I shall attempt to answer your questions:

1. There is no CMOS battery, and there isn't even technically a CMOS. Macs use a combination of SMC (System Management Controller) which is similar to a BMC from a server, and the NVRAM (Non-volatile memory).

The SMC controls system parts like the fans, does temperature monitoring, controls sleep mode, battery charging, etc... and is kept "alive" as long as the system has power from the battery. The SMC can be reset by removing all power to the machine (disconnecting the battery and charger for a few minutes) or by using a key-combination when the machine is powered off. Resetting the SMC can fix some issues like high fan speed for no reason, or sleep mode issues, charging issues, etc... (Search Apple's support site for information on this as it varies from Mac to Mac.)
The SMC does not store any information or settings, other than fan controller settings. If you installed a Fan Controller app, this is why it is a good idea to reset the SMC after uninstalling the Fan Controller app.

The NVRAM (called PRAM on older Macs) is the closest thing to the CMOS of a Windows PC. It stores all sorts of settings and information such as the currently selected Startup Disk, boot arguments (verbose, single-user, etc...) and a whole host of other information such as recent diagnostics information, recent kernel panic information (similar to Windows blue screen crash-dumps), screen brightness, volume, etc...

You can reset the NVRAM by holding a key combination on startup. Usually it is Option (Alt), Command, P, and R. Hold these until the machine chimes and reboots twice. This will reset all firmware settings (called EFI variables) to their defaults.

2. There isn't really a BIOS or UEFI interface on a Mac. You cannot access any settings menu or anything. The best you can do is to hold the Option (Alt) key during startup to access the Startup Selection menu (Boot Menu). If you want to adjust EFI variables in the NVRAM, you need to boot into macOS and issue the "nvram" command as root (Administrator) in the Terminal. You can set all sorts of variables. For example, nvram boot-args="-v", will set the machine to always boot in verbose mode, which means that you will see text scroll on the screen when macOS is booting instead of the Apple logo. You can undo all these changes with an NVRAM reset.

There are a lot of different key combinations that you can use, such as Command and R to boot into Recovery (needs macOS to be installed on the disk because that 2009 machine is too old and doesn't support Internet Recovery).

Open Firmware is an older firmware that older Macs (especially the older PowerPC-based Macs) but the newer Macs use Intel processors and EFI firmware.

3. Once Apple drops support for an older Mac, you won't be able to install a newer version of macOS than what Apple officially supports on that machine. If you try to boot the installer for a newer version you will simply see a "prohibited" symbol. There are ways to "hack" newer versions of macOS to run on older machines but it is not recommended as they can be unstable and certain things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, graphics acceleration, etc... may not work properly. If you are still interested in trying anyway, you can look for patchers for macOS, I remember "dosdude1" made a working patcher for Mojave that I tested on an old Mac and it did work, but certain things were broken.

Remember that a Mac can run any operating system, such as Windows or Linux. So you could simply make a bootable UEFI (GPT) Windows or Linux USB drive, hold Option on startup and boot from there. Apple even makes "Boot Camp" driver packages that install all the necessary Windows drivers to make everything work like it does in macOS (brightness keys, etc...) but macOS would still run much better and I would rather not try to use Windows on it.

4. macOS handles the drivers. When you install macOS on a Mac, you do not need to do anything else or install any drivers. macOS has the drivers for every single supported Mac built-in to it and everything will just work which is quite nice. There is no way to update any of the drivers unless you update macOS itself.

5. Yes, you can use a different Startup Disk and everything and swap them out and everything will work just fine. The only thing I would do it reset the NVRAM after you swap the disks because newer versions of macOS could write variables to the NVRAM that older versions won't understand. But it should work fine.

What I would do, is download the latest version of macOS that the machine supports, which appears to be Mac OS X 10.11.6 El Capitan. You would need to use a functional Mac to do this though. Go to this Apple support article and click "Download OS X El Capitan" in Step 4. Then open the DMG file and follow the procedure until you end up with an "Install OS X El Capitan.app" application in the Applications folder. You then need to grab a USB drive that is large enough (8 GB should be enough), open Disk Utility, erase it as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) using the GPT Partition Table, and go to this support article and follow the instructions for El Capitan.

Once you boot into the installer, open Disk Utility, click the disk and erase it using the GPT Partition Table and Mac OS Extended (Journaled) as the file system. This will format the disk completely. You can then Quit Disk Utility and proceed to install macOS.

I hope this information helps you. The Mac world can be quite different to the Windows world. Many concepts are handled completely differently to Windows, some of them you may like, some you might not.

EDIT: Forgot a few things. To answer the question of equivalent things on Macs, here are a few. Remember that as the person above me said, some concepts in the Mac world are completely different.

Equivalent to Task Manager is Activity Monitor.app
Command Prompt or PowerShell is Terminal.app
Disk Management is Disk Utility.app
Notepad is TextEdit.app
Event Viewer is Console.app
Windows Credentials Manager is Keychain Access.app
System Information (sysinfo32.exe) is System Information.app
Settings or Control Panel is System Preferences.app

Also, every applications is actually just a folder or directory with a bunch of files inside. You can browse this by Control-clicking (Right-clicking) a .app file and clicking "Show Package Contents". This will browse you inside the application package and you can see what makes up an App on macOS.

macOS is also Unix-based. That means it is very similar to Unix and Linux in how it works and how the commands in Terminal work. For example, all the familiar Linux tools like dd, ls, top, uname, cat, grep etc... work in the Terminal. Even the Terminal itself drops you at a BASH prompt. Some may even say that macOS is like a really pretty heavily-modified Unix distribution, which isn't far off. This is why you may see many programmers using Macs as they give a very similar environment to that of Linux which feels familiar to those developers. There is even a Linux-style package manager (like apt on Debian or Ubuntu) called Homebrew available for macOS which allows you to install packages and stuff from the Terminal.

I think I have rambled on enough now, I hope this information helps you.
 
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Yebubbleman

macrumors 603
May 20, 2010
5,884
2,487
Los Angeles, CA
Hello everyone,

I'm new here and I'd love to understand the Mac OS universe, because I'm 100% lost.

A little bit of background story: I've been repairing, configuring, installing and optimizing Windows PCs and laptops for more than 10 years, and I'm very savvy about anything that has something to do with PCs, laptops, Windows configuration, hardware errors, software errors, etc... actually electronics in general. The only thing that I can not do is repair hardware (motherboards, graphics cards...) at a very deep level, that require expensive machines (something like Rossmann). Summing up, I'm so used to know absolutely everything about any kind of problem a Windows customer may have, or at least I know how to troubleshoot it. Same with Android, by the way.

Now, I've never ever worked with an Apple laptop or desktop, and I know absolutely nothing about Mac OS, never used it. However, a good friend of mine came to me with his MacBook Pro 13" mid 2009, which had several issues: battery damaged, keyboard and touchpad damaged, some ports were not working, it was very slow... He asked me if I could do something about it. So I took it and found the perfect opportunity to introduce myself to Apple. The first thing I did was repair everything that was not working properly or at all, so, new keyboard, new touchpad, new battery, full disassembly of the laptop, cleaned everything (it was so dirty, but it's been 11 years), re-pasted the completely dried thermal paste, repaired the ports that were not working, repaired the magsafe thing that was not doing a solid contact with the charger cable, put an SSD, put 2x4GB = 8GB RAM 1333Hz (yeah, apparently this Macbook supports 1333Hz)... So, hardware-wise everything is now brand new, looking great, huge change and very good news for my friend, who is so excited about it. However, here comes the second part: the software.

Intel Macs are very similar to PCs. They use the same kinds of Intel processors that you'll find in Intel based PCs. Newer Intel Macs have an Apple designed co-processor, the T2 chip, that makes things a little bit different, but the fundamentals are still very much the same. macOS is essentially a highly specialized Linux that has way more polish and a way more user-friendly UI than any Linux distro likely ever will. But under the hood, it's still an x86 PC running an x86 operating system.


Basically, I'm looking for a clone of mine that can translate all my Windows knowledge to Mac OS. As in: the equivalent of Task Manager in Windows 10 is this tool, the equivalent of BIOS menu is this other thing, etc...

If you want to Force quit an app, Alt-Command-Escape is your Control-Alt-Delete. If you want full-on task manager a la Windows 10's Task Manager, the app you're looking for is Activity Monitor, located in /Applications/Utilities (where that first "/" is the root of your boot drive, whether it be called "Macintosh HD" or something else).

I'm gonna make a series of numbered questions so it's all clear and neat:

1. Where's the motherboard battery, so I can take it out, do a full CMOS reset and start fresh even from the BIOS?

On a Mid 2009 13" MacBook Pro, the battery ought to be visible on the underside of the main logic board (think Motherboard for laptops). It ought to be glued to the board and have a wire with a connector attaching it to the main logic board.

2. Where's the BIOS? How can I access what's BEFORE the OS loads? Can I update it?
I've read that it's this thing called Open Firmware, but after pressing "Command + Option + 0 + F" when booting up, it does absolutely nothing. In order to force the mac to enter the BIOS, I put the empty SSD instead of the original HDD with all my friend info, so there's nothing to load, but I always get a blank white screen, nothing going on, and sometimes a folder with a question mark blinks. I'd like to enter the BIOS or whatever it is that is before the OS so I can look into it, get familiar with the menu, see if the hardware is recognized correctly, etc...

"Open Firmware" is what existed on PowerPC Macs from 2005 and earlier. On Intel Macs, you're dealing with UEFI (not dissimilar to what is on modern PCs). However, Apple doesn't have a menu like your average PC will. The blinking folder with a question mark icon signifies that the Mac cannot find a bootable operating system. If you just changed out the drives and put in blank ones, that's probably why you're getting that symbol. To fix this, either grab a DVD (remember those?) of either the Mac's restore DVD (which will load a machine-specific version of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard) a DVD of Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6), or a USB with a more modern release of Mac OS X on it (OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 is the last supported version of OS X that will run on that Mac). If you go the DVD route, stick the DVD in the drive, and press and hold the 'C' key when booting to force the Mac to boot off of the optical drive. Since there is no OS installed, that might not be necessary. If you go the bootable USB drive route, then press and hold "Option" when booting and you'll see a menu of bootable drives; select the one you want to boot from to boot from it.

3. I've seen that the last OS version this Macbook supports is the OS X El Capitan 10.11.6. I want to know if I can install, after the 8GB of RAM upgrade, a newer version of Mac OS. I've read something about patching Catalina to make it work in these laptops, but I've never done it, and I don't know if it's problematic as in WiFi not working, or sound, or if it can be done perfectly.

OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 is the last version that Apple supports for that Mac, regardless of how much RAM you stuff into it (8GB is the maximum that can be recognized by that Mac; stuffing more in won't do anything). At best you can run the current version of Chrome and a version of Firefox that is only being updated with security patches for the next year, past that and there's not a whole lot that you can or even should do on that Mac.

As was stated by others, there are ways to hack on newer versions of macOS, but you will definitely have usability/performance issues (as many of the OSes directly leverage features of newer hardware, such as Metal with graphics cards).

4. Where are the drivers? How does the dedicated graphic card nVIDIA 9400M driver get updated?

The drivers specific to your Mac's onboard hardware are baked into the operating system. This has always been and always will be true of Macs and their drivers. You should not need to modify them unless you're building a Hackintosh or trying to get your Mac to run an unsupported OS.

5. Since I don't understand if there's a BIOS or not, or if it works as it does in Windows... can I put the empty SSD, "mess around" installing Catalina, El Capitan or whatever, and in any time I want, remove it, put the original OS X El Capitan HDD from my friend and boot it up like normal?
I'd like to back up all his data to an external drive, install everything fresh in the SSD, and then move his files and stuff into the SSD with the fresh installation. I'm a newbie here, and who knows, may be if you install Catalina, even if it's in a different storage drive, the BIOS/Open Firmware gets affected and cannot boot from the El Capitan HDD anymore. Just thinking what can go wrong...

First off, I don't think you're going to get a smooth ride from anything as new as Catalina on that Mac. If running Catalina is mission critical to you or your friend, I strongly suggest getting a newer Mac; there are several perfectly capable compatible models on sale on eBay for not much.

Secondly, the firmware on that Mac is old enough that it won't change. If you slap in a blank drive and put on El Capitan, and then remove that drive and slap in another drive and experiment with running a newer and unsupported OS for that Mac, nothing will prohibit you from slapping the El Capitan drive back in. It is exactly like a PC in this regard.

On newer Macs that are capable of running later builds of Sierra (10.12.x) or newer, OS updates embed firmware updates for your Mac. This won't result in you not being able to run an earlier OS. It just means that you can no longer install an OS onto a Mac that is in Target Disk Mode from another Mac (a scenario that likely won't apply to you with the Mac you're posting about) as firmware updates need to be applied to the Mac that's performing the installation which can't be different from the installation target.

That's for now, I'm sure I'll have more questions later. Thank you!

Keep 'em coming!
 

leman

macrumors Core
Oct 14, 2008
19,351
19,406
However, if I put the blank SSD, I can't enter any recovery, I always get this white screen. So clearly, this recovery thing is HDD dependent, which means it is installed in the HDD, which means it's not what I am looking for. How in heavens can I access any interface that comes to play BEFORE the HDD is read?

You don't. There is no interface. Newer Macs have the recovery tool in firmware, but the 2009 model is probably too old.

Like, how do you troubleshoot something if you don't want to use any HDD or SSD. If you don't want to use the OS.

You boot from an USB stick or something. Since you mention that your tool for making bootable USB sticks doesn't work, can't you use the HDD of your friend (it has a working system on it, right?) to copy the installer to a stick?

Now I ask... what if the HDD broke and I didn't have any HDD with mac OS installed?

What do you do if your Windows HDD breaks and you don't have any bootable disk for that? ;) Anyway, that's why newer Macs can automatically download the OS for you.
 

johnnyzg

macrumors member
Nov 7, 2017
33
22
Zagreb
I have Macbook Pro 13" 2009 and it is currently running High Sierra. For MacOS installation, I recommend to go to dosdude1.com and download High Sierra patcher as it contains tool that will download and put everything on USB drive. Then you can remove HDD, put SSD and install MacOS from USB drive (hold Option key immediately after pressing power button until USB drive is shown on the screen). For installation please read everything on High Sierra patcher page.
My WiFi was working fine after upgrade, but 6 months ago it died, so now I'm using USB Wifi TP-Link Archer T2U.
You can also upgrade it to Mojave or Catalina by also using dosdude1 patcher, but first read FAQ at dosdude1 site for each one. Big Sur will also be supported, but it will not have GPU acceleration (there is no OpenGL fallback and Metal is not supported on 9400M) so I don't recommend it as it would be almost unusable.
 
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alexmartinpc

macrumors member
Original poster
Sep 28, 2020
42
3
Wow, thank you so much for so many replies and detailed information. I found really interesting that link to boot up shortcut keys.

I am currently making the bootable USB drive using the original HDD macOS to download all the tools and work it out.

Someone asked why I would even need to enter UEFI. Well, UEFI is a great way of checking if the system is recognizing every single piece of hardware, specially after an upgrade of RAM, SSD or whatever, without the need to load the OS. Besides, then you double check that everything that was recognized in the UEFI, is in the OS running.

My plan is to make it usable again, indeed very usable and fast after the SSD upgrade and the RAM, from 2GB 1066Hz to 8GB 1333Hz. When I was repairing the logic board and cleaning it up I noticed that the CPU was soldered, if not, I would have upgraded it as well.

So, after reading that there's this tool to patch a newer macOS and install it in an older machine, I need to know which macOS is the best one I can install into this MCP. I know El Capitan is the official one, and I was planning to install that, but if somebody tells me that High Sierra works just as fine or even better, I would of course try that one.

It's like a PC from 2009 with Windows 7. Somebody that doesn't know anything will think that the best thing is install W7 fresh new, but Windows 10 not only is compatible, it runs smoother, it's newer, more advanced and way better, specially now (at least after some tweaks I do for those W7 lovers).

I guess now I should open a new thread asking for the experienced MBP 13" mid 2009 owners and ask which one of the newest macOS is the best one for this model, meaning that it works equally fine or better (considering you have 8GB or RAM so that's not a problem) and it has no problems such as WiFi not working correctly, or bluetooth, sound, keyboard shortcuts, whatever...
 

alexmartinpc

macrumors member
Original poster
Sep 28, 2020
42
3
What do you do if your Windows HDD breaks and you don't have any bootable disk for that? ;) Anyway, that's why newer Macs can automatically download the OS for you.

If my PC's HDD dies suddenly and I put a new blank SSD, when booting up it will show the UEFI main menu and a message that there is no OS to load, and it will show a shut down key or it will go to UEFI so you can check all the parameters and hardware: RAM, CPU, storage installed, version of the UEFI, boot manager, etc... loads of things, even more if you have an advanced motherboard with a Zxxx chipset. From 2000.

In mac all I get is a blank screen that doesn't even tell what's going on, only sometimes a question mark folder blinking that you have to google to know that it means "no bootable device". Anyways I don't want to convert this into a rant, hahaha, but I swear, I'm experiencing some tense **** with this first touch with macOS, but I have to be patience to work things out.

Now I'm trying to install El Capitan in the SSD to check if the official way works and everything seems fine, and then I will tinker with other newer versions, after reading about them from other users. A question comes to my mind... if Apple is not supporting this model from Sierra, and that must mean all the built in drivers for this model won't be present, how is it that the GPU and most of the things could be recognized?

If I install Catalina after the patch, where are the drivers coming from to make the specific HW of this model work together? Definitely not from Catalina.
 

clueless88

macrumors regular
Aug 23, 2020
241
149
I am wondering how much faster the MBP will run just with more RAM and an SSD? I realize that the original HD may be cluttered with stuff and that a clean install of an OS is preferable, but just to take the new set up for a spin with little time investment you could hook up the SSD via an external cable (SATA to usb) or enclosure and clone the original drive with something like carbon copy cloner (free for 30 days I think) then swap out the HD for the cloned SSD. The old HD can still be used to retrieve data if you later decide to nuke the SSD and install a new OS.

You can then play around with the machine and if he is happy with it you guys are golden. It would seem that you should be able to download installers for different versions.

I am also a long time Windows person, well, even, pre-Windows (DOS) and have been dabbling in the Mac environment for a few months.

It seems that the differences between the different MAC OS versions are not as profound as the different versions of Windows--I guess that would make sense, since 2009 there have been 10 different versions of Mac OSes, Windows has had 3 (4 if you count 8.1). Not sure if Mac had horrible equivalents of Vista or 8. With the Macs, it seems like the system requirements increase with each successive OS release. At least on paper, the minimum requirements for Windows 10 is the same as it was for 7.
 

allan.nyholm

macrumors 68020
Nov 22, 2007
2,293
2,524
Aalborg, Denmark
I would get El Capitan installed first and then see about working out the kinks with upgrading to a later macOS version..

macOS is a whole different beast compared to Windows 7 or 10. Take it from a 12+ year Mac user who now uses Windows only sparingly for comedic purposes(no, it actually serves a purpose for me in a VM)


When the latest macOS version is released for a given Mac laptop or desktop, Apple removes support for that computer, meaning drivers for any official later macOS release is without support for your particular 2009 MacBook Pro and such what dosdude is doing is heaven sent for those living on that edge of having a "reversed software installation" with drivers available for a 2009 MacBook Pro using El Capitan put into Mojave (10.14) with all that involves of .plist editing and all-round magic fingers.


My ancient MacBook Pro is without any further support other than Snow Leopard.
 
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alexmartinpc

macrumors member
Original poster
Sep 28, 2020
42
3
Yeah, the bootable USB made with macOS official tools is working fine, I was able to boot it and install El Capitan in the SSD. So yeah, I guess I need a spare macOS computer to work on a problematic MBP. That's actually bad news because I don't have any Apple PC around.

More questions... in Windows, you have to validate your copy of Windows via ethernet or a key. Or, in Windows 10, if you connect to ethernet this process is automatic and you don't even notice. How does this work with macOS?

So, that patch of Dosdude, besides tricking macOS into thinking that your MBP is compatible, also "inserts" drivers of your hardware into the new unsupported OS?

By the way, where I can find if the MBP 13" mid 2009 works great with Catalina, Sierra or the latest working one? Should I open a new thread aiming specifically to this model owners?
 

allan.nyholm

macrumors 68020
Nov 22, 2007
2,293
2,524
Aalborg, Denmark
macOS doesn't require activation :) Take it as a bonus of already owning a Mac computer. There was a time where a new OS for the Mac would cost a larger sum of money - it never needed to activated however. Newer Mac purchases has hardware serial numbers and everything connected to Apple so that you can check up on your support status -still doesn't require you, as a user, to fill out a form or keep tabs on a software serialnumber. Look in "About this Mac" for more details when booted to El Capitan

It's my understanding that a whole lot of work goes into transferring drivers from older Macs to recent macOS whenever possible. I've only made a USB once or twice for use on my MacBook Pro without any success at all - simply because no it's a MacBook Pro model 1,1 and that Snow Leopard is the end of the line for that. There's a settings file on the official boot usb drives like the one made with current macOS Catalina that indicates which Mac Catalina is allowed on.

This restriction is lifted with the work of dosdude and others - I'm writing this from a view of not needing these tools as I'm all set for Big Sur too with my current iMac. My memory of things is a bit hazy. Although I believe I'm accurate enough.

There's a specific thread for these unsupported Macs https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/macos-10-15-catalina-on-unsupported-macs.2183772/

the above is Catalina related. Snoop around.

By the way, where I can find if the MBP 13" mid 2009 works great with Catalina, Sierra or the latest working one? Should I open a new thread aiming specifically to this model owners?

I would think that if you dive into the threads here, like the link above. Or the same thread in the macOS Catalina section here at MacRumors you'll find - probably - all the help needed for your further adventures with macOS. If you have a spare USB drive laying around - not a USB drive for installation but a more capable 500GB drive or SSD in a case, then either use CarbonCopyCloner to make a copy of your current installation. Now play around using the tools and details in the threads mentioned. You only need your current Mac. Use Time Machine too as a backup. the installation of El Capitan appears fresh enough that installing it again after a complete failure in installing a new macOS version not supported shouldn't be a hassle.
 
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alexmartinpc

macrumors member
Original poster
Sep 28, 2020
42
3
OK, I'm facing this issue:
hqdefault.jpg


I've just downloaded it from Chrome, the USB process went well, so the log said, how is it I'm getting this error?
 

leman

macrumors Core
Oct 14, 2008
19,351
19,406
In mac all I get is a blank screen that doesn't even tell what's going on, only sometimes a question mark folder blinking that you have to google to know that it means "no bootable device". Anyways I don't want to convert this into a rant, hahaha, but I swear, I'm experiencing some tense **** with this first touch with macOS, but I have to be patience to work things out.

One important piece of context is that Macs were never really designed to be user-serviceable to that degree. If as a customer, you have a problem with your Mac, the general expectation is that you take it to a professional. That professional has the tools and the knowledge to diagnose your problem. Newer Macs have a lot of tools built into firmware (like a hardware test etc.) but to fully diagnose the machine you need some special diagnostics software that only certified service technicians have access to.
 

alexmartinpc

macrumors member
Original poster
Sep 28, 2020
42
3
One important piece of context is that Macs were never really designed to be user-serviceable to that degree. If as a customer, you have a problem with your Mac, the general expectation is that you take it to a professional. That professional has the tools and the knowledge to diagnose your problem. Newer Macs have a lot of tools built into firmware (like a hardware test etc.) but to fully diagnose the machine you need some special diagnostics software that only certified service technicians have access to.

Well, I'm not trying to get the schematics of the logic board to repair X thing. In those cases I understand your message applies, just as with PC's. But, being able to run some basic interface, storage independent, to be able to check your system hardware, how is it recognized, the RAM speed, timings, CPU exact model, boot manager, firmware version, etc... long list of basic things that an expert could use. BIOS/UEFI were not neither designed to be used by your regular Windows user. About 95% of Windows users barely know what the BIOS/UEFI is, but it's still there, for us experts to diagnose basic stuff.

Your message can be applied to something way more specific, not to such a broad wide and basic info about your own system, which you should be able to see and check if you have the knowledge.
 

allan.nyholm

macrumors 68020
Nov 22, 2007
2,293
2,524
Aalborg, Denmark
OK, I'm facing this issue:
hqdefault.jpg


I've just downloaded it from Chrome, the USB process went well, so the log said, how is it I'm getting this error?

I hope and believe this is the more recent date related issue that would plaques users. Including me, with an older High Sierra installation on a USB key containing 3 separate macOS. I had to re-download the High Sierra installer from Apple's servers despite being the exact same version already in my USB key - it had a change of certificate or some dumb new setting that helped me and everyone.

The certificate would have run out. The trick is to set the date to around 2009 or the time of the time of El Capitan release. try some of these:

The result of this command will be the date that the system currently has been set to. For some reason, it might have been reset to 2001, in which case we need to set it to the right date. To do this, we enter a new command. This command will be entered as follows:

Code:
date -u {month}{day}{hour}{minute}{year}

Every bracket should be replaced with a two-digit number based on UTC time. Below you see what the command should be for your current time and date – September 29th 2020 19:38. To avoid trouble with timezones, we will use UTC time instead (September 29th 2020 17:38). Which means, you can just enter it exactly like this:
Code:
date -u 0929173820
Enter the command and hit return. You can then check if it was set correctly by running the first command again. If the date was wrong, it was likely that which caused the error, and after you quit the terminal it should be able to install OS X just fine.
 
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