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Mountain Lion drops support for several older Mac models (Updated)


Every new version of OS X comes with harsh news for owners of older Macs: "Your Mac is too old. You're stuck with your current OS. Forever." For Mac OS X Leopard in 2007, anyone who owned a Mac with a processor slower than 867 MHz was stuck with Tiger. In 2009, Snow Leopard made the biggest (and most controversial) shift yet and dropped support for all PowerPC Macs. In 2011, Lion dropped support for Macs that didn't have 64-bit Intel Core 2 Duo processors, which included most of the first-generation Intel Macs.

The march of progress continues in OS X Mountain Lion, and with it comes a new set of minimum requirements.

[Update: Apple has since released the official system requirements for 10.8 Mountain Lion. –Ed.]

An anonymous developer clued us into the minimum requirements for OS X 10.8, and there's bad news for some older Mac owners. Mountain Lion will only run on the following Macs:

  • iMac (mid 2007 or later)
  • MacBook (13-inch Aluminum, 2008), (13-inch, Early 2009 or later)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/late 2007 or later)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or later)
  • Mac Mini (Early 2009 or later)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or later)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)

This means the following Macs which are supported under OS X Lion will not be able to run Mountain Lion (model identifiers in parentheses):

  • Late 2006 iMacs (iMac5,1, iMac5,2, iMac6,1)
  • All plastic MacBooks that pre-date the aluminum unibody redesign (MacBook2,1, MacBook3,1, MacBook4,1)
  • MacBook Pros released prior to June 2007 (MacBookPro2,1, MacBookPro2,2)
  • The original MacBook Air (MacBookAir1,1)
  • The Mid-2007 Mac mini (Macmini2,1)
  • The original Mac Pro and its 8-core 2007 refresh (MacPro1,1, MacPro2,1)
  • Late 2006 and Early 2008 Xserves (Xserve1,1, Xserve2,1)

Update: It slipped my mind that there were two pre-unibody plastic MacBooks introduced between the aluminum MacBook and the plastic unibody redesign, both of them with the model identifier MacBook5,2. Those MacBooks, which still feature the legacy pre-unibody case design and were manufactured in early- to mid-2009, are supported in Mountain Lion because they feature an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics card instead of the integrated Intel GPUs in their predecessors.

If you're running Lion and not sure if your Mac is supported under Mountain Lion, go to the Apple Menu and select "About this Mac." Click "More Info," then click "System Report." You'll be presented with a window showing a Hardware Overview, and your Model Identifier will be the second entry from the top. If your Model Identifier matches the list above, then regrettably OS X Lion is the end of the road for your Mac.

The loss of support for all most pre-unibody plastic MacBooks and the first-gen MacBook Air are likely to come as a big shock to many Mac users; personally I know many people who own older pre-unibody MacBooks. Dropping support for these models in Mountain Lion appears to have something to do with the Intel integrated graphics processors from that era; no Mac with an Intel GMA 950 or Intel GMA X3100 graphics processor will be supported in Mountain Lion.

My Early 2008 MacBook Pro dodged the bullet... this time. I have a feeling many of you out there will not be so lucky, and I have a sneaking suspicion that OS X 10.9 will drop support for my Mac, too. It's rough news to be sure, but keep in mind that OS X Lion won't spontaneously combust once Mountain Lion goes live; even if your Mac is stuck with Lion for the rest of its operational life, you can still look forward to several more years of software support for your current OS.

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