Snow Leopard on a new retina-display MacBook Pro? Nuh uh

Christopher Breen
17 June, 2012
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Reader Hugh Fredericks seeks a new Mac, but with an old OS. He writes:

I love the look of the new retina display MacBook Pro, but I’m not sold on Lion. Is there any way I can run Snow Leopard on this new Apple laptop?

Almost assuredly not. To begin with, the new MacBook Pro includes software that allows for all the high-resolution goodness that you find so attractive. That would be missing from Snow Leopard. More broadly, with the MacBook Air, Apple set upon a path to ensure that the OS version that ships with its laptops is the baseline for that machine. You can go forward in the form of Mountain Lion when it ships, but you can’t go back to a previous version such as Snow Leopard. (This is largely about video drivers present in Lion that are missing in Snow Leopard.) The same applies to new Mac minis.

My understanding is that the iMac is a different case. But it’s not a slam dunk. You can’t install Snow Leopard on a new iMac with an old Snow Leopard DVD because the version on the DVD doesn’t have all the drivers the new iMac needs to run from the installer disc. However, if you have another Mac you can throw the iMac into Target Disk Mode, mount its drive on the other Mac and install Snow Leopard on the new iMac’s hard drive. Boot the iMac and then run software update to get the latest version of Snow Leopard. Alternatively, clone an updated version of Snow Leopard to the iMac. I welcome the thoughts of those who’ve done this.

Note to those reading this in the future: When Apple ships the next generation of iMacs this technique is sure to fail.



2 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. doconmac says:

    Even if you get Snow leopard installed you will not be able to import your mail from a Lion version of Mail as the format is completely changed.
    It will import the Mailboxes but they will be empty. There is a workaround but it takes forever and with thousands of emails is completely impracticable.
    It will not read the iPhoto and iTunes Library either. So you end up with
    a useless installation. It will not restore from a Lion TimeMachine either,
    and SuperDuper is useless as it will install Lion OS files from the Lion Clone.
    I know as I did just that, I purchased 3 mid 2011 Macs with Snow Leopard pre installed so that if I didn’t like Lion I could revert to SL.
    I updated to Lion, did not really like it, and reinstalled Snow Leopard, imported music and photos into iTunes and iPhoto and then discovered that I couldn’t import my mail. It did import the Address Book by exporting and importing vCards.

    I am afraid that with Lion, Apple have shut the door to reversion to older versions of the OS and it stinks along with dropping Rosetta for the thousands of loyal Mac users who cannot now run any PPC App.
    That also sucks…

  2. Art Hackett says:

    I test booted my 10.6.8 backup on a friends late 2011 15″ 2.4 pro. It worked fine as I expected, leaving my late 2008 17″ in the dust. Unfortunately, the late 2011 17″ I bought has been a dog with every system I’ve tried up to El Crap. Other than that, I’ve had no problems with anything I migrated from my CCC to the new machine and its fresh snow leopard install. Further migration to a new ML test partition worked as normal also. More recently, after fruitless complaints to Apple about my molasses machine, l tried a new drive with fresh installs of SL and Yosemite, and although the migrations performed normally and the disk (still 5400) pulled 85-90MB read/write, the interface still performs way slower than my Cube running 10.4.

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