If, like me, you took the plunge with your early Intel Core Solo or Core Duo Mac, and upgraded the processor to a Core 2 Duo, you'll no doubt be disappointed that your machine is not supported by the latest version of OS X Lion 10.7. However, the enterprising KingFlathead has come up with a way of getting it to work on these unsupported machines.
With the processors upgraded to a Core 2 Duo, the earlier Intel machines are perfectly capable of running Lion, but as Apple expects users not to open up their machines and tinker with the guts, they block the installer from working on any machines that aren't 'officially supported'. (I'll let others argue as to why that is.)
In any case, the following machines are supported by this method:
- Mac-F4218EC8 - iMac4,2 - Mid 2006 iMac
- Mac-F42786C8 - iMac4,1 - Early 2006 iMac
- Mac-F4208CC8 - MacBook1,1 - Early 2006 MacBook
- Mac-F42DBEC8 - MacBookPro1,2 - Early 2006 MacBook Pro
- Mac-F425BEC8 - MacBookPro1,1 - Early (Earlier?) 2006 MacBook Pro
- Mac-F4208EC8 - Macmini1,1 - Early 2006 Mac Mini
Please note, if you have one of these machines you will still need to upgrade the processor to a Core 2 Duo. This method will only help to get the installer to run. The machine will fail to boot if you don't have the right processor. This can be a fairly involved task, so make sure you are confident working with your machine. Fortunately, these processors can be found reasonably cheaply on eBay.
Acquiring the modified version of OS X Lion
As with any OS upgrade, the first thing to do is make sure you have a full backup of your system, in case things go wrong. Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper! are both excellent tools allowing you to boot and restore from an external hard drive if there is a problem.
In my case, my machine is the 2006 Mini which I upgraded from its original 1.5 GHz Core Solo to a 2 GHz Core 2 Duo, following these directions. As you'll probably know if you're viewing this page, if you try to run the standard installer, you've get a message telling you "This version of Mac OS X 10.7 cannot be installed on this computer."
However, there is a workaround for this using a modified version of the Lion GM if you do a search online. (If you download a torrent, please ensure you do the honest thing and buy a copy of Lion when it is released).
Extracting the installer
Once you've acquired the file you'll need to extract it from the slightly unusual .7z archive. If you are using OS X, the free Keka archiver will be useful for this. Once extracted you will get a folder with a .iso of the installer and a folder called 'Educational Materials'. These are the files that were modified to allow Lion to install on unsupported machines. They are not needed for the install, but are useful if you want to see how the installer was modified.
One thing I noticed was that there was no read me in the folder, however I did a quick search online and was able to find this document, which I found really helpful.
Burning the Disk Image
Unfortunately, I found that the installer didn't work on my Mac Mini. In any case, KingFlathead recommends that you boot your Mac from the disk image to ensure the installer works properly. To do this, use Disk Utility (in your /Applications/Utilities folder, if you are using a Mac) and burn the image on to a DVD or USB Drive.
Make sure you mount the image first, then select the 'Mac OS X Install DVD' installer, rather than the .iso file. Then drag the blank DVD or USB Drive into the destination. Once you click 'Restore' it will take a few minutes for the installer to be restored to your DVD/USB.
I'd recommend using a USB drive rather than a DVD, as the installation will be much faster. If using a USB drive, make sure it is at least 8GB.
Booting from DVD/USB
This was the part that caused me the most headaches. As you probably know, you can hold the ⌥ Option key when you boot a Mac to select a disk to boot from. However, my Mac Mini would ignore my key presses and boot straight into the default OS.
After some searching around, I found that there was an issue with the wired Apple Aluminium Keyboard not responding to any key presses during the boot sequence on the Mac Mini. Eventually, I had to use a different keyboard and the rEFIt boot menu to allow me to select my USB drive. (Depending on your machine, you may have more success, but I think mine was the worst case scenario).
Running the installer
Once I had booted into the installer, the installation itself went like clockwork. It took
somewhere in the region of 35 minutes to install over my current system (did I mention making a backup?!)
Unfortunately, it was getting quite late and I fell asleep during the install! However, when I woke up I was greeted with the welcome screens for setting up a new user. I was a bit concerned because it looked as though I'd lost my user account and was starting from scratch (although, of course, I had my trusty backup to rely on... ahem).
However, when I tried to create a new account with same name as my old account, the installer wouldn't let me, so it appeared that my account was still there. I went ahead and created a new account (although I probably could have rebooted my machine and booted straight into my existing account. Had I not fallen asleep, I'd have probably had a better idea!)
Anyway, once I'd finally booted in to my existing user account, everything was as it should be and I now have a perfectly functional copy of Lion on my unsupported Early 2006 Mac Mini 1,1
I hope you find this guide useful. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to get in touch.