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Installing Mavericks on an unsupported Mac Pro

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For those of you with an older Mac Pro – model MacPro1,1 or MacPro2,1…

I managed to install Mavericks (Mac OS X 10.9.3) on my MacPro2,1. Since support for the MacPro2,1 and earlier models have been dropped in recent releases of Mac OS X, it is not so straight forward to install Mavericks on older hardware.

I read that the graphics card needs to be upgraded as well and the Apple version of the ATI Radeon HD 5770 was a good choice. I ordered one and swopped it with the old card. I was still running Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6.8) and it booted up perfectly.

The steps I followed was to build an installable USB using the process described at the Sixty Four On Thirty Two (SFOTT) website.

Unfortunately it did not work straight away – My Mac Pro did not boot up.

What I proceeded to do then was to do the following:

  1. Find another machine with recent hardware which allows you to install or boot Mavericks – I have a recent MacBook Pro.
  2. Use Disk Utility to partition an external drive to install Mavericks on it since I did not want to install Mavericks on my MacBook Pro.
  3. Boot with the installable USB on my MacBook Pro (the machine which is supported by Mavericks).
  4. Tell the Mavericks Install that I want to install Mavericks on the external drive (NB. I wanted to keep my existing install on the MacBook Pro intact).
  5. Finish the install.

After this I tried to boot the Mac Pro with the external drive which now has a clean Mavericks installation. Unfortunately this still did not work. I looked at the boot.efi file and the PlatformSupport.plist file and these did not contain the necessary changes.

I then copied the boot.efi (the modified version) from here to the external drive. The locations updated were:

  1. System/Library/CoreServices
  2. usr/standalone/i386

I then edited the PlatformSupport.plist file by adding my board-id and my model identifier (MacPro2,1) to the file in the following location:

  1. System/Library/CoreServices

I tried booting from the external drive again and it worked!!!

I then used SuperDuper to clone the external drive (the one with the bootable and modified Mavericks install) to the Mac Pro internal drive and rebooted. My Mac Pro is now up to date and I am a very happy customer 😉

My next step is to investigate upgrading the RAM on the Mac Pro to extend it’s life even more.

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Written by Rudi Engelbrecht

June 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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17 Responses

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  1. So to confirm what you did…

    1) Install Mavericks on an external drive using as supported mac,

    2) downloaded a modified boot.efi from the dslreports forum thread for which you provided a link (is the correct file the one downloading a boot.zip posted by user Brendan?),

    3) copy the boot.efi to “System/Library/CoreServices” and “usr/standalone/i386” overwriting the boot.efi that was placed in those location by the Mavericks clean install process,

    4) edit the “PlatformSupport.plist” (what program did you use?) located in the directory “System/Library/CoreServices” by adding board-id (how do you get your board-id?) and model identifier (MacPro2,1)

    5) rebooted the Mac Pro 2,1 using the external drive to test and worked

    Does that sound correct?

    Finally have you tried to upgrade via the App Store? Did that break the hack? Will one need to re-overwrite the boot.efi and re-edit the PlatformSupport.plist?

    Thanks much for sharing! 🙂

    Cheers!

    freakqnc

    June 19, 2014 at 6:15 am

    • Hi

      Glad that you found the article useful 😉

      1. Correct

      2. You are correct – the user Brendan has the correct link – I used the boot.efi from the downloaded boot.zip. After extraction the boot.efi file size was 461312 bytes.

      3. Correct

      4. I used XCode to edit the XML file (it has a nice GUI) – but you can basically use anything which will edit XML.
      The board-id is different for every machine – the following command will extract it for your hardware:
      ioreg -p IODeviceTree -r -n / -d 1
      See this article for more information:

      5. I rebooted the Mac Pro (pressing the option key) and selecting to boot from the External USB (the modified installation) – and then after booting from the USB, I cloned the External USB using SuperDuper to the built-in drive on the Mac Pro.
      After performing the clone, the Mac Pro should boot from the default hard drive.
      Should it not boot, try booting using the external drive so that you can inspect the built-in hard drive to ensure that you have the correct / modified boot.efi and the updated PlatformSupport.plist.

      Note: The modified boot.efi starts OS X up using a console mode, and you can read the log and status as it boots up – after which it switches to graphical mode to boot the GUI.

      I have not yet upgraded from the App Store. My suspicion is that the new installer will use it’s own boot.efi / PlatformSupport.plist file(s) preventing you to upgrade using the App Store. My reasoning is that I tried to download the Mavericks Install file from the App Store on the Mac Pro and the App Store prevented the download from happening since the Mac Pro is unsupported.

      To upgrade in the future I think I will do the following:

      1. Clone my current copy of Mavericks to another external USB.
      2. Boot the external USB on my MacBook Pro (which is supported).
      3. Perform the upgrade on the external USB.
      4. Update the boot.efi and PlatformSupport.plist files on the upgraded Mavericks (on the external USB).
      5. Boot the Mac Pro with the updated Mavericks (or Yosemite should I feel brave enough 😉
      6. Use SuperDuper to clone the external USB back to the built-in drive of the Mac Pro.
      7. Reboot

      The steps above are tedious – so I will not be doing this every month – I will wait a few months for a worthwhile update to ensure the effort is worth it.
      Also – I will make another clone of my Mac Pro, before the update to ensure I can rollback to a working OS X.

      If you have any more questions – please do not hesitate to ask.

      Also – if you find a better or quicker solution – please share with us 😉

      Cheers

      Rudi Engelbrecht

      June 19, 2014 at 9:48 am

      • First of all thanks so much for the quick and thorough reply. It’s quite rare these days to find someone willing to go to these lengths so I truly appreciate that.

        I do have a question about point #5, when inspecting boot.efi (if needed), what would you be looking for in order to determine if that’s the correct one? Is there something specific or would you assume it’s correct if the mac start in console mode?

        About the upgrade I believe that’s the case as the SFOTT (SixtyFourOnThirtyTwo) that users have experienced things breaking during an upgrade to 10.9.2. Speaking of which have you ever looked into using that script to perform the install and later updates? If you want to check out the info there you can

        a) watch this video (by user Benjamin Woodring) here:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eF05shc-e2E and read some more on the site

        b) read some info on this macrumors thread here:
        http://forums.macrumors.com/showpost.php?p=18474535&postcount=159

        c) and get the script and other files and info on the SFOTT site (English and French) here:
        http://oemden.com/?page_id=585

        I started to follow it to try and isolate the steps in a clean and organized sequence, but between the parts in broken English that threw me off (English isn’t my native language so unfortunately I have more difficulties with passages in “Engrish” ;P) and some conflicting/unclear info that caused me more confusion than clarity, I ended up looking for other viable methods (that’s when I found your post, thanks! ;D)

        The SFOTT looked more cumbersome than it should be and the extremely verbose walkthrough didn’t help either. The idea there is to be able to make an installer that can be used to install OS X on unsupported macs without having to do manual installs, but using an automated script that would allow patching and installation on different machines. Sounds good in theory but reading through the comments I’ve seen various levels of success and lack thereof.

        Aside from having gotten confused while reading what deterred me was the fact that I do not have a ATI Radeon HD 5770 video card, but an ATI Radeon HD 4870 one and one disclaimer on the oemden site read that users will need to find their own kext for anything that isn’t working post installation… I wouldn’t think I’d be likely to have huge issues since I do have a Mac Pro 2,1 with a fairly recent card, but I’d settle for bringing the machine as up to date as possible as long as it will remain stable and usable for work. That said I would defintely love to be able to upgrade (perhaps not to Yosemite which I might end up having on my macbook pro, unless Apple throw us another curve ball “usupporting” core2 duos that is!)… after all I am still on 10.6.8 and have been OK overall… though missing out on some apps I wanted to install but came for 10.8+ only.

        Anyhow I was just curious to know what you would think about SFOTT and if you’ve bumped into it before… if that’s a viable solution (and steps could be made less verbose and more digestible) then it might be a great way to create and USB Key installers more easily (?) What’s your opinion on SFOTT? Useful or unnecessarily elaborated way to do the same thing you’ve done?

        Thanks again for your time and help! 🙂

        Cheers!

        freakqnc

        June 20, 2014 at 4:27 am

      • Hi

        In terms of the boot.efi – it the Mac boots up in console mode then you can assume that you have the correct boot.efi.

        I have looked at SFOTT and also linked to it in my original post – I have tried it and followed the options with the SFOTT menu system. However – it did not work for me, it could be that I have done something wrong or maybe it has not been updated for Mac OS X 10.9.3.

        SFOTT is an attractive option – since it avoids all the steps and cloning of my approach – but I could not get it to work for me. So I opted to try the clone approach since I will not be installing Mac OS X again unless there are compelling advantages. Looking at Yosemite I can see many attractive features – so I will definitely try it when Yosemite is released. I am just happy to be running 10.9 with all the latest software (instead of 10.6.8 – which was getting a bit long in the tooth).

        I have read that the HD4870 should also work – it is similar to the HD5770 – so best is to try it – luckily you can install Mac OS X Mavericks on a supported Mac on the external USB and then boot the external USB on the Mac Pro (after editing the files) and then you can test the HD4870 (before upgrading more hardware).

        Let us know how your attempt goes and share any new info with us 😉

        PS. I managed to bump into UniBeast today – maybe this will work even easier?

        http://www.tonymacx86.com/374-unibeast-install-os-x-mavericks-any-supported-intel-based-pc/comments36.html

        Rudi Engelbrecht

        June 20, 2014 at 8:20 am

  2. Did you figure out how to upgrade the Ram yet ? It’s the missing link. 🙂

    Mary Willington

    September 6, 2014 at 6:48 am

  3. Hi Rudi,

    I finally had some time to get around to this and perform a new install on a 750GB HD I was able to free up. I followed the easy steps and it all worked like a charm the first time around once I popped the HD back into the mac pro… in fact I am writing this reply on the newly installed OS 10.9.5 on my long-cherished MacPro 2,1 thanks to your tips that made the process a completely painless one! 🙂

    I truly can’t thank you enough for sharing these precious info with the community which will allow so many of us with “ostracized mac pros” to finally be able to “up-cycle” these still very powerful machines made obsolete by Apple for no real good reason, other than pushing sales of newer models.

    I could understand Apple’s choice to not want to support very old models (though these aren’t even that old at just 6 years old!) mac it’s a true shame having to keep older OS on perfectly good mac pros that could otherwise run very well the newer OS X version (if only they were allowed to do so), or even worse, having to ditch a dual quad core 3GHz Xeon with 32GB of Ram, simply due to planned obsolescence! 😡

    So a huge thanks for this extremely useful article and should you venture into Yosemite install, or use other methods such as Unibeast, please do let us know your experience with that… I’ll do the same should I ever tackle any of that in the future.

    Cheers! 😉

    freakqnc

    October 8, 2014 at 3:36 am

  4. A quick update on with a little of a sad news for those wanting to push this further.

    Somehow repeating the process on an SSD (Crucial 512GB M550), did not work for whatever reason.

    – I installed Mavericks and updated it to 10.9.5 and updated everything until no updates to be applied were found (to have the system as recent as possible, since I would be unable to apply updates from crapple later on).

    – Once all was done I replaced the boot.efi in System/Library/CoreServices and in usr/standalone/i386
    – Added board-id and model identifier (MacPro2,1) to the PlatformSupport.plist file in System/Library/CoreServices

    note: board id was obtained by using terminal on the Mac Pro and running the command
    ioreg -p IODeviceTree -r -n / -d 1

    So even if every single step that made this work on a regular HDD was followed to the last detail, for unknown reasons it didn’t work on an SSD which by the way, was attached to the system using an adaptadrive adapter and mounted in the 1st HDD position in the Mac Pro.

    I am at a loss here, so if you do have an idea on why installing on SSD won’t work, please do share and thanks in advance! 🙂

    Cheers!

    freakqnc

    November 1, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    • Sorry to hear about your troubles.

      If I understand you correctly – you managed to install 10.9.5 on a regular HDD and then when you cloned it to an SSD then it would not boot up from the SSD?

      I am using Intel SSD’s – in a RAID 0 configuration – and it is working for me. But then I managed to install 10.9.3 on an External USB on my MacBook Pro first, edited the files and then to test it, I booted up on my Mac Pro, from the external USB drive. Once that worked I did not shut down but kept the booted USB disk running and I cloned from the external USB to the internal SSD.

      What I can suggest is:

      Confirm that you can boot up your installation (10.9.5) from an external USB on the Mac Pro using the “Option Key” and selecting the USB drive as startup disk. This will prove that the hardware is working with the ‘patched’ version of 10.9.5. Then ‘clone’ that installation to your SSD using something like SuperDuper. Afterwards, make sure that the ‘cloned’ drive (the SSD) contains the new / patched / edited files (boot.efi) etc and then reboot.

      When rebooting I have noticed that the boot sequence runs in text mode and you can see all the steps it executes (like a traditional UNIX boot sequence). After a while you will see the Mac OS X login screen.

      Let us know how it goes…

      Rudi Engelbrecht

      November 7, 2014 at 6:46 am

  5. rudy: i hope that you can help me, please.
    i own an older mac pro 1,1 tower which is presently
    operating on 10.7.5 o.s.
    i want to update to Mavericks 10.9 system which i understand is being done by the more astute mac users. i am just able to walk and chew gum at the same time and will pay someone to format a s.a.t.a. hard drive for me off an older mac pro (1,1) and have mavericks ready to use when i receive it. would you be so kind as to have someone contact me for such a kind deed? best regards, dennis ende in michigan

    Dennis Ende

    December 28, 2014 at 1:06 am

  6. Long overdue update… the short version is that 3rd time’s was indeed the charm 🙂 For some reason the first 2 clones made in the same way as the 3rd was, were not being read by the Mac Pro. Now the system seems to work flawlessly (so far so good… knock on wood). As a side note for anyone embarking on the same task, the process will be rather easy… what will be a massive pain instead it will be having to migrate everything over to the new drive/OS manually especially if wanting to keep old mail and having to reconfigure the system with the myriad of little utilities and preferences set throughout years of work being done on the previous machine/OS… but let me tell you… it was worth the satisfaction to have an unsupported mac running maverick and handling it often better, more stable and faster than newer i5 imacs being used where I work.

    So all is well that ends well and once again shame on Apple for not allowing users to continue working on those excellent machines produced in the past that have still so much to give and will now continue to cover the needs of many of us for several years to come. Sure I understand the need to sell new macs, but it’s a big world and it’s not like Apple has any competitors (like Dell vs HP vs Asus vs… you get the point)… one might think that’s actually a move based mostly on greed… after all when Apple moved from OS 9 to OS X architectures or when moved from Motorola to Intel CPUs the company offered support for both and that wasn’t just a matter of tweaking files to overcome a 32bit efi “limitation”… certainly I wouldn’t have expected long term support from the big A, but I would have expected and appreciated to be given the option to run the new OS (albeit slower than it runs on new machines), instead of being forbidden to do so by default. That, possibly, was truly one of the lamest things Apple has ever pulled at the expenses of its customers (the next would likely be to come up with the trashbin form factor… but that’s all another story).

    So here is a big thank you to the resourceful people who made possible to run the latest OS X on unsupported macs by tweaking the boot efi, providing instructions about what needed to be manually modified to make it all work and a huge thanks to those who, like Rudi, cared to share their experience and provide further details about this life-and-machine-saving, workarounds which will also help prevent that perfectly good computers that are still plenty powerful for countless uses, would unnecessarily and undeservingly end up increase the amount of tech-junk in the the already overflowing tech landfills as up-cycling is far more valuable than recycling! 😉

    Once again thank you Rudi for sharing your extremely helpful, and detailed walkthrough allowing unsupported macs to run the latest OSX version. Keep up the great work and, if you ever move to 10.10, do share your finding if you can… on that note I’ll take this occasion to wish you and everyone following here the best new year ever for a 2015 full with joy, happiness, health, success and many, many working hacks! 🙂

    Cheers!

    freakqnc

    December 28, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    • Hi freakqnc

      Thank you so much for the kind words and I am really glad you managed to get it working in the end. I had to try it more than once as well, and any updates / feedback from readers help us all to make the process smoother.

      I am keen to give 10.10 a try, I am just waiting for a nice stable version of 10.10.

      I am currently working on my Mac Pro 2,1 – and it is so snappy and fast. It is my favourite Mac at the moment – since it has the most RAM (32GB) and all applications are extremely responsive. I also run 2 to 3 VM’s on it via VirtualBox and VMWare (for some Ubuntu / Linux development) and it works seamlessly.

      If anyone else has managed to install 10.10 on an older Mac Pro in the meantime then please share with us.

      Cheers!

      Rudi Engelbrecht

      January 9, 2015 at 9:58 am

  7. The process sounds exactly like what I need, but I am have difficulties.

    I have cloned a working HDD that has 10.9.5 on it. I have connected the cloned HDD by USB to a Mac Pro 3,1 that is also running 10.9.5 and have been trying to modify the cloned HDD in accordance with the directions so I can install it in my Mac Pro 2,1.

    I have tried to follow the steps, however I have not been able to copy the modified boot.efi file over the System/Library/CoreService/boot.efi on my (cloned) 10.9.5 HDD. The system just will not let me overwrite, delete or rename the existing System/Library/CoreServices/boot.efi which is on a cloned HDD, not the system drive for my machine. Originally, the boot.efi showed a lock icon, which I unlocked (or at least the icon was no longer present), but still no success in overwriting, renaming or deleting the original boot.efi.

    I also cannot find a folder named usr/standalone/i386 to overwrite the boot.efi that is supposed to be there.

    I have not tried to edit the PlatformSupport.plist (couldn’t see the point if I can’t copy the modified boot.efi to the cloned HDD), but I have found it (only after I made hidden files visible in Finder).

    Hoping that there is a simple solution to my difficulties.

    Nimrod

    February 18, 2015 at 7:49 am

    • Just updating my previous post–I found a solution to my queries here http://retrocosm.net/2014/01/04/mac-pro-11-and-mavericks/ and have just run a successful trial boot in my Mac Pro 2,1. Much happier now!

      My thanks to you for the information here and to Charlie at Retrocosm.

      P.S. Apologies for the “have” instead of “having” in the 1st sentence of my original post. Couldn’t find a way to edit, having seen the typo.

      Nimrod

      February 18, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      • Great to hear you were successful.
        Thanks for sharing the extra info.

        Rudi Engelbrecht

        February 23, 2015 at 3:11 am

  8. [UPDATE]

    The 2,1 continues to run stable, but the problem was always that I could not update to security patches and updates to newer 10.11.x releases of the OS.

    After backing up what I had installed and working I tried the following stuff listed below, bear with the list as I went through all that happened. I experienced a few issues and despite the mac being finicky (after all I am trying to get things working and some pains are to be expected) I did not desist. After a few tries and a couple WTF moments, my stubbornness paid off as it all worked fine. The process is tedious and a bit laborious, but it will allow you to update to most recent version of the 10.11.x release. Hopefully you will be more fortunate and everything will work at the very first try, if not here is what I went through before it started to work as intended.

    I had 10.11.3 now I am on 10.11.6 so I ran the update using the 2,1 to see if it would work… It installed and restarted, but then didn’t boot, therefore I’d advise to perform these updates using a sierra-ready newer mac instead (since it would be needed regardless as updating from the non-supported mac won’t work without using a newer mac).

    So in my case, after the update didn’t complete (by restarting and updating once the uploads were completed) I performed the following steps:

    – removed the SSD and attached it as an external drive to a macbook pro running Sierra
    – while using the macbook pro running Sierra, I backed up the modified boot.efi to_bootefi.modified in System/Library/CoreServices/ and usr/standalone/i386/
    – restored the original 10.11.x boot.efi in both those directories
    – went to System Preferences -> Startup Disk and selected the external SSD with the 10.11.6 unfinished update, and restarted

    Since I had started the process of updating on the SSD disk, once the macbook pro restarted from it, the update process continued and completed. I then went to AppStore>Update until it found nothing more to update the SSD with and then I did the following:

    – restarted the macbook pro using the external SSD to make sure it all worked fine: it did
    – booted the macbook pro in Sierra leaving the SSD connected to it
    – on the externally connected SSD I backed up the original 10.11.x boot.efi and restored the modified ones (in both directories as mentioned above) so that I could use it in the Mac Pro 2,1
    – shut down the macbook pro and disconnected the external SSD
    – placed that SSD in the Mac Pro 2,1 as it was originally on Sled #1 with adapter and no HDD or USB etc peripherals connected other than the HDD with the backed up working 10.11.3 which was connected via external USB case
    – The Mac Pro did not boot up on the 1st try and when using the option key to show boot drives the HDD wasn’t even detected. Result: screen was showing the folder with a question mark aka no boot drive found (WTF moment #1)

    – Tried Command-Option-P-R to reset the PRAM and still nothing (WTF moment #2) the HD with the old working 10.11.3 didn’t show as a start drive, but the SSD with the updated 10.11.6 did.

    – Tried starting from the SSD and that led to a white screen, no apple logo no nothing, but at least no more folder with question mark… an improvement I guess

    – Turned off the mac
    – I disconnected the external HDD with the working copy of the 10.11.3
    – Reset the PRAM once again and reconnected the HDD
    – All drives showed as boot drives booted up from the external HD
    – I booted the Mac Pro using the HDD with 10.11.3: Success
    – While booted in 10.11.3 from the HDD I went to check that the modified boot.efi were on the SSD: they were there as expected
    – Went to System Preferences -> Startup Disk and selected the external SSD with the 10.11.6
    – Turned off the Mac Pro
    – booted up using option and all boot drives appeared normally
    – selected the SSD with 10.11.6: Success!

    Not celebrating just yet…

    – Shut down the mac
    – reboot without choosing the boot drive
    – the Mac pro picked correctly the SSD and booted normally in the updated 10.11.6

    Now you can celebrate and pop the champaign 😉

    Hopefully you won’t have to jump through as many hoops as I did here… but just goes to show you that is possible although it might be quite a bit annoying to deal with. Thankfully I didn’t have to do it often as I waited until 10.11.6 was out before I updated the system.

    Hope this will come in handy to some fellow mac user whose machine was left behind by Apple’s decisions.

    Cheers! 😉

    freakqnc

    April 1, 2017 at 9:50 pm


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