Upgrading OS X on older Macs

Upgrading OS X on older Macs

Summary: Suppose you have an angle on buying or selling an older Mac that's running a long-in-the-tooth version of Mac OS X. What's the best way to upgrade the OS?

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If you're selling an old Mac or giving it away--or perhaps you're on the receiving end of that Mac--there's a big question: What is the best way to upgrade OS X from the Snow Leopard version (or earlier) to a more modern, Lionized version? This question is answered in detail in an excellent recent blog post by TidBits publisher Adam Engst.

Engst looked at several ways to get Mac OS X Lion (10.7) installed, a popular goal since it supports iCloud services and is usually the latest version of Mac OS X that these machines can handle. He pointed out that users of machines with the ancient OS X Tiger (10.4) or Leopard (10.5) will need to order an installer disc from Apple for $19.99. All the necessary links and process can be found in the TidBits article.

To summarize, you can sell or give away a Mac with the version of Mac OS X that came pre-installed on it. If you bought 10.6 Snow Leopard on its own, you can sell that on its own. But if you purchased your license to Lion or Mountain Lion through the Mac App Store, it is not transferable and must be removed before you sell or give the Mac away. And don't think that getting Lion on a USB drive is a workaround; Apple explicitly considers it equally as non-transferable as a Mac App Store version.

Under the fold, Engst looked at the fine print surrounding the transfer of OS X licenses for Snow Leopard, Lion, and Mountain Lion (10.8). It's interesting reading. The shift of upgrades to the Mac App Store complicates the mostly understood conditions for selling a machine.

If you're buying a new machine and considering gifting your old hardware, this post is essential reading.

A comment in the post by Steven Fisher points to an Apple Support Note on how to show hidden purchases (or hiding them) in the Mac App Store. It's a selection in View My Account.

Topics: Apple, Apps, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software

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32 comments
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  • This is so confusing

    "To summarize, you can sell or give away a Mac with the version of Mac OS X that came pre-installed on it. If you bought 10.6 Snow Leopard on its own, you can sell that on its own. But if you purchased your license to Lion or Mountain Lion through the Mac App Store, it is not transferable and must be removed before you sell or give the Mac away. And don’t think that getting Lion on a USB drive is a workaround; Apple explicitly considers it equally as non-transferable as a Mac App Store version."

    Wow, apple sure has made a mess of licensing os x. I can't follow any of that. It is way too complicated.
    toddbottom3
    • too complicated?

      Not really. If a person wishes to sell/donate their old Mac, they'll need to do a reset.
      Saxwulf
    • If you just read the "cliff notes", it might be confusing.

      Here's what you do.

      1) Determine if your Apple computer CAN be updated to Lion or Mountain Lion. Search Apple's web site for details or just ask a rep regarding the computer in question.

      2) Wipe the computer clean.

      Since your giving the computer away or selling it (I suspect the former), than tell the perspective owner it will cost you $20.00 for an OS license.

      Either help the perspective new owner in installing the OS or give him the link to this article and tell him to read the instructions on how to install the OS. (That later part is for someone who wishes to buy the computer. I suspect if one is giving the computer away, the recipient of this generosity will be known to the giver.)

      Here are the "cliff notes" simplified.

      This computer needs an OS. That OS needs to be a licensed copy. That copy will cost you $20.00. Enjoy the experience.
      kenosha77a
    • Simple

      It's easy, you can always sell a Mac with the version of the OS it shipped with. If you have a physical license (essentially a bit of paper - like Microsoft's "yellow sticker") then that can be transferred (physically handed over).

      Stuff bought from the App Store isn't transferable.

      The only weird part is the existence of the Mac OS X Lion USB stick, but that doesn't include a license - it was just a way of not downloading the software (you still had to buy it through the App Store). OS X Mountain Lion doesn't have a USB option (instead Apple made it easy for users to create their own.

      In truth this is pretty much the same as Microsoft, but Microsoft haven't yet done a "download OS update). I'm sure Microsoft will (after all, if Apple can do it, they can). Then we'll see pretty much exactly the same thing.

      Also worth noting, Mac OS X "client" has never required an "install code" - it's basically an honour system.
      jeremychappell
    • of course you cant follow it...

      ...because you are used to throwing your windows machine into a landfill every 2 to 3 years. For those of us that buy quality hardware (mac users, or 'intelligent people') we can easily understand these sorts of things.
      Tangodine
      • Wow!

        I can no longer call this a tech site! No with that level of ignorance and a generally naive tone to it!

        Seriously, I would put my home built PC Against any Apple Machine on the market! I guarantee our the Apple will break first.
        slickjim
        • ignorant comments...

          ...bring out the best in people all over the internet.

          To keep things tech, maybe you should do a comparison between your home built PC and an Apple machine - i would love to see which one last more than 2 years.

          And as for the naive tone, thats my mistake by taking a cue from the OP. ive been working on both Windows and Apple machines for many many years (starting with Apple in 1982 and Windows in 1992).

          Apple machines last much longer in my experience.
          Tangodine
          • 2 years?

            I've never had a PC last for only 2 years. I would say the average of the approximately 10-15 PCs I've had is about 8 years before I've retired them. In fact, I don't think I've ever had a PC actually die on me. Hard drives, yes. PC? No.

            "- i would love to see which one last more than 2 years."

            In fact, I'm typing this on a PC that is 3 years old so I guess that means you would love to see my PC?

            "Apple machines last much longer in my experience."

            Are you doing an apples to apples comparison or are you comparing a $2,000 mac to a $200 PC? In a past life I used to build my own PCs in the $1,000 range and I would put them up against ANY mac, at twice the price, for performance, quietness, and longevity.
            toddbottom3
          • In MY experience, you're completely wrong.

            Acer Revo - 5 years
            Acer Aspire Desktop - 5 years
            Toshiba M700 laptop - 6 years
            Gigabyte T1028 netbook - 4 years
            Acer Aspire One netbook - 5 years

            ALL are upgradable to at least Wndows 7, most to Windows 8.

            Apple iBook - battery is dead cannot be used as a laptop cannot be upgraded past 10.4
            Apple Mac mini (2009 version) - 3.5 years old - cannot be upgraded to Lion.
            TheWerewolf
          • TheWerewolf

            There is a big difference in being able to upgrade and being able to use the PC once it has been upgraded to Win 8. Those older PCs can run Windows 8 very slow and not worth the time. I have Windows 8 on a 6 year desktop and it is so slow you could bake cookies from the time you launch an app to when you can use it.
            TimeForAChangeToBetter
        • slickjim

          Live in a fantasy world much? Yes you do!
          TimeForAChangeToBetter
    • According to Microsoft Word...

      Counts --------------
      Words 96
      Characters 403
      Paragraphs 1
      Sentences 4

      Averages -------------
      Sentences / Paragraph 4.0
      Words / Sentence 24.0
      Characters / Word 4.1

      Readability ---------
      Passive Sentences 25%
      Flesch Reading Ease 68.3
      Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 8.4
      msalzberg
    • So I have to buy a new OS to sell a mac?

      How complicated.

      How confusing.

      This completely puts me off ever buying a mac.
      toddbottom3
      • That isn't what it says.

        Perhaps you can find someone with the required reading comprehension of a 14-year-old to explain it to you.

        Do you have an older sibling, perhaps?
        msalzberg
      • Please don't lie

        You never had any intention of buying a Mac.
        Wakemewhentrollsgone
        • Not after reading that confusing licensing mess

          What a disaster the apple ecosystem is. So easy to get entangled in the web of confusing legalese that apple throws at you.
          toddbottom3
          • If you think that is confusing, read Win 8 Pro

            "Can I transfer the software to another computer or user? You may transfer the software to another computer that belongs to you. You may also transfer the software (together with the license) to a computer owned by someone else if a) you are the first licensed user of the software and b) the new user agrees to the terms of this agreement. To make that transfer, you must transfer the original media, the certificate of authenticity, the product key and the proof of purchase directly to that other person, without retaining any copies of the software. You may use the backup copy we allow you to make or the media that the software came on to transfer the software. Anytime you transfer the software to a new
            
            computer, you must remove the software from the prior computer. You may not transfer the software to share licenses between computers. You may transfer Get Genuine Windows software, Pro Pack or Media Center Pack software only together with the licensed computer."

            In other words, MS provides the user with the ability to transfer software to NEW computer, but it provides the user with no capability to sell their own computer with W8 already installed. On a strict reading of the conditions, the user has to remove W8 and then transfer the licence to a NEW computer owned by that other person.

            How come such a stupid set of terms has, apparently, never put you off buying a PC? How many times have you got rid of an old computer, with Windows installed, and in so doing breached these terms?
            Wakemewhentrollsgone
          • You didn't understand that?

            Why do you keep bragging about your poor reading comprehension skills?
            toddbottom3
          • "Can I transfer the software to another computer or user?"

            Answer = Yes!

            As far as one selling their computer with Windows8 already installed, it is perfectly acceptable.

            The question that was answered in the quotation that you provided dealt specifically with the transfer of software and not the sale of mounted hardware.

            Your inability to distinguish between the two leaves one to believe that your comprehension level is such that your competency is sufficient to operate an Apple computer.
            Mujibahr
          • Very funny...

            since by Microsoft's own metrics, it was written at a 14-year-old level.

            Why do you keep bragging about your poor reading comprehension skills?
            msalzberg