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Can Google Chromium OS Extend the Life of an Older Mac? (Part 1)

February 16, 2020 Comments off
An old MacBook that was running OS 10-7 (Leopard)is now running the Chromium OS via the cloudready installer. It's free for home use.
Yes it can! A MacChromeBook!

MacRecycleClinic refurbishes and recycles Macintosh Computers. You know that!

But as we head into the second decade of the 21st Century, we are increasingly seeing older MacBooks, MacMinis and even older iMacs that – at best – can only run up to OS 10.11.6 (El Capitan) and don’t have the hardware to keep up with newer WiFi and security needs.

We’re at the point where we don’t want to give out these machines because they are effectively on their last legs as a Mac.

But the question is, is there a way to extend their lives and still provide for the needs of those we donate to? Could it be… Google’s Chromium OS?


AN ANSWER YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE EXPECTED

The answer is in the installation of the Chromium OS in place of the Mac OS. Chromebooks are commonplace in Montgomery County, Maryland schools and beyond these days and many people have purchased them because they are inexpensive ways to access the Internet and do basic work.

Three of five refurbished Chromebooks on their way to a middle school in North Carolina.
These refurbished Chromebooks are destined for a middle school in North Carolina.

In fact, your MacRecycleClinic is now refurbishing Chromebooks as a way to further our mission of returning usable computers back to the community.

The biggest problem is that you are forced to live within the Google Universe when you use these machines. You must use Google’s cloud applications like Google Docs, you have to use the Chrome browser, Chrome App store, etc. That said, the OS provides an easy user interface and good security.

But because Chromebooks are so inexpensive, they are also cheaply made and don’t always stand up to heavy use – especially in the classroom. Just check EBay for lots of abused machines that are locked to a school network.

Many times, it really is easier to sell for parts (see EBay) – or just toss it (OK- recycle to Shady Grove or your local recycling center) and replace it. That said, we have had good luck just replacing the motherboards (bricked when tied to a school network)(or other components) to bring the machine back to life.


CONVERTING A MAC TO A CHROMEBOOK

Our beloved Macs – including the older MacBooks, MacMinis, white iMacs, etc. – are very well made and able to take a lot more abuse than the Chromebooks can. So if there was a way to install the Chromium OS onto a Mac, we could extend the computer’s life while giving our clients an OS they (or their children really) are used to using.

The Chromium OS is based on Linux and is what’s called “open source.” That means anyone can use it and – more importantly – update or transform it as you chose. The Chrome OS you find on a purchased Chromebook is Google’s version of Chromium and ONLY AVAILABLE for license by vendors who manufacture Chromebooks.

The Chromium Projects website FAQ indicates that Google’s version “has some additional firmware features, including verified boot and easy recovery, which require corresponding hardware changes and thus also don’t work out of the box in Chromium OS builds.”

That said, the open source OS has a lot to offer the home user and since we can’t use Goggle’s version, we’ll move ahead with Chromium. We can do that thanks to a company called Neverware.

NeverWare’s CloudReady site provides excellent instructions for installing the home edition of it’s Chromium OS install software on Macs and PCs.


FIRST TASK: MAKE A CHROMIUM OS/CLOUD READY USB INSTALLER

This article won’t go into HOW to create the installer but it’s not hard (see the video below to help). Take a look at NeverWare’s website first as it has a thorough installation guide. One of the things you need to check is the software company’s list of computers they say can take the Chromium OS. Even so, I think you just have to try it to see if it can be installed!

Other resources include this Lifewire tutorial or check out the numerous YouTube videos.

Create your Chromium Boot Drive with the Chromebook Recovery Utility.

But you will need three things:

  1. The Chrome Browser on your Mac (or Windows machine) to access and run the Chromebook Recovery Utility.
  2. Go to the Neverware.com website and download (to the Downloads folder) the freeware CloudReady app for the Mac. Neverware will recommend you do this on a PC but I have been able to use the Mac version without a problem. The only “issue” is that there is just one 64 bit download. Don’t worry about that – just download it to your Downloads folder and unzip it (your Mac will suggest a program to do this).
  3. A USB stick of at least 8 GB or larger (you will have to dedicate this thumb drive to the installer however, no partitions allowed).

NOTE that Lifewire has not updated their instructions to reflect you only have the 64 bit version of CloudReady to download but go ahead and download it.

Once you've created the CloudReady installer on a USB stick, you can boot via the Option key and then install Chromium via the EFI boot (on the thumb drive.)
Once you’ve created the CloudReady installer on a USB stick, you can boot via the Option key and then install Chromium via the EFI boot (on the thumb drive.)

CREATING THE MAC CHROMEBOOK

This is really the easiest part of the process. Plug in the USB installer into a USB port on the MacBook and start your machine with the Option key pressed down. You can let up when you see the cursor appear on the screen.

Now you’ll be presented with two or three “choices” on screen. One is the hard drive of your MacBook and separately, its recovery drive (not all installs will have a recovery drive but don’t worry about that.)

Your Mac will now boot up as if it were a Chromebook. Cursor over to the bottom right part of the screen and open the window there. At the top left is an icon that says “install OS.” Choose this and follow the screens – your hard drive will be reformatted and the Cloudready version of Chromium installed.

Once installed, the Mac will automatically shut down. Remove the USB stick and restart as normal.


Our next blog will focus on installing Chromium on other Mac hardware and restoring a Chrome OS machine back to the Mac OS. Congratulations! you now have a MacChromebook!

Up next: Installing Cloudready on other Macs.

All the Latest Mac OS Downloads In One Place

February 7, 2020 Comments off

Those of us who use Macs may have need to reinstall an older version of the OS from time to time. At the MacRecycleClinic, we keep thumb drives and external hard drives partitioned with individual installers from Catalina on back – or even Time Machine backups (which are quicker than OS installs).

El Capital on a MacBook.
OSX El Capitan on a MacBook Pro. Photo: Dave Ottalini.

While it might seem easy to just Google your request, it’s not always that easy. Thus, we offer a list of OS downloads (from the Apple website and beyond) so that you don’t have to go looking for them. Even tho Catalina is available via the App Store, we’ll include it here (as a link).

Note that some of the earlier Mac OS varieties like OS 7 Lion is, for some reason, sold by Apple rather than provided for free (but keep reading – there’s a solution for that!). If you have a need for a really old OS and don’t want to download and install, contact MacRecycleClinic, as we have DVDs with most of the older OS software – including some PowerPC software, and can help you with the install.

If you want to make a bootable installer (to put on an external drive or thumb drive), this is what Apple suggests. Better is this great free (donationware) App – DiskMakerX.

(All photos except where noted and links are courtesy Apple via the company website.)



Please note you will need to use SAFARI for this to work. It won’t work with any other browser. When you press “GET” you will be taken to Software Update to download.
If this does not work, goto this MacOSXDaily page that explains how to get a full Mojave download using the DOSDude Patcher.

Please note that the link provided by Apple will take you to iTunes and breaks after that. The easiest way to download MacOS High Sierra is to follow these instructions from OSX Daily





Following is a rundown of all the OS X versions for the Mac through 2020 – (thanks, Macworld UK)! Even better – this UK site has actual download links for older Apple software going way, way back starting with OS 10.9 Mavericks (from the Apple Discussion Community.)

OS X 10.0: Cheetah – 24 March 2001
OS X 10.1: Puma – 25 September 2001
OS X 10.2: Jaguar – 24 August 2002
OS X 10.3 Panther (Pinot) – 24 October 2003
OS X 10.4 Tiger (Merlot) – 29 April 2005
[OS X 10.4.4 Tiger (Chardonnay)]
OS X 10.5 Leopard (Chablis) – 26 October 2007
OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard – 28 August 2009

Snow Leopard and earlier Apple OS versions can only be installed from DVD (or 3.5 disk).

OS X 10.7 Lion (Barolo) – 20 July 2011
OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (Zinfandel) – 25 July 2012
OS X 10.9 Mavericks (Cabernet) – 22 October 2013
OS X 10.10: Yosemite (Syrah) – 16 October 2014
OS X 10.11: El Capitan (Gala) – 30 September 2015
macOS 10.12: Sierra (Fuji) – 20 September 2016
macOS 10.13: High Sierra (Lobo) – 25 September 2017
macOS 10.14: Mojave (Liberty) – 24 September 2018
macOS 10.15: Catalina (Jazz) – 7 October 2019

By the way – this is an interesting compilation of all the older Apple/Mac software. It’s a list only as the “links” don’t work.

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