Off the top, I want to thank dosdude1.com for providing the software – and the instructions – to upgrade many older Macs to OSX Sierra. Please donate if you can!
The benefit to this update is that we are getting a number of Macs – Towers, Mini’s and iMacs – that can only go up to OS7 or OS8 and thus are increasingly out-of-date. If we can get at least some of these Macs up to OSX Sierra, we have a great chance to give them new life for a few more years. And that means we can give students, families, non-profit groups and others the ability to work with the latest OS and be as productive as they can be going forward.
The website lays out the requirements, supported (and non-supported) machines, things you’ll need and known issues (which we laid out in Part 1.)
You can use the instructions from dosdude1 to take you through the process. My intent here is to give you my take as I went through those instructions.
The instructions are clear that you need a flash drive of at least 8 GB in size. I found that you can get away with a smaller one. That said, you will need to get ahold of a copy of the Sierra installer by using a newer Mac to get it from the App store or dosdude1 gives you a link to the MEGA Unlimited site in New Zealand – but you can get instructions on how to download it from other websites as well.
You’ll also need a hard drive with an older version of the Mac OS (based on the requirements for the upgrade) or a blank drive. In either case, you’ll be installing Sierra – so it will be a “normal” install as you would with any Mac update, or a clean install on a new or blank drive.
Update: This is my main drive info. I did this upgrade on an exact copy:
NOTE – we plan to do a clean install and, with some additional software tools (like Open Office) we will plan to make a Time Machine backup to use to make clones for other Macs. (Yes there are other ways to make clones – as in using SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cleaner. But I’ve found that using a Time Machine backup is actually quicker. (See note below about this.)
We’ll write about that experience in a future blog.
Download the Patcher Tool as instructed. Plug in the USB drive and format it using Disk Utilities. (That said, the Patcher Tool will format it anyway when you go to the next step.)
NOTE – I used a 6 GB partition on a large USB drive that I have with various OSX installers without a problem.
It’s time to install OSX Sierra on the USB Drive. Make sure you know where the Sierra installer app is – the patch tool will want to know.
Run the Patcher Tool and click on the Sierra icon to verify your Sierra install app. This went as planned for me. Now it’s time to install the OSX Base System on the formatted USB drive (or in my case – partition).
Remember, this will be the boot drive from which you’ll install OSX Sierra onto the drive of your choice.
With the USB drive selected, I clicked on “Start Operation” to begin installing the Sierra install app.
This is where I ran into some trouble – as the install would get almost all the way to the end and then give me an error message. I reformatted the USB drive and tried again. Same thing. Third time, I LEFT what had been installed on the USB partition and walked away. The install was successful this time! Not sure why but it was time to move on.
I keep a Time Machine backup and a SuperDuper backup of my boot drive, so I decided to use the backup as the guinea pig for this update. I rebooted the Mac from the USB drive (Apple Menu -> Restart – Press the Option key). If your USB drive only has one partition (with the Sierra install on it) you’ll see your boot drive and one that is called “OS X Base System.” THAT is what you want to boot from.
I intended to UPDATE from El Capitan (10.11), but if you want to do a clean install, you’ll need to boot into the install drive and then pull down System Utilities to format that drive (yes – you could have done this before as well).
Proceed with the installation on the disk of your choice. This will take awhile so be sure to go into System Preferences and tell your Mac (using Energy Saver) to not go to sleep or turn off your hard drives.
Once installed, your Mac will boot into the new OS. You’ll know because the background will be the Sierra Nevada mountains and “About This Mac” from the Apple Menu will confirm it all.
I was almost done! Although it LOOKS like you’ve upgraded properly, you still need to patch the new OS. So I rebooted BACK into the USB Sierra installer partition. This time, when it booted, I found a small box had popped up with four menu items. You only care about the last one – macOS Post Install. I chose that and it asks you to choose your Mac model.
Luckily – it TELLS YOU what Mac Model you have. Choose that model from the drop down box and you will see some suggested patches pre-populated for the model Mac you have. Select the drive you installed Sierra on and press PATCH. For some reason, I had to do this twice but it did finally take.
On the bottom of the Post Install, you’ll see “Complete!” on the left and a Reboot button. Ignore “Force Cache Rebuild.”
My Mac rebooted into the backup drive with Sierra installed. It worked perfectly! I checked for any updates and only had one – Pages – to update. The patched system should allow updates as well (at least for Sierra) but there have been none so far.
That was it! I will likely go ahead and install Sierra on my original El Capitan boot drive (2 TB) as well after giving Sierra a run through on the backup.
Given that the patches are Mac-specific, I’ll likely have to run the patcher tool on each machine we update at the MacRecycleClinic. The good news is, I can boot from the USB drive and install Sierra on any Mac that is supported. From there, I just have to run the Patcher Tool and choose the right version of the machine to patch.
The other plan (as mentioned above) – to create a Mac-specific Time Machine clone may not work but we’ll give it a try and report back.
NOTE that there are still some restrictions with certain Macs – in some cases, for instance, WiFi won’t work – the website says machines ( a wide range actually) running the Broadcom BCM4321 WiFi module. The fix is to install a compatible WiFi card if one is available.
Let us know your own experiences with this patch and any suggestions you might have to make it easier.
– 12 complete PowerMac systems went to the Cheverly (Md.) STEM Education Center located in the Cheverly United Methodist Church. The school provides Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classes for area home schoolers.
– 6 additional towers went to the Chance Academy, which is located in the Michigan Park Christian Church in Washington, D.C.. This school provides the homeschool network in Maryland and the District of Columbia with academic programs in the sciences.
All of the machines (including monitors, keyboards and mice) from the MRC are donated Macs that are reconditioned to make sure everything is working properly. We have a “master” hard drive that we clone (copy) so that all machines have the same set of software when they go out the door.
Since all these machines were PowerPC Macs (pre-Intel chip machines), the software is all optimized to work with OS 10.5.8 – the last OS version that works with PPC Macs.
The Washington, D.C. non-profit group Critical Exposure is celebrating it’s 8th annual spring exhibit – Zoom In: National Lens, Local Focus. We are thrilled that they are using Macs donated by MacRecycleClinic for the exhibit, which features photography and writing by D.C. youth who are creating real change in their schools and communities.
The exhibit is at the Pepco Edison Gallery at 702 8th St. NW (a block from the Gallery Place metro).
MacRecycleClinic has been working for a few weeks to get a number of PPC towers ready for a Washington, D.C. based non profit called Critical Exposure.
We found out about this non-profit that “teaches youth to use the power of photography and their own voices to become effective advocates for school reform and social change” through Bethany Swain, a former CNNer and current lecturer at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Bethany’s students have gone to Critical Exposure’s offices to mentor their students. One of the Merrill Journalists as they are called, Louie Dane, wrote a retrospective for the Merrill News website.
When we get a request like this – the first questions we always ask at the MacRecycleClinic is what do you want to DO with the computers and what software would you LIKE to have. The answers to those questions provide the focus we need to put together the “package” they receive.
In Critical Exposure’s case, their students want to do multimedia – video, photo and audio editing. So on top of the “regular” OS X install we do, there were some additional things to add. Since none of these machines can go higher than OS 10.5.8, we had to make sure that the software we included could work with the last PPC Tower from Apple before the company moved to Intel. We would have loved to provide Intel machines with Final Cut Express (donations welcome), but folks are holding on to their Intel towers these days because Apple has not come out with a new update in quite a while. And FCE is hard to come by in numbers (Apple no longer offers it in fact).
That said, these machines run a good, stable and powerful version of the Mac OS and are very capable computers for what Critical Exposures students would like to do. There may be issues with third party software – Flash, Adobe Reader, etc. but not enough to make that much of a difference. These machines are ignored by hackers as well – one less worry.
We’ve hit January yet again and MRC continues to move forward with its goal of recycling and refurbishing Macs. Over the past few months, we have started moving away from most of the older PPC models save the newest and fastest model G4s and G5s. Interestingly, one of the predictors here are Macs that use the original Airport card. Turns out they are becoming incompatible with newer wireless systems – they are not able to provide the higher level of security these new wireless systems demand and won’t let the Macs log into the network. That said – if you need an original Airport or Airport Express let us know – we have many for sale inexpensively!
We’re starting to see some Intels coming in finally but many have had hard use or were damaged when picked up. So we have continued to gather equipment and then try to make one good machine from 2 or more that are damaged.
We’ve continued to donate machines to local school students and families in the Silver Spring area and remain open to recommendations from school counselors or non profits. Recently, we gave a machine to a 6 year old who is being home-schooled. He and his mom took a cab and buses all the way over from Landover to pick up their iMac. We are planning once again to provide laptops to Montgomery County Schools in the Downcounty Consortium for their AfterProm/PostProm parties. We were able to provide machines to every school in the Downcounty last year!
Machines that can not be salvaged are now totally disassembled (to the extent that they can) and are recycled both to a third part recycling company or back to the Montgomery County Government’s Shady Grove Transfer Station in Derwood.
We continue our Monday Night Clinic at Marvin Church (Four Corners/Silver Spring) from 7 to 9 pm and tho we are not overwhelmed (a good thing!), we have had a steady stream of folks coming in for help. Some folks have sick Macs, others are looking for help transferring their data from an old machine to a new one. We’re here to help! And trust that we will tell you if we can’t repair something as well.
One frustration remains the Mac Lab we set up at Marvin for use by students or the community – it just sits there unused at the moment. We are hoping the folks at Marvin can find a way to get some adult supervision in the afternoon so the lab can be used.
Please let us know how we can help! We have folks with many, many years of experience who are willing to do things Apple and local businesses are unwilling to do (because it is not cost effective for the most part). As a non-profit, we simply ask for a donation for our time – all the money goes to MRC since we are all volunteers.
Once again I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone for reading the blog and giving us a chance to talk about what MacRecycleClinic is all about. The stats say we have had more than 7,000 hits – just amazing for an occasional blog. So thank you!
The Clinic is only open Mondays (save holidays) from 7 to 9 PM which makes it a challenge for folks to find us or take advantage of our services. We only work on out-of-warranty machines but love to answer questions and can help install software or hardware on any Mac. We have also been asked to help grab information from older machines (going WAY BACK in fact to original Macs and even Apple IIs and ///s) or just help keep older machines working.
As I have time – I will reprint some articles about recycling that I (or others in what is now the MacRecycleClinic group) wrote about our efforts over the years to refurbish and return Macs back into the community. I’m doing this not only to preserve the articles but to show just how far back MRC and our old Washington Apple Pi Tuesday Night Crew goes – how our efforts to recycle have gone back to Apple II days in fact. I’ll add photos as well when possible.
Note that in 2012 MCPS – Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Schools – basically only supports PCs these days. That said, MRC has had luck working with school counselors and PTSAs to get computers to students and families that don’t have computers. If you have a group that is trying to recycle computers, be sure to check and see what your local school district will – or won’t – accept. But there are many non-profits, students and families who would appreciate a refurbished computer. I just read the newspaper, work with local churches and school groups and never have a problem finding someone who could use a recycled Macintosh.