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Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" Q&A - Updated August 29, 2011

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Which Macs are compatible with Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion"? Which Macs are not compatible? Can incompatible Macs be "hacked" or upgraded to run Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion"?

Apple formally notes that Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" is compatible with "an Intel-based Mac with a Core 2 Duo, i3, i5, i7 or Xeon processor and [at least] 2 GB of RAM." It needs to be running Mac OS X 10.6.6 (or higher, 10.6.8 is recommended) "Snow Leopard" as well.

In other words, assuming sufficient RAM and the final version of "Snow Leopard" is installed, Lion is compatible with all Intel-based Macs except for those with Core Solo or Core Duo processors. It it not compatible with older PowerPC-based systems either.

Identifying Macs & Determining Processor Type

To check the processor on a particular Mac, select "About This Mac" under the "Apple" menu. If you're not in front of a particular Mac and need to check its compatibility, EveryMac.com's "Maximum Supported Version of Mac OS X" listing from the By Capability section of the site also can be helpful for a single page rundown.

If you need to identify a Mac, look it up with EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup by its Serial Number, its Model Identifier listed in software and more.

Determining Installed RAM

Just below the "Processor" information, the same "About This Mac" screen also provides the amount of RAM installed. As long as your Mac meets the processor and operating system requirements and it has at least 2 GB of RAM, it is Lion-compatible. If the only incompatibilities are operating system and/or RAM, upgrading the system accordingly will make it compatible.

By default, the following Macs shipped with less than 2 GB of RAM:

If you have one of the above Macs and the RAM has not been upgraded already from the stock configuration, its RAM will need to be upgraded prior to running Lion.

EveryMac.com's Mac Upgrades section provides RAM upgrade instructions for all of these models.

"Hack" Options for Incompatible Macs

As first reported by the well respected hacker, Netkas, and spotted by HardMac, the final version of Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" has a Finder that only runs in 64-bit mode, and as a result, the software cannot be "hacked" to install on Core Solo or Core Duo-based Macs, as these are 32-bit processors. Earlier developer's preview releases had a Finder capable of running in 32-bit mode and it could be "forced" to install on these unsupported models, but it is no longer a feasible option.

However, as first reported by XLR8YourMac -- although Apple does not support such upgrades and it may not be cost-effective -- it still is possible to "hack" the Core Solo and Core Duo Mac mini and iMac models by upgrading the processor to a Core 2 Duo and then installing OS X Lion.

Older PowerPC-based Macs definitely cannot be "hacked" in any way to support Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion."

Site sponsor OWC sells RAM compatible with all Intel Macs for systems that need to be upgraded prior to installing Lion.


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