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How can I upgrade or "hack" an incompatible Intel Mac to run OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion"? Is it even possible?
Some users may view this increasingly short support timeline unimportant, as they wish to purchase a new computer or a newer computer every couple of years and have little need for "legacy" software or document support. Others may be quite happy with the computer they have -- even if it is a few years old -- and are not interested in upgrading to Mountain Lion, regardless.
However, for those who would like to run the latest operating system and have a Mac officially capable of running Lion, but not Mountain Lion, there are obstacles to overcome.
Mountain Lion Installation Obstacles
There are three issues that keep these unsupported Macs from running Mountain Lion:
Installing Mountain Lion on an unsupported Mac involves defeating these issues. Where there is a challenge, it is a safe bet that hardworking hackers will rise to the occasion.
However, please note that any attempt to install or use an unsupported operating system could wipe out all of your data and/or cause other software or hardware problems.
Do not attempt to install Mountain Lion on an unsupported Mac if it is "mission critical" or data is important. Any hacks are performed at your own risk. Be absolutely sure to backup everything before proceeding with any experimental hacks (or before proceeding with any official operating system upgrades, for that matter).
Upgrades & Hack Options for the Original Mac Pro
Most of the attention has focused on the original Mac Pro -- the Mac Pro "Quad Core" 2.0 (Original), "Quad Core" 2.66 (Original), "Quad Core" 3.0 (Original), and "Eight Core" 3.0 (2,1) -- as these models are quite powerful and can be substantially upgraded.
Although the process of installing Mountain Lion on these Macs is complex, and involves a hardware upgrade of the graphics card, a second hard drive, and an assortment of "Hackintosh" tactics, the diligent hacker "Jabbawok" has prepared a straightforward tutorial.
Software Hack Options for Other Intel Macs
The equally diligent hacker "hackerwayne" has provided a detailed tutorial to install Mountain Lion on other unsupported Macs, including custom kexts (drivers) from hackers "kylegray" and "trunkz" for partial support of GMA 950 and X3100 graphics.
Should you be interested in installing Mountain Lion on any of the other unsupported Macs, be absolutely sure to pay close attention to the "What works, what doesn't" section in the tutorial.
In particular, note that some systems have significant RAM capacity limitations that are not an issue running an earlier version of the operating system or have issues with sound and graphics, as is common for Hackintosh systems. It is very important to understand these limitations.
Mountain Lion Hacks Summary
Ultimately, it is quite possible to install OS X Mountain Lion on many Macs that Apple no longer supports, although as is often the case for "hacks," these systems may not be fully functional and many users with these older Macs likely would be better off sticking with Snow Leopard or Lion or alternately switching to Windows.
At least some of the Macs that are not supported running Mountain Lion likely could run the operating system without difficulty had Apple simply not removed support for 32-bit EFIs as well as written graphics drivers to support the hardware. In an odd twist of fate, Microsoft provides everything needed to natively run Windows 8 on these Macs.
It's certainly a strange world where Microsoft provides better support for older Macs than Apple does.