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Retina Display MacBook Pro Q&A - Updated November 8, 2013

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What version of OS X is pre-installed on the Retina Display MacBook Pro models?

The original 15-Inch "Mid-2012" Retina Display MacBook Pro models first shipped with a version of OS X 10.7 "Lion," the "Late 2012" and "Early 2013" models shipped with a version of OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion," and the current "Late 2013" models ship with a version of OS X 10.9 "Mavericks."

Specifically, these systems have shipped with these operating system versions:

Retina MacBook Pro Original OS X Build Number
Mid-2012 (15-Inch) OS X 10.7.4 11E2068
Late 2012 (13-Inch) OS X 10.8.0 12C2034
Early 2013 (13-Inch & 15-Inch) OS X 10.8.2 12C3103
Late 2013 (13-Inch & 15-Inch) OS X 10.9.0 13A3017


Regardless of the version of the pre-installed operating system, all Retina Display MacBook Pro systems are capable of running the latest version of OS X.

Can the Retina Display MacBook Pro run Mac OS X software written for the PowerPC processor?

No. Running Mac OS X software written for the PowerPC processor requires the "Rosetta Universal Binary Translator" which is not supported by OS X 10.7 "Lion" or subsequent versions of the operating systems (like Mountain Lion and Mavericks).

If support for older software is important to you, you likely would be better off purchasing a used MacBook Pro capable of running Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" or Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard." These versions of the operating system are capable of running both the vast majority of Mac software written for Intel-based Macs as well as the vast majority of Mac OS X applications written for PowerPC-based systems, as well.

In addition, versions of the operating system earlier than the one that shipped with a particular Mac are not compatible. Mac OS 9 applications are not supported by operating system versions compatible with the MacBook Pro line, either.

Site sponsor Operator Headgap Systems specializes in used Macs that are capable of running older versions of the Mac OS as well as modern ones.

Also see:

  • Which Macs can run Snow Leopard (10.6), Lion (10.7) and Mountain Lion (10.8)/Mavericks (10.9)?
  • What is Rosetta? What does it support?
  • Are there any third-party programs to run Mac OS 9/Classic applications on Intel Macs?

How do you install software on the Retina Display MacBook Pro without an optical drive?

To install software or transfer files from a CD or DVD to a Retina Display MacBook Pro, you have to either purchase an external optical drive or use the "Remote Disk" function. Essentially, you just install the "Remote Disk" software on a nearby Mac or Windows machine, and then "borrow" its optical drive to install software or transfer files via CD or DVD.

Of course, Apple would prefer that you buy all software through Apple's own Mac App Store rather than install software via other means. Some developers have been quite vocal in expressing that the App Store doesn't meet their needs or the needs of their customers, but Apple's Mac App Store may or may not meet your own needs.

Nevertheless, additional information regarding "Remote Disk" is available via the Apple Support Site. It also is worth noting that this cannot be used to re-install the operating system. Some copy-protected CDs, DVDs, and games also cannot be installed using this method.

Site sponsor PowerMax has the official external Apple SuperDrive for US$79 and Other World Computing has a variety of third-party external optical drive options, too.

How do you restore the operating system on the Retina Display MacBook Pro models?

Apple does not include a physical restoration method for the Retina Display MacBook Pro models.

Instead, the operating system has a hidden "restore" partition containing an "OS X Utilities" application that is only accessible upon startup by holding down Command-R. Additional details about "OS X Recovery" is available on the Apple Support Site.

Can the Retina Display MacBook Pro run iPad apps?

This is the type of question that no doubt many technical users find funny. However, given that Apple is using the same "Retina Display" marketing terminology for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch models, it is easy to see how one could think the "Retina Display" MacBook Pro would be able to run the same software as these "Retina Display" mobile devices.

However, unless the increasing iOS-ification of Mac OS X leads to an "iOS X" operating system capable of running iPad apps on the Retina Display MacBook Pro line, the answer simply is "no" for now.

Can the Retina Display MacBook Pro run Windows or Linux?

Like all other Intel-based Macs, the Retina Display MacBook Pro models are capable of running Windows and a number of distributions of Linux via Apple Boot Camp or by using "virtualization" software.

For more information regarding Windows on the Mac, please refer to the extensive Windows on Mac Q&A.


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