Which OS X do I get?

al4629740
al4629740 used Ask the Experts™
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I have a friend who found an old mac in the trash.  It looks like it turns on but its slow as Moe.  So I plan to throw an SSD on there and then purchase an OS for it.  The only question is what operating system do I get?  I'm not a Mac guy so does it matter what I purchase or do you have any suggestions?
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Commented:
Buy the latest that's supported. But to know that, you really have to get the exact model. Please provide as much info as possible. The SSD might not even be worth the money if the model is too old.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018

Commented:
The SSD might not even be worth the money if the model is too old.

There is probably a reason why it was in the trash. We do not dump any machine that runs well enough to run the newest operating system properly.

Author

Commented:
hard drive won't boot all the way.  is there a way to see anything physically?
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018

Commented:
Try creating a bootable installer and see if that allows you to get further

https://support.apple.com/en-ca/HT201372
Alan HendersonRetired marine engineer

Commented:
Have you tried booting into Recovery Mode. That should enable you to at least check the drive.

Press Command + R immediately after boot. Full instructions here:

https://support.apple.com/en-nz/HT201314
nappy_dThere are a 1000 ways to skin the technology cat.

Commented:
what is the model of the Mac you found?

It’s something like A1278
Find the serial number on the Mac.  Enter it on the 2 following sites to check the spces:
https://everymac.com/ultimate-mac-lookup/
https://checkcoverage.apple.com/

If it's an older model with a core duo or older, you'll need the original DVD install disk.  Those did not boot into a recovery  mode partition.  You should toss it.  If you really must use it, install linux.  It will be the only thing running fast enough and still be somewhat updated on such an old system.

If it's a new enough system that can actually support the latest Mojave (10.14), you'll still need at least 8 GB RAM.  If it dosen't have that, you should probably install Linux or go back to Lion (10.7) to make it usable.

Everything starting from Mountain Lion (10.8) has a recovery partition that you can get to with command r, however, that assumes the disk drive still works.  If the system came with Mountain Lion or later, you can still boot into Internet recovery with option command r, to restore the OS that originally came with the system.  Once booted into recovery or internet recovery, you can start Disk Utility to scan the disk and "fix" errors.  If the disk is not visible, you need to replace it.

If the disk is a spinning, replacing it will double the apparent speed of the system, however, you're likely just wasting money unless it's newer than 5 years old.  If you had a spare or hand-me-down SSD from another system, it might be worthwhile.
Jackie Man IT Manager
Top Expert 2010

Commented:
Take a photo of your mac and post it back. The mac guru in our forum will know which model it is.
Fractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018
Commented:
1) I have a friend who found an old mac in the trash.  It looks like it turns on but its slow as Moe.

Sounds like it will boot, so you can run this command.

Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal -> system_profiler > ~/Desktop/system_report.txt

Then attache the  ~/Desktop/system_report.txt file to this question.

The "Model Identifier" in this file will tell exactly what hardware you have which will determine latest OS to install.

2) So I plan to throw an SSD on there and then purchase an OS for it.

Tip: If you have an old SSD drive laying around fine + before you spend any money, let the Mac run for a day.

If it dies as it heats up, then an SSD drive might fix the problem + might not.

Better to know if the machine lives or dies after it heats up, before you many any change.

3) As for OS. The App Store OSX versions are free... if you Mac supports any of these...

If your Mac is very old... well... best start with running the machine over night + posting system_profiler output in this question.

4) The only question is what operating system do I get?  I'm not a Mac guy so does it matter what I purchase or do you have any suggestions?

If by OS you mean OSX, see the above. You'll either just download a recent copy or you'll have to buy old OSX installer disks from somewhere, hoping they work + have no Malware injected into the install images.

If by OS you mean Linux, then for newer Macs use an Ubuntu Distro for best WiFi hardware support. For older Macs, you may have to do some manual work getting all the hardware drivers working, so start with wired network, keyboard, mouse first + then proceed onto getting wireless network, keyboard, mouse working second.
If you do go Linux, I prefer Mint over Ubuntu, and there's also Elementary OS which is more "Mac like".
David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018

Commented:
serialband brings up a good point, if you're going with Linux.

Start by defining what exactly you'd like to accomplish using your OS.

Likely running https://elementary.io will be best, if you're trying to maintain a more GUI-esque type experience.

Author

Commented:
Found it.  A1278

It looks like OSX Mountain Lion 10.8 was on there.
David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018

Commented:
Then you can likely install a newer OS directly from the App Store.

Tip: Be sure to only do this after you've let the machine run for a day + get hot, otherwise you may end up with a machine crash doing OS update.

Author

Commented:
Ok that’s what I’ll be doing then.  I really don’t want to spend much money on it.  I have a $20 SSD and will try to Download one of the free OS Xs
Which year?  A1278 came out in Late 2008 and exists through mid 2012 in different incarnations.  If it's from 2008, you'd need the install disk.  If it came out in 2012, you can recover from the internet.

To recover from the internet.
Put in the the SSD and use command option r with the computer connected to the internet.  That will force the recovery to come from the internet.  You will then be able to use disk utility to format and partition the SSD and you can then install OS X Mountain Lion.

Unless you have "purchased" one of the other free versions of OS X from the App Store, you will not be able to download them.  You will only get the original OS, in this case Mountain Lion.  If you go to the App store to upgrade OS X, you will get the latest OS X, currently Mojave.  In Mojave, your "purchases" of OS X will no longer appear.  If you haven't already downloaded your latest copy, you will no longer be able to download it.  Better download them all and save them offline first.

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