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Issue #688: Sep 27 – Oct 3, 2020

Q:  I’m trying to upgrade some operating systems on some older (2009 and 2011) iMacs that I have. I’ve found the upgrades and have downloaded and run the .dmg files. When I finish the install, I get the confirmation that the OS has installed, but when I look at the version that is running (Apple->About this Mac->Version) it’s the same OS that I was running before trying to run the upgrades. Hoping you may have some suggestions.

 – Tom B.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: My knowledge of Apple products is mostly limited to iPhones and iPads.  So, full disclaimer: I neither own, nor use Mac computers, and don’t have a lot of knowledge of their inner workings.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have resources at my disposal to help answer your question.  In this case, I turned to my good friend Brian Walton, owner of Birddawg Computers, who, in addition to owning a computer repair business, is a Mac owner and user.  Here is what Brian had to say:

“When updating an iMac or MacBook, the update software will only allow you to update to the latest version that was produced specifically for your model.  For this example, a late-2009 or Mid-2010 Mac can only be updated to High Sierra (macOS 10.13.x).

If you attempt to update to a higher version than allowed, the system will only download the latest version assigned to your hardware.  When the App Store registers that your hardware isn’t compatible, Apple assumes that you are having issues with your OS.  The system proceeds to reinstall your current OS to be safe.

Another issue this person might be having is the system requires a specific “Build” of the OS.  He may need to reinstall the original OS to the machine and then update it to the latest version allowed to receive the proper build.

To verify which version you can update to and get other tips about performing updates on your Mac computers, visit Apple Support at”

This limitation is quite similar to the approach Apple takes with the operating systems that power iPhones and iPads.  At some point, users discover that their older hardware simply won’t load a new release of the operating system.  So, I guess this is a “Thanks, Steve!” moment. 

I can’t help but wonder why the supposed geniuses at Apple would allow you to go through all the motions of performing an install, and even declare it a success, when they could just as easily pop up a message saying something like “The operating system you are attempting to install is not compatible with this hardware,  would you like to install this version instead?”  Whatever the justification (hardware capacity versus operating system overhead comes to mind) it sounds like Apple’s planned obsolescence of their hardware is going to prevent you from bringing the operating systems beyond the current versions.  Sorry that’s not the answer you were hoping for, but at least now you know. If it was a Windows platform, you might have found that the installation worked perfectly, but the combination of hardware and operating system was unusable.  So, it’s a trade-off of whether you can live with Apple making the judgement call for you, or you prefer to make it yourself.  I can think of points in favor of each option, and, like so many issues that arise in maintaining technology, it is a personal choice.

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