Apple

How to install macOS Catalina on an older Mac

How to install macOS Catalina on an older Mac

Want to get Catalina on a pre-2012 Mac? We help you

Apple updates its desktop operating system, macOS, every year, introducing new features that further enhance the high-end experience offered. macOS Catalina introduces Sidecar, a feature that uses your iPad to provide a dual display experience, in addition to Screen Time support, an enhanced Photos application and more, but what if your Mac is too old to get updates?

While there is no official way to install MacOS Catalina on older Macs, there are third-party solutions – we talk you through the best here.
1

Is my Mac too old for MacOS Catalina?

Although you might want to upgrade to MacOS Catalina, you might not be able to – it all depends on the Mac or MacBook model you have. Just like iOS, Apple only supports the latest hardware on the MacOS Catalina, due to possible performance problems with a power-hungry OS that runs on older kits.

The following is a complete list of desktops and laptops that are compatible with MacOS Catalina:

  • MacBook: early 2015 or newer
  • MacBook Air: mid-2012 or newer
  • MacBook Pro: mid-2012 or newer
  • Mac Mini: late 2012 or newer
  • iMac: end of 2012 or newer
  • iMac Pro: all models
  • Mac Pro: end of 2013 or newer

This means that, basically, if your kit is released earlier than 2012, you are out of luck – or aren’t you? Even though there is no official way to get MacOS Catalina on an old Mac, there are technical solutions that will make the system run on your old kit – whether you should or not is a different question altogether.

How to get Catalina on a longer Mac

The problem is, if you run an older unsupported machine, MacOS Catalina will not be available for download via the App Store. Even if you succeed in getting a copy through a third-party method, the code entered into the installation will stop it from running on unsupported hardware, but there is a solution.

The MacOS Catalina Patcher is made by third-party developer DOSDude1, and although this may experience some problems from time to time, it allows you to run Catalina on unsupported hardware – even if it doesn’t conflict with Apple’s terms and conditions. Indeed, the solution does not work with every Mac, but there is a large collection listed at dosdude1.com with some going back to early 2008.
2
There is an in-depth video tutorial on the DOSDude1 website for those who are interested, but for those who are in a hurry, we have simplified the steps here:

  1. Download macOS Catalina Patcher from dosdude1.com.
  2. Open the Catalina Patcher application.
  3. Click Continue.
  4. Click Download Copies. The download of the MacOS Catalina must then begin, but at around 8GB, it will likely take a while depending on your internet speed.
  5. Install USB memory sticks – we have the best USB drive if you need it.
  6. Click Create bootable installer and wait for the installer to transfer to your USB drive.

You have now created a macOS Catalina installer that can be booted on your USB stick – next, you must install it on your old Mac.

7. Plug the USB stick into your old Mac.
8. Restart your Mac while holding Option / Alt (depending on when it was created) to access Startup Manager.
9. Select the bootable installer and click Enter. Your Mac must then open in Recovery mode.
10. Click Reinstall macOS and wait for macOS Catalina to be installed on your machine.
11. After installation, restart the Mac in recovery mode and select the bootable drive again.
12. This time, choose MacOS Post Install. This will install all third-party patches on your Mac that will make Catalina work.
13. After the patch is installed, select Force Cache Rebuild.
14. Restart your Mac.

When your Mac restarts, it must boot into the fully functional MacOS Catalina version, ready for you to enjoy.

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