With the launch of Mountain Lion confirmed for later today, the question on the lips of many Mac users is ‘Will my Mac run Mountain Lion’? The high minimum requirements of Apple’s latest version of OS X actually rule out quite a high percentage of what many people will still regard as quite recent machines, so I’ve put together this guide so that prospective upgraders can tell at a glance whether it’s worth shelling out to download Mountain Lion when it becomes available.
Compatibility of older Macs with Mountain Lion is dependent on two criteria: the age and spec of the graphics card, and whether or not the hardware supports the 64-bit processor architecture required by the new OS. Because Mountain Lion will be available as a download from the Mac App Store only, Snow Leopard will be the minimum OS required to actually get hold of the upgrade. For this reason, Power PC Macs are definitely not supported, as these were left in the dark when Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) debuted in August 2009.
In most cases the deciding factor is going to be the graphics card. The best way to confirm what your computer has under the hood in the graphics department is to check your system information via your Mac’s Apple menu. Systems using an Intel GMA 950 or X3100 integrated graphics card, or an ATI Radeon X1600 are not officially supported, so if you have one of these, it looks like you’ll be sticking with Lion.
Below is a breakdown of the earliest of each of the Mac model types officially supported by the new OS.
Mountain Lion Compatibility Guide
All aluminium, unibody MacBooks were made recently enough to qualify, but almost all white polycarbonate models will not be supported due to their integrated GMA 950 graphics chips. Polycarbonate MacBooks made after the January 2009 refresh should just scrape through, thanks to their NVIDIA GeForce 9400M chips.
Almost all models of MacBook Air will be compatible, with one notable exception. Sorry early-adopters, but the original, early 2008 model that started the MBA story is the only model that doesn’t make the cut for Mountain Lion, thanks to its integrated GMA X3100 graphics chip. All other models of MacBook Air containing the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M or better will be fine.
MacBook Pros have a generally higher spec than other MacBook models, so earlier versions of these tend to be more likely to be compatible with Mountain Lion. For your machine to comply, you’ll need either a 13” model from June 2009 onwards, a 2.2 or 2.4GHz 15” model from June 2007 or onwards, or a late 2007 or newer 17” version.
Like the MacBook range, iMacs fall into two distinct categories, white or aluminium. The white polycarbonate models are all let down by their graphics capabilities, but if you have an aluminium-bodied iMac, the earliest of which shipped in August 2007, you’ll be good to go with Mountain Lion.
The cutoff point for Mountain Lion-capable Mac Minis is the early 2009 model refresh. Prior to this, your Mini will have a GMA 950 graphics chip, putting it firmly out of reach of Apple’s new big cat. If your Mini was made after this point, you should be fine.