PSA: Upgrade Early Macbook Pro Notebooks Now

Macbook Pro 2009/2010 notebooks came pre-installed with Snow Leopard (10.6) Mac OS X.

As of Dec. 2017, very little popular software will work or update on anything older than Mavericks (10.9):

  • Several popular chat programs no longer work – Skype app, GotoMeeting, Google Hangouts, Highfive
  • No major browsers are supported
  • Even Apple updates require 10.8 or higher – for now.

Before you update Mac OS X, note that many users have complained of post-update issues including:

  • failure to boot and very slow operation on hard disks. It is possible to downgrade later, but there’s no guarantee that your data will be ok. So backup your files first!
  • new, empty keychain folder. Delete it and reboot. (You probably will have to re-enter all of your wifi, browser and application passwords.)
  • Xcode will have to be upgraded. Virtualbox will have to be upgraded to open previous VMs, and if you use Dia, read this to fix it
  • if your Mac was not purchased in your name, apps like iMovie will not be updatable from the App Store. (iPhoto 2011 will not work at all on High Sierra since it has been deprecated. Your photos will be migrated into the iCloud and accessed with the new Apple Photos app.)
  • Restart and Shutdown takes a long time or hangs. If I need to restart with High Sierra, I close the apps manually and hold the power button for 6 seconds to force a power off.
  • Resume (open lid to resume) is flaky. Always slow to resume, sometimes restarts.

The best way to update Mac OSX is to use the Apple softwareupdate command line interface (CLI) tool:

  1. Confirm you have 2 GB RAM and at least 8 GB free disk space
  2. plug your charger in and connect to a reliable WiFi hotspot, or find a tutorial on creating a USB update media
  3. Close all open applications, including files
  4. Backup your files and all passwords! If the in-place update fails, you may have to wipe OS X and do a fresh install, and the install will likely bork your keychain file.
  5. open and run these commands to find out what updates are available, and then apply the updates:
    1. sudo softwareupdate -l (copy and paste the updates list to a file and save it for later reference)
    2. sudo softwareupdate -ia
$ sudo softwareupdate -l
Software Update Tool

Finding available software
Software Update found the following new or updated software:
   * macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 Supplemental Update- 
	macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 Supplemental Update ( ), 138293K [recommended] [restart]

Otherwise you need to register with the App Store using a credit card to use Software Update. Expect 10 or more reboots/logins and about 4 hours total time if everything goes smoothly. The final reboot will actually install the new software – it will take about 41 minutes on a hard drive, or 20 minutes on an SSD.


  • if you want to keep all your windows open as long as possible, use “Apple … Restart” instead of the installer restart button until the installer says “Ready to Install”
  • Command+L on the installer dialog window will show the installer log.


  • If the install window closes and you want to retry running the installer, open the Applications folder in Finder and click on “Install macOS High Sierra”.
  • After the installer is downloaded you will not be able to see the update label name in sudo softwareupdate -l
  • An error dialog saying “The recovery server cannot be contacted.” means a network connection error or clock setting error that causes SSL certificate problems
  • if the machine becomes not bootable, power cycle while holding Command+R to restore the old OS X and try again while following a recovery tutorial on another machine. High Sierra macOS freezing and stops, HN
W: Macintosh operating systems

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