Project - MacBook Pro 2009 for 2024


As expected, my 10yo has commented on the unfairness that his big brother has a laptop, desktop, and phone… his little brother now has an iPad and a Chromebook… and he just has an iPad.

First world problem, huh!

So, I’m going to dig out the 2009 MacBook Pro 2.26ghz that’s in the cupboard for him.

It has a new 256GB WD Green SSD, and I believe 5GB of RAM (4+1). No idea what OS it’s running, but gather it will only natively go to 10.11.6.

One of his desires is to play Steam games, which I know became an issue for my oldest son when he was using my old Mac Pro - the OS couldn’t keep up enough for him to play the games he wanted to play…

Is this machine really just too old to consider for something like this? I’ll have to talk with him about exact game titles to try and get a better idea of the spec requirements… But I don’t think there’s a whole lot more I can do with this machine? I assume I can force the OS higher… but will it also just make it slower?

I had no luck trying to Bootcamp the Mac Pro, so not holding out hope if I were to try instal Windows on this machine either… But - I am guessing in reality it’s not going to be much better for playing games whether it’s Mac OS or Windows as it’s still the same CPU?



Steam Games? …what type of games is the question. It’ll play something like Minecraft.

Probably be able to eek more use out of it with Linux, and if you can go up to 8GB of RAM, which will handle Steam (I mean, Steam Deck SteamOS is Linux), but if he wants to play most first person shooters… That’s really asking a lot.

He needs to prioritise, because even though can go all the way up to Sonoma 14.2.1 on a 2009… If the point is Steam, skip it and go straight to Linux. He’ll be able to do all of the other stuff, YouTube and office tasks, web browsing, social media if you allow that sort of thing… Be better than Windows too–less bloat.

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I’ve actually never tried Linux. Did BeOS briefly back on the TAM years ago…

I guess we’ll start with digging it out and upgrading the OS as far as possible, and then seeing what Steam he’s wanting to actually play. It wont be FPS games, at least not initially as his mother is not keen on him playing them. And no social media either for a little bit.

When I installed the SSD - about 2 years ago - it was for him and his younger brother to be able to use the machine, but they tended to prefer their iPads. We’ll have a look on the Mac App Store to see what freebie/cheap games he might like… but Minecraft will certainly be one of them.

Ok - I’ll report back later today. :slight_smile:

With OpenCore Legacy Patcher, you can go up to Sonoma, technically. Monterey seems to be a sweet spot for a lot of people on an SSD and max RAM. I have a 2010 Core 2 Duo Mac Mini running Monterey with a SSD and 8GB of RAM and it’s slightly sluggish but totally usable. It would definitely run Minecraft and some other low resource building games.

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runs off and googles Mac OS version history…

Sheesh I’m out of touch. Ok - so, hey, the world moved on from OS X finally! :slight_smile: (I did already know that, honest.)

I might even try Monterey on my 2010 i7 Mac mini 16/500SSD, just reading your comments…

My main slowness in adopting to new OS’s was the loss of FCP7 (which from memory ceased to work from High Sierra), which I felt deeply, but at the end of the day, I’m not going back to that program, so - may as well move forward. Mojave’s lack of compatibility with modern iPads etc has been very frustrating.

OCLP is great with the most recent OSs depending on your use case. But I don’t recommend it if you’re driving a computer really hard.

On something like an Octocore/12-core 4,1/5,1/6,1 Mac Pro with a ton of RAM or a recently dropped MacBook Pro with at least an Octocore and 16GB+ of RAM, going up to the latest OSs, even Sonoma 14.2.1 (14.4 is still right out, and even 14.3 has issues OCLP team is working on), then go for it.

We have now reached the point where my own testing shows the quadcores are struggling with anything past Monterey for maintaining the ever creeping resource demands we expect from modern heavy use. This is why I moved my MacBook Pro 2015 quadcore i7, 16GB RAM, dedicated GPU over to Linux. It was just working too hard on Ventura, let alone Sonoma. It ran just fine, but the fans were basically jet speed the entire time. Even after I opened up the back, cleaned it out, and even redid the thermal paste with Arctic MX-4. On Linux, of course, the fans still go jet speed if I’m doing heavy tasks, but that was true new (Apple always had an issue with fans running too hard under heavy load, going back many years).

I would basically say my current estimate is this for MacBooks, and it assumes SSD and max RAM.

Before 2007: Lightweight Linux, can do office tasks, but struggles with modern web even then. Older you go, less pleasant the experience.
2007-2008: 64bit CPUs, lightweight linux, perfectly usable daily driver for most tasks, but maybe not video over 1080P, light gaming equivalent to what you could have done 20 years ago (FPS, Minecraft, emulation of retro consoles) or more.
2009-2010: Sweet spot for lightweight linux. You’re likely to get annoyed by the quality of the screen before complaining about performance. OCLP is fine for macOS and basic use. What is the use case? Would not go over Monterey.
2011-2012: Linux flies, OCLP becomes truly viable, especially on better CPUs. OCLP on a 2011 i7 is very good. Get a max specced 2012, and OCLP is pretty great. Especially Monterey. Fans may be an issue.
2013-2015: Linux is just a total modern experience. OCLP is just a total modern experience, but beware of the fan issue. If it doesn’t annoy you, you’re good. It kept causing problems in my video calls. Noise suppression software wasn’t able to successfully avoid it bothering the other callers.
2016+: OCLP where needed is basically indistinguishable, or you’re running native macOS anyway.

Mac desktops are an entirely different set of experiences.

EDIT: Oh, another way to get those old unibodies to run faster is to remove the optical drive and put in an identical SSD and do striped RAID. I did that when I had a 2012 as my main machine, and it made a huge difference in speed. But be sure to back up regularly, as it does introduce more risk.

OCLP is what I used when upgrading my old iMac for my daughter - iMac 27" Mid 2011 Upgrade

It has been running Monterey stable for several months now and is working great. One of the benefits of getting it up to a modern OS was access to Apple Arcade. Many of those games are relatively low on system requirements, so she is able to play many of them just fine. However she mainly uses it to play Roblox and Minecraft.

I never did a full write up on it as I was rather busy at the time and it was a bit of trial and error, so I didn’t document all steps. But happy to answer any questions. I still haven’t put in the upgraded WIFI / BT module. I also picked up a 32gb RAM kit for it as Mac Fix It had it on sale half price. Once those last upgrades are done, that will be the limit of what I can do hardware wise with this machine I suspect. There is probably a slightly faster GPU option, but after getting this one working I doubt i’ll ever go down that route. Some people have been fiddling with the micro code of the BIOS to try get a 3rd gen Intel CPU to work (as opposed to the 2nd gen it has), but the performance improvement is likely negligible.

Anyway, I got sidetracked. OCLP and a modern version of MacOS may make sense if you want to get access to Apple Arcade.
Otherwise, I agree that Linux would likely let you get the most out of it.

This may not be relevant, but if you have a PC in the house that is capable of playing the games the kids want, there is software called Steam Link that allows for remote play. It plays the game on the primary hardware and streams it to the users device. Can work pretty well over wired LAN. Wouldn’t try it over WIFI, it’s a bit too laggy.

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