Upgrading Mac OS X...but not all the way

For Christmas, I bought my wife some software she’d been wanting. The problem is, it requires at least Mac OS X 10.7, and she’s still running 10.6.8. No problem, says I. I’ll go upgrade for you. But when I went to upgrade to Mavericks, which is, what, 10.9 or something? - I was warned that a couple of other critical programs would no longer work if I installed it. So what I want to try is just doing a small upgrade from 10.6.8 to 10.7 and see if that will make everything work properly.

But I cannot find out how to do that upgrade anywhere on Apple’s website. Nothing exists there except Mavericks. Any suggestions? Being able to do it for free would be a lovely bonus, too, of course.

The Apple Store. 20 bucks.

Interestingly, what they give you is a redemption code to use in the App store, however it doesn’t appear you can just buy it directly from the App store. Weird.

…And if those “critical programs” are PowerPC based, you can’t upgrade at all, even to Lion. 10.6.x is the last version of MacOS that supports them.

You will have the same problem with 10.7!

The issue is Rosetta - the facility that allows PowerPC code to run on intel machines. The last OS that supported that was 10.6. Upgrading past that breaks compatibility with PPC code.

If you really need to run PowerPC programs but still want to use newer software, you can create a partition and have both OS’s, provided of course you have enough HDD space.

Step-by-step instructions here.

Bugger. I was hoping to avoid all that, but it looks like it might be the only option. Ah, well. Thanks.

Buy into the Apple myth and that’s what you get.


Are you sure that the issue is PowerPC programs? If so check up and see if there are any free updates with Intel versions. It’s pretty unlikely that she really has a Power PC program with no Intel equivalent version.

Moderator Note

GQ is for factual answers. If you want to express your opinion about Apple and its products there are better forums in which to do so. This comes across as threadshitting and is not appropriate for GQ.

No warning issued, but don’t do this again.

What is the Apple Myth? Maybe that’s a question for another thread.

But since it’s brought up, as with any operating system, or hell—company even—at some point a company must decide when it must drop support and development of antiquated and outmoded software/hardware.

This is the risk taken if you choose to fall out of step with gradual upgrades for anything.

If you go Finder > Utilities > System Profiler and then click on “Software,” you should be able to sort by type and see which applications are Power PC, Universal, and Intel. Any ones that are Power PC will become non-functional in your upgrade to 10.7. Check with the vendor to see if the application is still supported. If it is, there hopefully is an update available.

I didn’t really have any problems with upgrading to 10.7, but I don’t really have any legacy apps that I use and I tend to keep up-to-date with latest software revisions.

There apparently also is a way to get around the dropping of PowerPC support via Parallels and running a virtualized Snow Leopard server on it, but I don’t quite know the details of it and it’s not something I’ve had to figure out how to do yet.

The old software in question is Microsoft Office, of which she is running a very out-of-date version. It would be nice to update her to a more modern edition, of course, and it’s looking now like we’ll have to, but the old version was working fine for what she needed, and we’re dirt poor, so spending a hundred bucks or so to upgrade is worth attempting to avoid.

Depending on your Office needs, you might be able to get away with Open Office. You can try it on 10.6.8, and if it works well enough, you can continue to run it in whatever you upgrade your OS to.

Yeah, I’d probably be fine with that, but my wife gets irritated with different formats and stuff. She had OpenOffice once before due to previous cheapness on my part, and didn’t like it. Getting the actual Office software was a big relief to her.

Any chance you work for a company that participates in the Microsoft Home Use Program? If you do, you can get a license for Office:Mac 2013 for ten bucks.

I’m a grad student. I’ve got a license for my own computer, but I can’t for hers. It’s stupid.

Are there upgrades for those programs available? Or Intel versions?