Old iMacSchools often find themselves with a storeroom full of older computers that still operate OK, but are no longer ‘supported’.

Maybe you have decided that there is an opportunity to press this equipment into service in learning spaces around the school?

If you are considering deploying these older computers for ‘terminal’ type tasks (Internet access, drill activities, etc), you will most likely discover that they have a variety of operating systems (OS) installed. For consistency in both use and management, it is a good idea to install a similar OS on as many of those older computers as possible.

But which OS on which computer? Not all new OSs will run on older computers.

Please note: These pages are no longer being updated, and haven’t been for a few years now. (I have retired!) Apple support provides information about these issues, including hardware compatibility lists for recent iterations of macOS.

Here is my rough guide to macOS compatibility….

  • Newer Macs with Intel processors (post 2007)
  • Pre 2007 Macs with Intel processors, or other Intel-based Macs with less than 4 Gb RAM
    • OS X 10.6.8 (Min 1Gb RAM)
  • Macs with PPC processors or early Intel Macs with less that 1 Gb RAM
    • OS X 10.5.8
  • Macs with OS 9 installed
    • Send them to the school museum!

OS X minimum hardware specs:

How do I find out what OS is installed, what processor, and how much RAM is installed on a Mac?

  • Start up the computer, click on the Apple menu in the top left corner, and choose ‘About this Mac’:
    OS X Properties

With the withdrawal by Microsoft of support for Windows XP, Windows 7 is really the only Windows option for older computers.

At the time of writing, Windows 8 is being distributed on new computers, but causes something of a dilemma for wide-spread deployment in schools.

However, Windows 8 is likely to be a ‘fill-in’ to be followed by a more permanent Windows 9 or 10.

  • When available, Windows 10 promises widespread support and backward compatibility.
  • At the time of writing, Windows 7 is probably still the best option for consistent school-wide deployment on ‘Windows’ hardware, and will run just fine on both new computers and older computers with at least a 1 Ghz Processor and 1 Gb of RAM.
  • On very old computers that don’t meet these specs, I have found that Ubuntu and Linux Mint both run very well. Linux Mint has a very intuitive GUI. (These Linux OSs run just great on new computers too.)
  • A Linux-based OS is also a worthwhile consideration for computers not covered by your organisation’s Windows licensing arrangements.

Windows / Linux minimum hardware specs:

How do I find out about the processor and RAM installed on a Windows computer?

  • In Windows 7, start up the computer, click on the Start menu, right-click on ‘Computer’ and choose ‘Properties’:
    Win 7 Properties



wazmacWhich OS for older computers?