MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which we answer questions e-mailed in by our readers.
This week readers wrote in with questions about Mac Pro compatibility with the Thunderbolt Display and other Thunderbolt devices, whether or not Apple's Mountain Lion system requirements are a sales ploy, and options for avoiding Snow Leopard when upgrading to Mountain Lion. We welcome views from readers, so if you have any suggestions or alternative approaches to these problems, post them in the comments!
Question: Mac Pro compatibility with Apple's Thunderbolt Display
MacFixIt reader Bahri asks:
I ordered a MacPro 3.2GHz Xeon together with the Apple Thunderbolt Display, but came back with the Mac Pro and Apple LED Cinema Display. They said I can't connect the Mac Pro to the Thunderbolt Display, so they replaced it with LED Cinema display instead. I am confused about this. Is Mac Pro limited in using the Thunderbolt Display?
Unfortunately, this is the case, and even though Thunderbolt technology can carry the DisplayPort signal, the DisplayPort-only connection on the Mac Pro cannot be used with a Thunderbolt device (see here). It is very likely that the next iteration of the Mac Pro will have Thunderbolt connectivity, but the current model has not yet been updated with the new I/O technology.
Question: Are Mountain Lion system requirements a sales ploy?
MacFixIt reader Don asks:
It seems I can't install the Mountain Lion O.S. on my late-year 2006 iMac and its Lion O.S. Why is the cut-off for installing Mtn Lion set at 2007 iMacs and newer models? Is it some sort of sales ploy? I have no problem with my "old" iMac but I wanted to see what Mtn Lion could do for me. Is there any way around this arbitrary cut-off?
The reasons for this are a technical limitation of the older systems (either graphics capabilities or firmware incompatibility). I believe it is neither a marketing gimmick, nor a ploy by Apple to get people to upgrade their systems any more than Apple has done with other drops in hardware support.
When these systems were made the company was pushing the development options available to it, and managed to get a product out with what was available. By now some of this technology has been way surpassed by newer and faster options. While older hardware is still largely compatible, there are some instances where Apple's future directions conflict with the hardware and the company has to drop support for these systems.
The 2006 machine is about six years old now, which is about the timeframe expected of software support for it. While it will not upgrade to the latest OS, that doesn't mean the system will not continue to work.
There are some instructions out there for installing Mountain Lion on unsupported Macs, but these are not recommended for a work system that you depend on.
Question: Avoiding Snow Leopard to install Mountain Lion
MacFixIt reader Salman asks:
Is there any option that I can use to avoid the Snow Leopard upgrade when getting to the latest Mountain Lion OS?
I do not believe this is possible. You could try downloading Mountain Lion on another Mac and then burning it to a drive or DVD to use on your older Mac (see here for how to do this), but this may still require at least Snow Leopard in order to install.
If you do not have access to a secondary Mac to use, then you will need to first upgrade yours to Snow Leopard in order to use the Mac App Store for purchasing Mountain Lion.