A buddy of mine was upgrading an older MacBook (Unibody Aluminum, Late 2008, Model ID 5,1) from 10.6.8. In theory, you press the “upgrade to 10.9” button from the App Store and everything goes swimmingly. In his case it resulted in a serious disk error and wouldn’t boot into recovery mode; it would only boot the initial OS install utility screen and then fail to install the OS. Repeatedly. A recovery partition had not been created as the machine was running 10.6.8 and he also did not have the original 10.5 DVD that came with the Mac nor access to another Mac to create USB sticks from. So there’s the rub.
He had 10.6 Time Machine backups, of course, so this wasn’t a catastrophic issue but the quandary here was that he couldn’t initiate the Time Machine recovery without the the original 10.5 DVD or from the new 10.9 installer. And the old hard drive still had errors.
Here’s a list of a few things we tried until it finally sorted itself it:
1) Create boot USB sticks of 10.8 from Ubuntu – (no go, same problem as 10.9)
2) “Restore From Backup” option on 10.9 Installer did nothing
3) Put in a new 320GB Western Digital Scorpio Black and 8GB of fresh RAM
4) 10.6.2 retail iMac install DVD – (loaded Time Machine Recovery but would not install 10.6)
5) Confirmed “secret EFI firmware” version of the MacBook 5,1 can use 8GB ram, 64bit mode
So at this point the machine is back online. He has recovered 10.6.8 from the Time Machine backups onto a new 320GB drive. He confirms that the EFI firmware has been updated to the latest version and the RAM gets upgraded to 8GB. He’s back running 10.6.8 at least.
The question then is if he hits “Install Mavericks” from the App Store will the machine kill itself again? He has the backup so he rolls the dice and it works, the machine updates successfully from 10.6.8 to 10.9.
From here it is rote. Make a fresh backup of functioning 10.9 (don’t delete your 10.6.8 backup just yet!). Do a fresh install from a working USB stick of 10.9. Migrate the crap from the old installation.
That’s it. Not more than 20-30 hours of your life. But hey, the late 2008 Unibody MacBook is now running the latest and greatest.
12.04 LTS for everyone.