A number of Mac users who are still running old versions of OS X are wondering if they can update to Apple's new, free, OS X Mavericks. With this operating system more users than ever can take advantage of the update they just need to be running Snow Leopard. If you never updated to Snow Leopard how can you get your hands on it? 

The reason you need Snow Leopard is that is your route into the Mac App Store, and you need the Mac App Store in order to install Mavericks. If you aren’t running Snow Leopard you need to get a copy of Snow Leopard from Apple. Luckily you still can, the company put Snow Leopard back on sale last year at a lower price of £14 (when it launched initially it cost £25). Once you have the DVD from Apple you can install Snow Leopard, and then via the Mac App Store, which will magically appear in your doc, you will be able to download the new version of OS X, Mavericks. 

How can I get OS X 10.5 Snow Leopard? 

Back in September 2012, Apple was still selling copies of Snow Leopard via its telesales line on 0800 048 0408. At the time we spoke to a representative who confirmed that Apple is “Selling Snow Leopard over the phone exclusively”. The legacy software still retails at £25. 

Shortly after iOS 6 launched and with it the issues with Leopard (detailed below), Apple started selling Snow Leopard in its online store again. The software, which many Mac users discovered that they required following their recent upgrade to iOS 6, now costs just £14. 

The return to the Apple Store suggests that Apple has been receiving a significant number of pleas from owners of older Mac models. You can buy a copy of Snow Leopard for £14 here

Returning Snow Leopard to the Apple Store also gives users of newer Macs that are still running Leopard (if there are any out there) the opportunity to take advantage of the Mac App Store, without which they will be unable to download any of the newer operating systems from Apple. 

Snow Leopard was initially pulled from Apple's site after Mountain Lion was launched earlier in 2012. 

How iOS 6 broke Leopard 

Last September we encountered similar issues when a reader discovered that anyone running an old version ot the Mac OS X operating system would enounter a number of issues with iOS 6. One Macworld reader found that they were unable to update iTunes to the version that would work with their iPhone because they were still runing OS X 10.5 Leopard. 

The lack of support for Leopard was highlighted with the launch of iOS 6, which is available for iPhone 5; iPhone 4S; iPhone 4; iPhone 3GS; the New iPad; and iPad 2; and the fifth and forth generation iPod touch.

Even if you do have a compatible iOS device, your Mac hardware may not be compatible with the version of iTunes that the iOS device now requires you to be running.

A Mac user who had updated their iPhone to iOS 6 via WiFi contacted us. Having performed the update they plugged their iPhone into their Mac to be greeted by a message that they needed to update their version of iTunes.

“The iPhone “Pamela’s iPhone” cannot be used because it requires iTunes version 10.6.3 or later. Go to www.itunes.com to download the latest version of iTunes,” read the message. 

The Mac in question was purchased in early 2008 and is currently running Leopard. Unfortunately the version of iTunes required by iOS 6 is not available to Leopard users.

At the time updating the Mac in question was no easy feat, especially because Apple only offers downloads of its operating system via the Mac App Store, which is not available in Leopard. Our friend was baffled when they went to the Apple website hoping to find somewhere to purchase a newer version of Mac OS X. “I have searched Apple's website and have no idea what it is that I need. It all seems very confusing?” they told us.

Of course, if Mountain Lion were available to download or purchase direct from Apple it would be no help to our friend. The minimum Mac hardware requirements of Mountain Lion are a mid 2007 iMac; a late 2007 MacBook Pro; a late 2008 MacBook; a late 2008 MacBook Air; an early 2008 Mac Pro; and an early 2009 Mac mini. Yes, in some cases a three-year-old Mac is now out of date.

This means that Apple had stopped offering upgrades for some Macs purchased in the past five years. Five years may seem like a long time in terms of technology, but given that the world has been in recession during that time, perhaps the rate of upgrade has been slow, meaning that a lot of people are still using what are now legacy devices.

A post on Apple Support Communities about this very issue, suggests that the solution is to upgrade to Snow Leopard. “How can I get hold of Snow Leopard,” asked our friend.

Can I install Mavericks over Leopard? 

While you need the Mac App Store to be able to download Mavericks, once you have a copy you can install it on a Mac running Leopard (although the license agreement does specify that you can’t upgrade a Mac if you don’t at least have a licence for Snow Leopard).

Installing Mavericks over Leopard is no easy feat, however, so in our opinion you’re probably best off paying £14 for the install disks.

Apple is still offering Snow Leopard on the online store. Read more: Apple returns Snow Leopard to Apple Store


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