Advice on buying an older, yet capable, machine for an 11 year old

Our 11 year old has been using my old 2013 MacBook Pro for Google docs mostly. It’s honestly still pretty great.

However, he plays Minecraft (etc) on his iPad and really wants to try the Java version on a computer. He’s taking a Minecraft coding class after school and loves it. I would like to encourage this!

The 2013 MBP can’t seem to handle Minecraft, however. I’m getting the spinning beach ball forever when I try to install it. So far, it never ends and just fails.

I think I’d like to buy him something newer, but I do not want to spend a ton of money. Is there a sweet spot here for something like this? It’ll be an Intel processor.

I see 2017 MBAs with 2.2GHz Core i7 going for $200+, But I also see 2016 MBP 2.0GHz Core i5 for just a little bit more. I am not proficient enough in the differences to know which ones will work OK. He doesn’t need blazing speeds and I don’t imagine anything more intense than Minecraft and Roblox.

I’ve not done this myself, only read about it. But if you are willing to replace macOS with ChromeOS Flex you might be able to run Minecraft on your old Mac.


Your 2013 should be able to run Java Edition because it should support Mojave 10.14.5. What macOS version are you on?

If you get a used Intel Mac, just be sure it has a dedicated GPU. You can technically run those games on Intel graphics, but it won’t be a good experience.

Both those CPUs should be okay, though they are pretty far from blazing now.


I’m running Big Sur and this is a 2.4GHZ i5 with 8 GB of ram.

I get the spinning beach ball when I try to install Minecraft and have to force quit the finder. I’ve even let it sit for 30 mins thinking it’d get over the beach ball eventually, but it did not.

It does feel like this should work, but it does not.

Give MultiMC a try. It gives you more control over Minecraft versions and the installer might work where the first party launcher’s fails.


Thank you! It’s installing, you are a lifesaver. Especially for an 11 year old!


He is complaining of lag, which I get. But I’m glad that he can at least try it here and it gives me a benchmark for a new machine.

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Hi Jen,
My son is 14 and we went through the same thing when he was 11. He ran Minecraft on an old iMac at the time and it worked well at the time but he said that there were some differences in the keyboard commands between Mac and Windows that he never got around to figuring out. Eventually, he was outpacing the performance of that machine and I ended up getting a Windows CyberPower PC Gaming desktop for him for less than $1k and he couldn’t be happier. I also don’t have to hear the complaints about lag anymore. He still uses a 2012 MacBook Pro for school and it’s been great for schoolwork. He also runs a Minecraft server on it when he wants to use a private server for him and his friends.

Bottom line is that an old Mac should be fine for Minecraft but as your son gets better at it the cheaper route may be to use an inexpensive PC - it doesn’t need to be a high end gaming system.

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Prices for old Apple Hardware doesn’t fall as quickly as (for example) a PC Laptop.

The Intel/Apple silicon divide will help you a bit, but Intel Macs still have a lot of useful life.

How much are you looking to spend?

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An old iMac 5k could be a good option. Those displays are beautiful, and the desktop quad core + dedicated GPU may be enough for what you need

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I was starting to think a PC would be a good choice. Perhaps when he’s older. I’m so much better at managing a Mac and making sure he can’t do all of the sneaky things he might want to do. If he sticks with this, I’ll look into it! Thanks so much for your response–it’s always great to hear of a similar experience.

He would be thrilled if I got him a gaming PC w/ the lights. I blame all of those YouTube gamers!

This is a great point, thanks.
I mean I’d like to spend zero, but if I could get this to work for $400 or less that would be great. The thought is his interest won’t last forever and at some point he’ll need a computer for school when he gets a bit older - which would likely be a refurb MBA, but I’d rather wait on that.

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The problem with old Macs is that Apple stops supporting them completely after declaring them obsolete, and I wouldn’t use—and definitely wouldn’t want my kids to use—an OS that isn’t receiving security updates anymore unless it’s completely air gapped from the internet.

2017 MBPs and MBAs are already vintage, and Apple appears to be dropping support for Intel Macs at a faster rate than usual because they want to stop having to create, test, and support macOS builds for two architectures ASAP.

If it were me, I’d be looking at putting an easy to use, reasonably lightweight Linux distro on it via bootcamp so it’s running on bare metal for the best performance. I’ve had good luck with Ubuntu Mate (which has a Mac-like “Cupertino” interface option), Linux Mint, and MX Linux.

I say I’d be “looking at” doing that because I personally have only done it on old Windows machines, though that’s likely to change in the next year.

I’d be hesitant to give a Windows computer to a child or anyone else who isn’t geeky enough to know how to stay safe while using it due to the prevalence of malware on that platform. Windows is much worse than any other OS in that regard.


This simply isn’t true. Windows is just a far larger target than any other OS, because of it’s install base, but also because it is used by the majority of businesses

With automatic updates, a good Anti-virus and restrictions on installation of software. Windows is a very secure OS, especially for this use case.

If it were that much worse, Fortune 500 companies would be abandoning it at a rate of knots.



Windows has its problems but the popularity of Apple hardware has made it a favorite target of hackers. The reasons we need to keep our devices patched and try to stay safe are documented in the CVE reports (1) that Apple references in its security releases.

(1) Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) is a database of publicly disclosed information security issues.


The problem is that because of the size of the installed base, there’s much more malware directed at Windows.

I had two family members get hit with attempted Windows ransomware attacks. Fortunately, one was using a Mac and the other was using Linux because I’d installed it for her on her laptop.

Businesses continue to use Windows because it has extensive features that make it easy to centrally manage by IT departments, which not only have expertise in mitigating risks, but have the power to enforce organization-wide policies, as well as tools to limit what users can do on their machines. In some cases they also need to use business-critical software that only runs on Windows.

That can’t be compared to individual, non-techie users trying to guess what’s safe to install on their own PCs and which links, text messages, and emails are and aren’t legit.


I’ve some experience with installing Linux on a Mac (and PC) and I do love a project like this - so perhaps in the future. Thanks for reminding me of this option.

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