Helping a friend with a MacBook pro 2008

I am trying to help a friend getting her MacBook Pro updated to the latest possible Mac OSX.
It seems like, after a lot of searching, that I need to upgrade to El Capitan.

Official solution (or what I understood reading Apple website)

  • buy the DVD of Snow Leopard (10.6) from online Apple Store and install it on 10.5.8;
  • update the OS until 10.6.8;
  • use the App Store to download and install El Capitan.

But I am not to happy, buying a DVD which I only need onetime

For some reason I am not able to download El Capitan from the Apps store on my Mojave MacBook.

So any experience with this? I have plenty of Harddisk which I could use for installation off a clean OS and then swap it. I tried this with a Sierra installer, and then exchange the disk, but the MacBook 2008, was not able to boot from this newly installed clean Sierra…

Regards from Denmark :denmark:


How quickly we forget how OS upgrades used to work. :grin:

You might be able to find someone on this forum who has a spare Snow Leopard disk.

If you have “purchased” El Capitan, or earlier, from the Mac App Store you should be able to download it from your purchase history. From there you can create a bootable USB.

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Stewart’s answer is the way to go but if it’s not showing on your purchased list…

Took me a while to remember why I was using this and then some googling down that train of thought to find it again, but here you go.

I can’t take any credit, is not my software but a brilliant tool.

I personally haven’t downloaded el capitan on it but I would assume the product ID would be 10.11(?).

If you read down the threads in the page it gives the terminal commands to use. I’m not great with terminal myself but I’m sure people on here will be able to help more from the posts.

HTH :+1:t2:

While you’re poking around, you might want to install an SSD. It will really sped things up.

FWIW, my 2008 died during a software update. I had it clamshelled in a Henge dock, and I think it overheated.

A couple of links that might be helpful:

Downloading El Capitan (I think you tried this)

Creating a bootable thumb drive:

Thanks for the comments, but the issue is that I can find the El Capitan on the Appstore, but when I click Download I get the answer “can’t find this software”

Your system will not allow you to download El Capitan, if it is not capable of running El Capitan (ie: 2016 or newer models)

I’m guessing you want to create a USB installer to use on the 2008 system. You will need to use an older Mac to download 10.11 first, then create that drive. You will have to purchase 10.6 on DVD from Apple before upgrading to 10.11, unless you plan to wipe the HD and install 10.11 fresh. May I also suggest that the 2008 Mac have at least 4gb of RAM installed.


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Hi Dave,
I installed Sierra on a SSD disk, but I am not able to boot from that disk, when I choose it in startup manager, not sure why not.

There is 4 GB of RAM in the machine, and my plans is also to install a new SSD disk, so there are no data that need to be moved, right now, I just want the Macbbok to boot in a never OS X where App store are included.


The 2008 MBP is too old to run Sierra.

hmm… thought I read somewhere it was OK, but the link clearly say no…

It is possible to do it, but it’s not officially​ supported.

The most current OS a 2008 Mac can run would be 10.11 / El Capitan as described already. Glad to hear this system has 4gb of RAM as El Capitan will be using just over 1gb of RAM just for boot.You are certainly headed in the right direction.