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Internet Recovery Disk on 2010 Macs now boots to Sierra instead of Lion

If you have a 2010 or Early 2011 model Mac, and have current firmware updates applied to it, you can boot it into Internet Recovery. This would allow you to install 10.7 Lion, but only if you’d previously downloaded it from the Mac App Store.

But I’ve discovered that these older computers instead now install 10.12 Sierra, and you do not have to provide an Apple ID to do it.

Mid 2011 and later iMacs will continue to install the version of macOS that they came originally came with when using Internet Recovery. Only the 2010 and Early 2011 models have made this change.


Here’s all the gory details, if you are interested:

Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” was released on July 20, 2011, so Macs released before that came with 10.6 “Snow Leopard”.

One of the new features of Lion was the Recovery Disk, which allowed you to reinstall the operating system, among other things; with this, Apple stopped including a DVD or USB stick in the box that contained the operating system.

And one of the new features of Macs that came with Lion was Internet Recovery. Even if you had a completely empty drive without a Recovery Disk on it, you could still boot the computer into a Recovery Disk directly over the internet, and get a functioning system up and running from nothing. Pretty spiff. Internet Recovery would load the same version of the operating system that originally came with the computer, regardless of if it had been upgraded at any point, and without any Apple ID authentication.

Apple also added the capability, via firmware updates, to boot into Internet Recovery even for some computers that predated Lion: All 2010 models and Early 2011 models. Normally, this would be done via the usual software update process. (If you want to make sure your firmware is current, you may do so at this link: About EFI and SMC firmware updates for Intel-based Mac computers)

On these models, if you use Internet Recovery, you’d get the Lion installer, rather than Snow Leopard. However, when you use Recovery Disk for an operating system that is newer than what came on the computer, the expectation is that you got originally got that newer OS from the Mac App Store; even though it’s free, it counts as a “purchase.” Therefore, when you install the OS, it asks you for an Apple ID that had previously downloaded the newer OS, and if you don’t have one, you can’t install it.

So on 2010 and Early 2011 Macs, you would get asked for your Apple ID when you try to reinstall Lion that way. If you’d downloaded Lion before, great. If not, you’d have to come up with another option, like creating an install disk using another computer, or buying Lion (it became no longer free once it was succeeded by Mountain Lion).

But Sierra no longer behaves as a Mac App Store “purchase,” so it no longer needs to be verified when you install it. I’m guessing Apple saw this as a way of simplifying things for these older Macs which can’t have their original OS (Snow Leopard) installed; it guarantees that someone who’s never even touched a Mac before could take a completely empty machine and get it up and running.

Installing old versions of macOS

Usually, you want to be running the latest version of macOS, which at this moment is 10.12 Sierra (version 10.12.3), available for free from the Mac App Store.

But, sometimes, for one reason or another, you might want to install an older version of macOS. Here’s how you get them, and some of the less obvious reasons you might want to use them, or not use them. However, anything before version 10.9 Mavericks is effectively obsolete for daily use, due to lack of support by any of the major browsers.

If you want to turn any of the downloaded versions (10.7 Lion or later) into a stand-alone installer disk that can boot another computer, see DiskMaker X.

  • 10.6 Snow Leopard: $20 DVD from Apple Store online. Reasons to get it: Necessary first step in upgrading a computer from 10.5 Leopard to something more recent, because it’s the first version os the OS with the Mac App Store (after you run its updates). Last version of macOS to run PowerPC apps, which are quite old at this point. Last version of macOS to run on computers that have a Core Solo or Core Duo processor (Early 2006 MacBook/iMac/Mac mini, Mid 2006 iMac). Will not work with iCloud at all.
  • 10.7 Lion: $20 download from Apple Store online. (If you previously downloaded it when it was available, you can still do so from the Purchases tab in the Mac App Store on a computer running Lion or older.) Reasons to get it: Necessary first step in upgrading a computer from 10.6 Snow Leopard to Sierra to 10.12 Sierra. Last version of macOS that will run on computers with 32-bit EFI (i.e. machines that are not on this list).
  • 10.8 Mountain Lion: $20 download from Apple Store online. (If you previously downloaded it when it was available, you can still do so from the Purchases tab in the Mac App Store on a computer running Lion or older.) Reasons to use it: none, given lack of browser support; possibly useful for software which has compatibility problems with newer versions. Last version of macOS that performs well on conventional spinning hard drives (as opposed to solid state drives).
  • 10.9 Mavericks: no longer available, unless you previously downloaded it when it was available; if you did, you can get it from the Purchases tab in the Mac App Store on a computer running Mavericks or older. Reasons to use it: for the moment, most important software still supports it, and it still performs better on conventional spinning hard drives (as opposed to solid state drives) than newer versions. Some iCloud features such will not work with current versions of iOS, such as iCloud Drive, iCloud Photo Library, and Notes. Unlike previous versions, Mavericks can sign into Google accounts, though not Yahoo accounts.
  • 10.10 Yosemite: no longer available, unless you previously downloaded it when it was available; if you did, you can get it from the Purchases tab in the Mac App Store on a computer running Yosemite or older. Reasons to use it: none that I can think of, except perhaps full iCloud compatibility with very old iOS devices that can’t run iOS 9. iCloud Notes will not sync with current versions of iOS.
  • 10.11 El Capitan: available for free download, as explained here,  (If you previously downloaded it when it was available, you can still do so from the Purchases tab in the Mac App Store on a computer running El Capitan or older.) Reasons to use it: if you have a Mac that can run 10.12 Sierra, then there’s no reason not to upgrade to that, unless you use Word 2008. If your Mac can’t run Sierra, then El Capitan is still a fully supported operating system that supports all current iCloud features. Unlike previous versions, El Capitan can sign into Yahoo accounts. Last version of macOS to run on older machines supported by Mountain Lion, or which Apple Java 6, which might be required by older software, and has no known issues with Office 2008.

Save your SSH passphrase in your Sierra keychain, like you used to be able to

One of the Mac’s best features for tech types has been disabled by default in Sierra: being able to save the passphrase for an SSH public-private key pair in the macOS keychain.

If you don’t know what that means, then you probably don’t need to worry about it. But if you do, it means that you’ll need to type the SSH passphrase every single time you use ssh or scp (unless you want to take the considerably less secure route of using a key pair that doesn’t have a passphrase). Not having to do this is one of the reason I prefer macOS to, say, Linux.

Fortunately, there’s still a way to get passphrases saved. In /etc/ssh/ssh_config, you’ll find a section that says Host *. Under that, add a line, indented, that says UseKeychain yes. (You can use a free editor such as TextWrangler to edit it, or use sudo nano /etc/ssh/ssh_config from the Terminal.) I suggest you make a backup copy of your ssh_config file first.

Alternatively, paste the following into Terminal window to edit your ssh_config file automatically:

grep -q 'UseKeychain yes' /etc/ssh/ssh_config || \
sudo sed -i ''  's/^Host \*/Host *\'$'\n        UseKeychain yes/' \

Once you’ve done that, passphrases will be saved after you enter them successfully, and you won’t need to enter them subsequently. Unlike before, where you would get a full system dialog asking you for the passphrase and the option to save it in your keychain, you’ll now just get prompted in the Terminal window as usual. However, your entry will be silently saved in to your local keychain.

Download the latest Microsoft Office for Mac installers

Somehow, I stumbled across an incredibly useful page on Microsoft’s web site which has the latest Mac installers for Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft Office 2011, and other releases.

This is pretty useful, because:

  • It doesn’t require that you log into Microsoft’s confusing web site in order just to download the installer.
  • If you want to install it on several computers, you don’t have to download it to each one, just copy it from a thumb drive or over the network.
  • You don’t have to run any updaters after installation, as it’s already up to date. (Of course, the installers on this page are likely to change pretty frequently, so if you’ve got an old one, then you’ll need to run the updater.)
  • There are installers for individual Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook) apps, if you don’t wish to have the whole suite.
  • It provides a way of reinstalling Office 2011, should you need it, such as if you no longer have an optical drive, or you want to run Office on a Mac with an older operating system. (You may still need your original license key, however, if you’re not an Office 365 subscriber.)

Once you’ve installed the software, just run it. The first time you do, you’ll need sign in with your Microsoft account (that is, your Office 365 subscription, or the Office account that contains your one-time purchase of Office).

Here’s the link: Update History for Office for Mac

Met Museum Makes 375,000 Images Freely Available

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has just made over 375,000 images digitally available for download and use under a Creative Commons license. Any images that the Met says are in the public domain are available “for unrestricted use, at no cost.” That means you can use them for personal purposes (computer desktop wallpaper, printing to hang on your wall) as well as artistic purposes (using these images to create your own original art) and commercial purposes.

This is an incredible resource that is definitely worth exploring!

For more information, read the article on Wikimedia: The Metropolitan Museum of Art makes 375,000 images of public domain art freely available under Creative Commons Zero

And here is a page on the Met’s website: Met Image and Data Resources: Open Access Policy

And the link to the images: Met Collection

The image above is The House of Bijapur, by Kamal Muhammad, c. 1680, currently on view in the Met’s gallery 463.

Blast from the Past: Vintage iPod Circa 2004


One of our clients just found an old iPod — this one looks like it’s 4th generation, from about 2004, based on Wikipedia’s iPod page.

These had actual hard drives inside, with moving parts, so after many years often the drives failed. However this one is still working! We were able to get all the music off for our client. The click wheel and black-and-white screen are still fun to use.

If you have an old one with a failed drive and want to see if you can get it working again, iFixit has guides for replacing hard drives on these old iPods. Here’s the one for the iPod 4th generation.


Apple 5th Ave Store Relocating for Renovations

The Apple Store on 5th Ave and 59th Street is moving to the former FAO Schwartz site (which is on the same block) while the underground store gets renovated. First day in the new temporary location is January 20th. No word on how long the renovations will take — or on what is being changed!

(Photo from Apple’s website.)

New Adapter Lets You Charge iPhone 7 AND Listen to Music


The new iPhone 7 announced by Apple doesn’t have a headphone port, as we all know. You’re supposed to plug your headphones into the Lightning port. (Unless you want to pay an exorbitant amount for the wireless headphones…)

So what happens if you want to charge your phone AND listen to music at the same time?

Luckily Belkin has come up with an adapter that has 2 Lightning ports. So you can do both. It’s called the Rockstar and will cost $40 when it’s available, which they say is “soon.”



Find My AirPods


Apple’s new AirPods are a wireless version of their Earpods, meaning they’re two independent little things that hang in your ears with no cord. It would be easier than easy to lose one or both of them.

One of their features is that they are self-configuring, via iCloud, rather than having to much around with Bluetooth pairing. And they’re always communicating with your phone. So you know what they should have? Find My AirPods, just like Find My iPhone. 99% of the time you’re going to lose them in the bottom of a bag or somewhere in your home. Even if they’re out of juice, if it could show you where they were known to be last.

For all I know, Apple thought of this and we’ll find out that feature exists when the AirPods ship. We can hope, because they’re tiny, and $159.

Apple Store Opening in Williamsburg

An Apple store is set to open in Williamsburg — the first one in Brooklyn. It opens at 10 am on July 30th.

This is the Upper East Side Apple Store --because I don't have a photo of the finished Williamsburg store. Photo from Apple's website.

This is the Upper East Side Apple Store –because I don’t have a photo of the finished Williamsburg store. Photo from Apple’s website.

The location is 247 Bedford Avenue, at the corner of North 3rd Street, just 4 blocks from the Bedford Avenue L train stop. It’s across the street from the new Whole Foods. So Williamsburg is getting all the chain stores like everywhere else…

About IvanExpert

IvanExpert provides superior Mac, iPhone, and iPad support for small businesses and home users in New York City. We provide on-site help with a range of Apple computer and mobile issues.

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