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Running MacOS Sierra on a late 2009 Macbook White Unibody

MacOS Sierra

The 13th major release of OSX macOS, Sierra, has been officially out for almost 4 months. As usual, I waited it out this long before attempting to install it in my ‘mature’ (but nonetheless very productive) late 2009 Unibody MacBook White — just to make sure that apple get their shit together before I dive into this major OS update.

TL;DR
MacOS Sierra is running smoothly –it actually feels a little bit faster, but that could be just me– on my machine, but I suppose it’s because it has been decked out with and SSD and 8GB of RAM. Although my Mac is included in apple’s official list of supported Macs, generally I wouldn’t recommend upgrading to MacOS Sierra on a stock late 2009 Unibody Macbook or older models – there’s far too many complaints from people who tried it on their vanilla macs.

So what’s new?
I wouldn’t go through the whole list, you can google that yourself. Sorry. But what really got me to upgrade, aside from not missing out on the latest security updates, is getting Siri on my Mac. Yup, Siri works on this 7+ year old machine and you can change her(or his, but why?) voice.

siri on MacOS

Issues and whatnots
As always, a major OS upgrade comes with bugs and compatibility issues. Thankfully I waited 4 months before upgrading, so the updates for the bug fixes are already available. During the installation, a couple of notable things that came up were driver issues with my Wacom drawing table and enabling Siri.

MacOS-Sierra---Issues

MacOS-Sierra---Siri

Another anticipated issue upon startup was the Java Runtime error. And like in my previous OS upgrade, opening Adobe Creative Suite apps will give you a Java Error message asking you to downgrade to Java SE 6 runtime.

Java SE6

Like before, I didn’t want to downgrade to a legacy Java version so I used this workaround:

  1. Download and upgrade your Java to the latest build
  2. Restart on recovery mode (Command+R on boot)
  3. On recovery mode, launch Terminal, type ‘csrutil disable; reboot’
  4. On normal mode, launch terminal and type the following:
    1. ‘sudo mkdir -p /System/Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/1.6.0.jdk’
    2. ‘sudo mkdir -p /System/Library/Java/Support/Deploy.bundle’
  5. Restart on recovery mode (Command+R on boot)
  6. On recovery mode, launch Terminal, type ‘csrutil enable; reboot’

Java SE8

Sierra INstalled

And so far, that fixes and completes my macOS Sierra experience on the late 2009 Unibody Macbook White. I would love to hear other users’ experiences with macOS Sierra, do share yours in the comments section below.

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6 thoughts on “Running MacOS Sierra on a late 2009 Macbook White Unibody

  1. Mo says:

    Hello!
    I have an old unibody MacBook too! I just wanted to know about the battery life of your MacBook right now? And is upgrading the ram still going to be worth it? And do light games work?(DOTA etc.)

    1. Hey Mo,

      Battery life is quite good. This is already my 2nd batt, got it way back in August of 2014, still at 83.6% capacity (according to coconutBattery). It can still last around 4 hours, depending on my usage — which I think is remarkable since I’m using this MBW as my primary everyday machine, working mostly with Adobe CS6 apps without any issues.

      Yes, I can play steam with it. DOTA 2, CS:GO and L4D2 at potato settings. I managed to complete Fallout NV with this via bootcamp. Though if you’re looking to mainly game on it, I think you should just save the moolah from the RAM upgrade and spend a little more to get a decent entry-level gaming rig. Let’s be honest here, MacOS and Apple hardware ain’t optimised for gaming :) There are a lot of videos in YouTube on how to build 1080p gaming rigs for under $250.

      It really depends on what you want to do with your MBW, upgrading it was one of the best decision/purchase I’ve made. Just think of it, how many 8 year old laptops are there that could still keep up and perform significant work. Heck, this MacBook outlived 4 generations of iPhones :) yet I’m still running the latest OS and doing mainstream design work and a bit of gaming on it.

      Hope this helps, Cheers!

    2. Mo says:

      Hey thanks! I dont plan on intense gaming, but i need a laptop cause I’m going to college and i don’t really fancy the new MacBooks(The keyboards are ugh IMHO)and the MacBook air doesn’t really seem all that future proof. I will probably buy a console or build a decent rig(but I’m leaning to the xbox one cause i have a bunch of xbox 360 games that are backwards compatible), but i would really like to give this machine a chance if it would provide decent performance for say a 200-250$ upgrade(battery, ram,ssd). I tried upgrading the os to sierra with the stock ram and drive and the results were not pretty. El Capitan works pretty well though. So do you think its worth it for college work and light coding?

    3. In that case, I’d say go ahead and upgrade. SIerra is running smooth with my setup (8GB RAM + SSD). It can handle coding, graphic design and even light video editing jobs (i’m using iMovie 2016, though encoding takes a bit long because of GPU limitations).

      If you don’t mind playing low FPS at low settings, then I guess you’ll be okay with this (you’re playing more on consoles anyway).

      Sierra needs at least 8GB to run smoothly.

  2. Thomas says:

    Thanks for this Lance!

    Finally paid attention to the upgrades my mac was trying to get me to do, and I didn’t want to upgrade to sierra unless you wrote about it already.

    Have upgraded ram and ssd only after reading your site.

    Sierra has my computer running faster than before, and the storage optimization option on Sierra is very useful. A lot of crap can clog up the hard drive.

    Bought my 2009 MBW Unibody used in 2012 for $350 and continues to be a great machine, well worth it. Original DVD burner still works well also.

    1. Enjoy your refreshed MBW. I think as long as you have proper expectations on what it can and can’t do, you’d appreciate how well built that machine is. I’m still using mine to do regular design work. I must admit it feels kinda hipster when I open an MBW in a starbucks filled with metallic Macbooks. lol.

      Anyway, don’t for get to download your free apps in the app store; Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie and Garageband are now free for Mac users.

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