A tale of two Mac OS Updates

I recently bought Mac OS 10.7 (“Lion”) for both my 2006 Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro and my i7-based hackintosh. I assumed that the Macbook Pro update would go smoothly, so I focused on preparing first for my hackintosh (after reading generally favorable outcomes online). First, I updated my bootloader from Chameleon 2 RC4 to an RC5 variant. However, the App Store would not let me continue my purchase (giving me the error “This version of Mac OS X 10.7 cannot be installed on this computer”). After reading over at tonymac that his/their variant of Chameleon (“Chimera”) was required, I installed that over my Chameleon 2 RC5 build — this did not make the App Store error go away. I was using the required MacPro3,1 system definition in my smbios.plist file, but it turns out this wasn’t sufficient – I had a bunch of other stuff in there (including DRAM information) from my Chameleon 2 RC4 install that was causing the problem. I installed the tonymacx86-provided MacPro3,1 system definition (from Multibeast), which in fact is actually just a relatively spartan smbios.plist file. That seemed to do the trick. It’s not clear if Chimera was actually required after all, but from there on out it was smooth sailing. I installed using the steps here, which include copying the installation files and kexts such as fakesmc to an installation partition, blessing it for boot, and then booting the installation partition to continue the install. The only real hitch was that my sound driver (voodoohda) was out of date & was 32-bit only, and I had switched over to using the 64-bit kernel. So, I had no sound until I installed the new driver.

All told, it was actually a pretty smooth transition, as far as hackintosh operations go. My only real beef with the process is that the “Multibeast” installer is very opaque about what exactly it’s installing and where they go. For example, I have my boot loader on a separate partition from my system drive, and I then chain-load Mac OS from Chameleon/Chimera. The installer basically takes a volume as a target & emits the files to assumed locations, and it doesn’t tell you which files are getting written out. To hunt and peck through the process of getting only what I needed (and then manually updating my loader partition after the fact), I had Multibeast install its various pieces to a scratch volume (a USB stick, actually), and I tested the various pieces using a separate USB stick with my loader & basic kexts (ahci port injector, openhaltrestart, and voodoohda). Once that was stabilized & working with 10.6, I updated my loader partition for the 10.7 installation process.

In contrast to the quirky-but-functional hackintosh update experience, my Macbook Pro got hosed by the upgrade. I’m still not sure exactly what happened. My Macbook Pro contains a non-default hard drive (the previous one was too small), but I didn’t do anything crazy there — I initialized it using the Mac OS (10.6) installer several months ago when I installed the drive, installed Mac OS, reinstalled my applications, partitioned using Boot Camp, and installed Windows 7 on there as well. So I started the 10.7 installer/upgrade process, and midway through (after a reboot into the 2nd phase of the installer), I get “Mac OS X Lion couldn’t be installed, because the disk is damaged and can’t be repaired” (where is obviously the name of my 10.6 partition). It then told me to re-try the installation (which wasn’t very helpful, given that I was stuck in an installation loop booting back in to the 10.7 installer which wouldn’t complete). It also suggested I get the data off my hard drive and do a clean install. Brilliant! Various reports online attempted to attribute this to hardware failure – which is incorrect. I booted my 10.6 installation DVD and attempted to repair the volume – same issue. I reset PRAM – no luck. I checked for SMART errors – none. The only thing I can attribute this to is my non-factory hard drive on the machine, but it definitely isn’t failing. I booted Windows, copied the data off using the HFS+ driver that Boot Camp installs, booted the 10.7 installation DVD (which I made prior to attempting the installation, just for this sort of eventuality), erased my 10.6 partition, and then did a clean install. This worked, as did restoring my data. But it took many hours & brought me quite close to data-loss disaster. If I’d have had this experience prior to installing on the hackintosh, I don’t think I’d have attempted the hackintosh installation so soon (or at least, without backups in triplicate – admittedly, I operated somewhat without a net when doing the hackintosh update).

Anyway, those are my experiences with the update – all I can say is that I’m glad I at least didn’t lose my Windows partition as well, which I’ve read that others have experienced.

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