Why Mac users still use OS X Snow Leopard, released in 2009

“Apple’s decision to end support for OS X Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) is reasonable — but it’s the kiss of death for a large segment of the Mac resale market,” Jonny Evans writes for Computerworld. “You see, Snow Leopard was the last version of OS X that ran on early edition Intel Macs. It was introduced in August 2009 four years after Apple announced the transition to Intel processors in Macs.”

“Macs running Snow Leopard still account for around 25 percent of active Macs. The implication is that these users are still using older Macs, and are on Snow Leopard to run OS X on them,” Evans writes. “Why? Two reasons: one is Apple; another is Adobe.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The real reason is Rosetta. Mac OS X Snow Leopard is the last OS X version that’s able to run PowerPC-only applications. Even four and a half years later, an eternity in the tech universe, it’ll still take quite some time for Snow Leopard use to drop off as it normally does for other unsupported OS X versions.

Related articles:
Apple’s OS X Snow Leopard is not dead – March 5, 2014
Apple signals end to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard support – December 17, 2013
Mac OS X Snow Leopard stubbornly rejects retirement – February 7, 2013

64 Comments

  1. Quicken 2006 was the last useable version. Apple needs to strong arm or BUY Intuit to force them to produce a version of Quicken worth buying. Then I can finally be rid of these old computers and upgrade!

  2. Adobe partially accounts for 25% of active Macs still running Snow Leopard??? Does this person realise that we’re not in 2002 and therefore Macs have gone WAY beyond just being in the graphics department or in print shops? No way do Adobe have the influence over Mac upgrade cycles they once did.

  3. The ONLY reason why I have not upgraded the machines I have which still run Snow Leopard is because Apple made the upgrade impossible due to hardware requirements. It’s cool, I get it, we’re all grown-ups. They sell hardware. If they don’t force the hardware to become obsolete, they can’t drive the upgrade cycle. It’s all good.

    1. It’s not “forcing” the hardware to become obsolete, it is just happens as a part of the process of improving the products, meeting the demands of consumers wanting better and faster things.

        1. If the processor doesn’t have the power I don’t believe written driver upgrades are going to do it. Hardware reaches a limit and they continue to improve and OS’s continue to take advantage of the power upgrades.

        1. Snow Leopard is my favorite OS of all the Apple OS’s. I can’t say EVERY change Apple makes when a new OS comes out are ones I agree with. I’m not that thrilled with my colored folders turned into useless barely noticeable tag dots. But there also are certain new features I do like. If Apple stayed stagnant, they’d be no better than Microsloth.

    1. 2006 Core Duo here. Terrible specs by today’s standards (2GB maximum RAM, 128MB graphic card), yet still my workhorse for Aperture, Final Cut Express, Pixelmator, and whatever else I do. Late 2013 27″ iMac arriving next week, though. The 2006 will still be put to use.

  4. I’ve retained two old Macs running Snow Leopard. As MDN points out, it was the last version of OS X that supported Rosetta, which is needed to emulate applications written for PPC Macs.

    In my case I used to design equipment using Freehand. Adobe bought Freehand and killed it off many years ago, but I still need to access and sometimes edit those old working drawings that were created on Freehand. I’m unaware of any current software that will let me do that, so I keep the two Macs ( one and a spare ) so that I can always open those files. Obviously as soon as I open a file I save it to PDF too, but there are huge numbers off them, so converting them all is impractical and I still need to make a record of any later modifications that I make.

    1. I have decades of programing which requires Rosetta in Snow Leopard, since the compiler has never been updated. I used to run it in a partition on my MacBook Pro, but my newer Retina MacBook Pro won’t let me install Snow Leopard even in a partition. So, I bought Snow Leopard Server (now only $20 from the Apple Store) and run it in Parallels. Works perfectly.

      1. I couldn’t find Snow Leopard Server on the Apple website but I was able to call and order it for $20 (about $25 with tax and shipping). It is currently backordered. Expected ship date is end of March 2014.

  5. The reason is simple: Snow Leopard works better. Mavericks is ugly and buggy.

    Rosetta aside, OSX 10.6.8 remains by far the most stable and efficient version for running Intel programs too. The crap and the uncessesary UI tweaks Apple has released since are of little or no value.

    When Apple gets off its fat butt and implements ZFS or some fundamental OS improvements, or perhaps includes a default emulator to run PowerPC or Linux and Windows software inside a shell, then maybe this will change. But instead of attracting new customers away from Windows, Cook refuses to cough up the pocket change required to take OS X to the next level of power and functionality under the hood. 3rd party software makers continue to release Windows ware first, then maybe release a lightweight, less-powerful version for the Mac — including Apple’s crappy iWork software, which was dumbed down to iOS levels of function. That is unacceptable.

    1. If I could give you 5 5-star ratings I would. There’s been nothing “exciting” about OSX updates since SL. Just a bunch of eye candy. Yes there have been all kinds of memory-handing stuff and whatnot under the hood over the years, but if it’s all bogged down by Jony’s crap and tons more ‘background spy crap’ what’s the point?

      I was just thinking about all of the background junk they added to iOS7 this morning (which I have tuned off). Even it’s nothing but eye candy. When you go to one of these ‘updating in the background’ apps it comes right up with the latest and greatest without you having to wait a 1/2 second for it to update. That’s eye candy (AND battery eating for the purpose of eye candy). Now go copy a big file on your MacBook from the internal drive to an external USB3 drive and watch the whole machine grind to a halt. That never happened in the past. They’ve completely lost their direction. It’s not about what works anymore. Decisions are made so marketing can boast “over 200 new and exciting features!” I never saw a list of all of them, Lion to ML, or ML to Mavericks, but I haven’t been impressed.

      Keep pounding them with feedback.

  6. I’m too cheap to upgrade FileMaker and GoLive so I still have one Snow Leopard machine.

    It’s running on a current tech MacBook Pro so it’s plenty fast.

    I can relate to 25% of Microsoft’s customers – still using XP.

  7. I understand why Apple no longer supports Rosetta. I have often wondered why they don’t open source it. Let someone else run with it if Apple doesn’t want to.

    1. Rosetta was built in to a very low level of OS X. It’s doubtful that Apple will allow an outside developer to take over that kind of function. It would also hold back the Mac’s development. Apple provided about five years for users and software developers to make their transition to Intel. Why should they have to have PowerPC strapped onto their backs forever? If you’re someone who won’t upgrade to Intel native apps, that’s your fault. This same B.S. was going on ten years ago after OS X had been out for three years. Back then, it was customers staying latched onto OS 9.

      1. As I mentioned above, I will still need Rosetta many years from now. It’s not because I wish to run software that I am too mean to update, it’s because I need to access documents that I created on software that is no longer available and which won’t run on Intel CPUs.

        I use my Macs to earn a living designing equipment, and that equipment has a working life of 20-30 years. I deliberately invested in the leading software at the time ( Freehand ), but it was later bought out by a rival and discontinued.

        How am I supposed to open and edit those documents that I created on Freehand if I can’t continue to use Rosetta to run Freehand ?

        A Mac might have a likely operational life of 5-10 years, but I need to be able to open some of the documents that I create on that Mac for at least 25 years. I followed best practice and adopted a reliable back-up and archiving system, but what’s the point of doing that if those files can no longer be opened ?

        We’re always hearing people saying that you can’t do real work on such and such. Well I’ve been doing real work exclusively on Macs since the 1980s and I need my Macs to allow me to access that work. It’s ridiculous choosing a date and saying that nothing before that date has any right to be used any more. The irony is that if I had gone with Wintel instead, things change so slowly that I would not face this problem. I believed I had chosen an operating system with a great future, but the other side of that coin is that the recent past is abandoned too eagerly in the name of progress.

        1. You make good points, but you are the exception to what I said, not the norm. Classic, and Rosetta were features that Apple included in OS X to help ease the transitions that they were making. In your case, you can’t make a full transition. I hope your current work is being done in more modern apps without the need for Rosetta.

  8. Meh. More FUD. Another Apple doom and gloom article. Some people just like Snow Leopard, and they don’t like the new features of Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks. Some people need to run older apps that don’t have an Intel compatible version. Some people can’t afford a new Mac, or they don’t want to buy one. What ever the reason, it’s their choice. As long as these people understand the consequences of their choice, then why do we care? If they’re whining about something that they can’t use on Snow Leopard, that would be a different, and more entertaining story.

  9. I have lots of archive Word and Excel docs that were created on a PPC Mac. Without 10.6.8 you can’t open them. I still have a 2006 MBP running 10.6.8. Without it, my archives are worthless. Any other suggestions are welcomed.

    1. I just cleaned out a ton of stuff that I’ll never look at again and filed away just as much into organized folders. At some point we all need to prioritize what to keep around, but I get the feeling a ton of us are borders.

      I’m running the newest version of Mavericks on an iMac that is a few years old and I have zero complaints so I’m not sure what people are talking about when they say it isn’t stable…just more fringe that like to gripe.

      1. A lot of us actually have to work for a living, so we don’t have time to “clean out and prioritize.” But many of us also have archive Office documents AND old MacWrite, MacDraw, and other files that require MacLinkPlus to translate. That application hasn’t been updated to run on Intel. Why hasn’t someone seen the profit in either updating translation programs or in commercializing/simplifying SheepShaver and other virtual PowerPC options?

        1. I’ve had a career for over 17 years that requires me to be strapped to Mac daily so I’m not sure who you’re “big person doing important things for a living” comment is aimed at. I stopped reading after your condescension.

        2. Apple controls the software, so when they make it obsolete, anyone attempting a program that patches through the old files to the new hardware and or OS faces being shut down and sued into oblivion.

          Apple sees how people doit -they keep their Apple machines and buy the new one too. Then they have 2 Apple desks. It keeps the older Apple out of the resale market, and makes the new sale, and solidifies the FANBOY BASE – now the user is really a dedicated fanboy – several macs, two three maybe 4, a fanboy museum curator end user.

          It’s perfect, it drives the price of old and new up sky high, and crushes the secondary market.

    2. You’ve probably already tried it, but I’m still wondering, can’t you just open these files in a newer version of Office for Mac? Office uses newer, more efficient file formats by default, but I’m pretty sure it can still can handle the old formats too.

      There’s also third software that batch converts between old and new MS Office formats, including at least one I’ve seen online for free. It’s entirely possible something could get lost in translation, but it seems worth trying nonetheless.

    3. Buy Snow Leopard Server from the Apple Store (only $20 now) and install it in Parallels 9 on any of the new Macs. Then, you have a perfectly good version of Snow Leopard running right along side Mavericks. It works fine.

    4. That’s interesting. You didn’t mention what happens when you try to open those files. Without that info, no one can give you suggestions. I’ve opened a lot of old Word and Excel documents in Office 2011, and they work fine. Sometimes, there are problems with fonts, but that’s about it. I re-save them as .docx and .xlsx, and that tends to take care of the issues.

  10. MDN says, “The real reason is Rosetta.”

    Not in our household. It’s simply a matter of having no compelling reason to drop the best OS Apple has ever delivered. “Free” isn’t even worth it.

  11. I have an old core SINGLE Mini running leopard in a corner as a media machine. Sometimes I forget it’s there, just keeps going. I have no reason to replace it and I can’t upgrade it either.

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