Retro Apple MacOS Runs Great on the Steam Deck
Tech enthusiast Miga (@MigaIsNotACat) – a self-proclaimed dork who collects old computers has successfully run a copy of macOS 7 on the Steam Deck. He did this through the Steam Store, without a clean install, so this means you can keep the SteamOS installed on your Deck if you too wish to do this.
He had been brewing this idea for a while. Back in 2021, he had promised to tinker around to put macOS 7.1 on the Steam Deck.
He even accompanied his Tweet with a “no, I’m not sorry” message because let’s face it, nobody should be installing MacOs on a gaming device. Sticking to the Deck’s default SteamOS is generally recommended until they give you an option to dual-boot, so instead of trying a Windows installation which means you will need to wipe the slate clean, you might try going for a macOS installation.
The question is, is a macOS installation on a Steam Deck even feasible to do?
Though this news paints a merry picture, it’s not that easy to set up an installation of macOS on the Steam Deck. The Deck is a standalone PC and though you can emulate operating systems or wipe everything to install a new one – it’s generally hard to do so.
So, what are the problems?
Technically, Steam Deck runs an Arch-based Linux distribution – so, shouldn’t it be easy to run a macOS version on it?
Well, the problem is that Hackintosh installations don’t support AMD iGPUs – which the Deck has. A bare metal macOS installation can only support an Intel generation 2-10 iGPU or a dedicated AMD GPU (RX 470 or better ideally).
So, though it’s easy to spot macOS installations running AMD CPUs, it’s impossible to find macOS installations running on AMD iGPUs. There are workarounds and patchers, sure, but there are extremely difficult to piece together.
How exactly did Miga do it is up to them to publicize, but it probably included a bootable Micro SD Card compatible with the Steam Deck. Running an old version on a virtual machine is quite possible.
One thing that we should make clear is that there is no improvement to be expected in terms of gaming capabilities. The Deck is much superior to a macOS 7 installation and this is purely an experiment, not a way to enhance the hardware’s capabilities in any way.
According to most tinkerers, setting up a macOS installation on the Steam Deck is pretty futile even for an enthusiast. Not only are you taking away a gaming device’s ability to play games, but you are also running a very outdated version (as new ones with Metal are very likely impossible to install on the Deck).
But if that’s your jam – maybe you can take some tips from the internet on what to do and how to do it.
A good perspective is how Deck can become a portal to the past and how Miga’s misadventure spells a bright future ahead when we can launch into our favorite old, vintage systems through a handheld gaming device without having to delete SteamOS and even dual-booting.