Nvidia gtx 780m 4gb mxm imac 27 2011



2011 iMac Graphics Card Upgrade

MichaelDT

macrumors regular

iMac Late 2009 to Mid 2011 graphics card upgrade
( Lastest update 02/21/2022)

This is not a plug and play solution! You need some macOS / Unix system administration knowledge, the ability to run programs from the Terminal app and some manual skills to assemble your iMac again. If you have not done this before, get some local help in advance and make a complete plan and make notes while reading through this page several times and check the thread!

It is HIGHLY recommended that you read through this post before asking questions. Then, reread the information.

Before you post a question please add a signature to your account settings reflecting your machine type, graphics card, and possible even the problem you have. This signature sticks with every post you make and helps other to keep track and understand what is going on.

Please do not harass the BIOS developers to go faster, release a particular BIOS, etc. Please do not clog up the thread with useless posts asking if your specific card will get a new BIOS. It takes several months of reverse engineering and testing before getting a new BIOS working.

There is no simple best card: Your budget, your comfort level with doing modifications, your ability to live with unresolved issues, your computing needs, the local market, your iMac model, etc. will determine the card to be used.

Unfortunately, this thread cannot help you source cards as there are too many variables involved.

Read through this information carefully in order to choose the best card for your needs.

System support table:

card/system family iMac9,1 24 iMac10,1 21.5 iMac10,1 27 iMac11,1 iMac11,2 iMac11,3 iMac12,1 iMac12,2
NVIDIA yes, no EFI unknown yes, no EFI yes yes yes yes yes
AMD GOP yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
AMD EG unknown unknown failed yes yes yes yes yes
  1. The modified (NVIDIA video) BIOS with EFI boot screen version require an Intel i3 CPU or better (see also below #5). These machines are: iMac11,x and iMac12,x systems.
  2. The AMD GOP vBIOS version using OpenCore to provide a boot screen work perfectly also with the Late 2009 27 iMac10,1 and of course with iMac11,x and iMac12,x systems. Check also #6
  3. The only way to get AMD cards working with an EFI Boot screen needs an iMac firmware modification.
  4. In general only NVIDIA Kepler, or AMD GCN 4 Baffin, Ellesmere,Polaris20, Polaris21, and AMD GCN 1-3 cards will work in these iMacs with macOS including Monterey. No other (NVIDIA) GPU variant has driver support for macOS 14+ (Mojave and later).
  5. There are smaller MXM-A cards and bigger MXM-B cards running stable only in the 27″ models. While all cards may function in a 21.5″ model, the big ones are unstable due to their high power draw. Do not try it!
  6. All NVIDIA MXM B and all AMD MXM B cards need the big three copper pipe MXM-B heat sink from the 27″ mid 2011 model with the 6970M card to get the generated heat out of the system under load. Check the tables for details.
  7. Core2Duo CPU systems: Tests with iMac10,1 21.5″ Late 2009 and iMac9,1 24″ Mid 2009 and the Late 2009 27 iMac10,1 with a new GPU have been made. External displays worked in any case, internal LCD within the 27 Late 2009, the others needed you to buy a special driver board and connect the internal screen with the external miniDP port (and make it an external one). One user reported the internal LCD would work after letting the system sleep. Check carefully which driver board you might need. Some other cards may work with the stock BIOS showing all the seven problems. work is ongoing. This is a vBIOS problem. Another user installed a Nvidia GT120 successfully in his 27″ iMac10,1 using the Apple BIOS made for the former A1224/A1225 models. This card is Tesla based and offers no metal support. The K3000 using the @stephl3 rom offers an EFI boot picker on the external screen. So there is no general support available.
  8. The fan control is broken in the same way as before even after replacing the GPU. Apple internal SMC (System Management Controller) refuses to control the ODD fan according to the obvious heat generation on the GPU and heatsink. Observations show the fans ramp up and 80C and higher, this is a death sentence for electronics. You need to use either the Macs Fan Control software or replace the ODD temp sensor. See below in the The Seven Problems section and read the #7 description.

Most — if not all — of these problems have been solved with the published BIOS versions.

Using a non Apple video card within an iMac will create these seven problems.

  1. The loss of EFI boot screen;
  2. The loss of backlight control;
  3. You can only connect one external monitor to 27″ iMacs;
  4. The loss of Target Disk Mode;
  5. The loss of Target Display Mode (TDM); (works only with High Sierra and before)
  6. The loss of running the built-in Apple Hardware Test (AHT);
  7. The loss of temperature sensors on the new GPU. But there is a hardware solution!

1. Boot Screens are now available on all listed cards using custom VBIOS and/or OpenCore

You may use the OpenCore booter to add a boot screen feature to every card — even the Nvidia and AMD cards not listed here or known to have no BIOS support to show the original apple boot picker.
There is a small delay between the chime (POST) and the initialisation of the actual boot screen on the current NVIDIA modded BIOS. Most of the time (such as a warm reboot in macOS) the system boots too quickly for the EFI portion of the BIOS to initialize, making it appear that you may not have a «boot screen.» All is working as intended if you can hold the «Option» key at startup and get a boot picker.

2. Native Brightness control is available for cards marked with + or ++ using a combination of custom BIOS and OpenCore.

For other cards, brightness control may be added in the future. Be aware that without brightness control, the iMac display runs at full brightness by default. For higher powered cards and 27″ models, this can generate a lot of heat.

If you would like to «dim» your display using color dimming, many have used the app Brightness Slider, which is available on the App Store for free.

You can also use this app, which works better than most apps in the App Store, because it will dim the colors on the whole screen and it will display the built-in OSD, just like native brightness control.

Additionally, hardware level modifications using a DyingLight module or a Raspberry Pi have been used for brightness control. This software written by @passatgt can be run on a Pi for backlight control. Another hardware solution can be found here.

Nvidia cards marked with ++ with native brightness control may notice their displays are not hitting maximum brightness control Potential. A kext modified by @highvoltage12v can be found here to fix this issue. It has been added to all installer packages and the Bit Sur patcher.

Last, but not least: User @Lottosmp came up with a solution based on the former engineering.

3. Despite having 2 miniDisplayPort outputs, the 27″ 2011 iMac will only output to one external display. There is currently no fix or workaround for this.

4. Target Disk Mode is available on all cards marked with a + or ++!

5. Target Display Mode (TDM) is available on for cards marked with + when using both custom BIOS and OpenCore. Check this Q16 from FAQ about limitations.

6. Apple Hardware Test (AHT): There is currently no fix for running the internal service diagnostics. You may search the net for the ASD (Apple Service Diagnostic) package instead. For each system there is a different package. Download and install the package onto a SD card or a DVD, which will give you full functionality. A working download link may be hard to find. It is not open source.

7. GPU Temperature Monitoring is available on most new card when using both custom VBIOS and OpenCore. This shows the temps, but does not control the fans!
Use Macs Fan Control to control the ODD fan. Check the PDF attached to this post for details. The best solution as of today is to relocate the ODD sensor as described in this solution! The ODD sensor will drive the fan up using the Apple SMC software.

Please read the issues section first! Most of these cards hit the street before 2012 and are considered as old cards.

  1. The modified (NVIDIA video) BIOS with EFI boot screen version require an Intel i3 CPU or better (see also below #5). These machines are: iMac11,x and iMac12,x systems.
  2. Monterey 12.5breaks Kepler support and needs OLCP 0.4.10 to fix it!
  3. Old cards: A lot of the a 7-10 year old used Nvidia on the market may be already (half) dead. Some sellers offer cards with new BIOS — but to small — chips soldered on. Ignore those offers. If you cannot get video output working on internal and/or external displays face the bitter truth: The card may be DOA (dead on arrival). We are not a support organisation. Get your card returned and please do not waste (your and our) time on it!
  4. iMac 2011: Some NVIDIA GPU may not run in your 27 Mid 2011 iMac. We have reports of GTX880M, K3000M, K3100M, K4100M, K5000M which all run only without the internal LCD connected. As soon as you connect the LCD the system refuses to boot or ends up in boot chime loop. The same error can be caused by connecting a new internal SSD. Root cause may be an address conflict on the SMBUS caused either by the GPU or some IC on the card connected to the SMBUS delivering thermal date. One can visualize such problems with tools like HW Monitor. If you find weird temperature readings (129C) you might have such a card. No software solution possible! Lately on user made this modification and got his K3100M working.
  5. sleep/wake broken: In some cases even on iMac11,1 and on iMac12,2 with some NVIDIA cards sleep/wake is broken with an error message like Sleep Wake Failure in EFI — neither root cause nor a fix is known. No developer can fix a problem he himself has never seen or which cannot be forced or reproduced in a consistent way. Disable system sleep!
  6. Video Memory type: NVIDIA and AMD cards can have different VRAM memory types (Hynix AFR, Hynix BFR, Elpida, Samsung). Take a look at the links within the tables to find your fitting BIOS. For some cards — although listed below — we may not have the correct memory versions prepared.
  7. Black Screen: After complete installation of the iMac the internal LCD can stay black, only three status LED light up. This is the black screen software issue. Normally you can get around it (temporarily) by pressing alt/option on boot. Late 2009 system you will face (only there) a more severe variant. After a PRAM reset the LCD gets and remains black. To fix this for all iMacs a kernel extension needs to be patched at best in advance. Only after booting into this patched macOS the internal LCD will come back. Use this package installer to solve this issue with all NVIDIA cards on all systems up to macOS Catalina. Do not use this package on Big Sur and later. Alternatively OpenCore (e.g. OCLP) with agdpmod=vit9696 in the boot-args fires up the LCD after a PRAM reset or GPU change, too.
  8. Color depth problem: Happens on after boot — just sent the system once to sleep or change resolution. This solution or this opencore based solution may cure the problem.
  9. Brighness level: Solution is linked here for all ++ cards and described by @nikey22 on each of his posts, again.
  10. Brightness control with OpenCore: All + cards need OCLP or CL to enable brightness control and this solves the black screen issue using the agdpmod=vit9696 in the boot-args at the same time.
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Card BIOS BIOS Boot Screen Brightness Control 21.5/27/MXM Heat Sink Mod OGL MET
Quadro K500M no no yes/yes/A n/a n/a
Quadro K510M no no yes/yes/A n/a n/a
Quadro K610M + ROM yes (OC) yes (issue 7 above) yes/yes/A special install 505 n/a
Quadro K1100M + ROM Elpida yes (OC) yes (issue 7 above) yes/yes/A no 907 n/a
Quadro K2100M + ROM Elpida yes (OC) yes (issue 7 above) yes/yes/A no 1229 n/a
Quadro K1000M + ROM noBC yes (OC) yes (issue 7 above) yes/yes/A no 903 n/a
Quadro K2000M + ROM noBC yes (OC) yes (issue 6 above) yes/yes/A no 797 n/a
Quadro K3000M ++ ROM ROM1 yes (natively) yes (issue 6 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe 1164 15
Quadro K4000M ++ ROM yes (natively) yes (issue 6 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe 1680 n/a
Quadro K3100M ++ ROM ROM1
ROM2
yes (natively) yes (issue 6 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe 1779 21
Quadro K4100M ++ ROM yes (natively) yes (issue 6 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe 2465 32
Quadro K5000M ++ ROM ROM1 yes (natively) yes (issue 6 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe 2038 29
Quadro K5100M ++ ROM yes (natively) yes (issue 6 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe 2404 n/a
GTX 680M ++ ROM yes (natively) yes (issue 6 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe n/a n/a
GTX 765M + ROM yes (OC) yes (issue 7 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe 1428 n/a
GTX 770M + ROM yes (OC) yes (issue 7 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe 2140 n/a
GTX 780M + ROM yes (OC) yes (issue 7 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe 2642 41
GTX 780M ++ ROM yes (natively) yes (issue 7 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe 2642 41
GTX 880M ++ ROM yes (natively) yes (issue 7 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe 2700 n/a
GTX 860M ++ ROM yes (natively) yes (issue 7 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe 1616 34
GTX 870M ++ ROM yes (natively) yes (issue 7 above) no/yes/B yes, 3 pipe 2326 40

OGL column: OpenGL performance based on the Unigine Valley score from this table. T
MET column: Metal performance based on MetalBench score from the table.
OC: OpenCore

*
BIOS by @Nick [D]vB that currently enable boot screens on your iMac.

+
BIOS by @Nick [D]vB, @nikey22, and @Santa’s Little Helper that currently enable boot screens on your iMac. Using OpenCore (through OLCP or Catalina Loader for High Sierra and Sierra) these cards offers right now native brightness control, target display mode, support of UEFI Windows 10, and more!

++
BIOS by @nikey22, and @stephle that currently enable boot screens, native brightness control, target display mode.

Notes:

  1. Most if not all of these cards have a WSON type BIOS chip which cannot be programmed using a clip. You need nvflash with Windows or Linux. Take a look at the FAQ Q3 about flashing cards.
  2. Audio support with UEFI Windows 10 would make OpenCore for any listed card necessary!
  3. To enable brightness controls in UEFI Windows 10, see this post and this more recent post.
  4. Target Dispay mode works only with High Sierra an older!
  5. Latest working macOS is Monterey Beta 6. Beta 7 discontinued Nvidia Kepler support but OCLP starting with version 0.2.5 is able to patch support back. This patching does not bring 100% functionality back, e.g. OpenCL support in Photoshop is missing on Monterey

Regularly we get the requests about the more modern Nvidia Pascal and Maxwell GPU cards. Unfortunately Apple never supported these cards on more recent macOS versions. In case you plan to use such a GPU you will have to install the so called NVIDIA web drivers to get High Sierra support.

On the other hand these GPU are perfectly able to run Windows and likely some Linux distribution with full driver support. So if your focus is Windows only take a look at this offspring thread.

You will find special vBIOS versions searching this not so long thread.

Please read the issues section first! These cards have been introduced 2016 and later and are considered as new cards. The GPU type is more power efficient compared to Nvidia Kepler and has by far higher metal performance.

Card BIOS BIOS Boot Screen Brightness Control 21.5/27/MXM Heat Sink Mod OGL MET
AMD WX3200
+++
ROM1 yes (OpenCore) yes (natively) yes/tbd/A no tbd tbd
AMD WX4130 +++ old ROM1 yes (OpenCore) yes (natively) yes/yes/A special install 1805 53
AMD WX4150 +++ old ROM1 yes (OpenCore) yes (natively) yes/yes/A special install 1805 62
AMD WX4170 +++ old ROM1 yes (OpenCore) yes (natively) no/yes/B special install 2156 73
AMD RX480 +++ old ROM1 yes (OpenCore) yes (natively) no/yes/B yes or no?, 3 pipe 2800 150
AMD WX7100 +++ ROM ROM1 yes (OpenCore) yes (natively) no/yes/B yes or no?, 3 pipe 2949 170

OGL column: OpenGL performance based on the Unigine Valley score from this table. T
MET column: Metal performance based on MetalBench score from the table.

+++ These AMD cards are much more modern, but are difficult to source. Check the online offers carefully (the differences are explained above) . The cards are be supported natively with Sierra and later. Latest known working macOS version is currently Monterey Beta 10.

GOP and OpenCore boot screen:

Using the GOP BIOS (links within the table above) you will have native brightness and and get an emulated boot selection only with OpenCore (see below). OpenCore enables 4K H.264, and huge 4K HEVC decode/encode by using the iMacPro1,1 ID. This hack makes your iMac look alike a new machine and gives you similar features. Does not work with Sierra when using OpenCore (add the -no_compat_check to boot-args to enable booting Sierra).

EFI boot screen:

Using the EG BIOS version you will get a native Apple boot picker with an iMac firmware modification on an additional external display, only. These BIOS versions offer native brightness control, too. You can also use the same OpenCore setup as with the GOP BIOS versions to enable 4K H.264/HEVC. Here you will find new EG BIOS versions for the WX4xxx line. Both solutions have their own advantages.

Adding a hot wire mod described in detail in the great post you can get the EFI boot screen visible on the internal LCD, too.

Cards can be flashed using a clip or amdvbflash with Linux or Windows or EFI. Take a look at the FAQ Q3 about flashing cards.

AirPlay to Mac works with these cards installed on Monterey! AirPlay in general with Mojave and Catalina. Big Sur and later broke this.

This table shows cards with experimental support. Cards have been published between 2012 (M4000) and 2015 (W7170M).

— most cards cause a crash on wake on iMac12,x systems (disable sleep) or severe NVRAM corruption on cold boot needing one or more PRAM reset to start properly. It is not a great idea to use such a card in the iMac12,x systems.
— you need OpenCore (OCLP 0.4.0 and later) to setup and run those + cards, no EFI boot picker available
— check the vBIOS links for more details and compare OCLP generated config.plist with the settings there in case to trouble
— all cards support AirPlay with Catalina on all iMac11,x and iMac12,2 using OCLP (Lilu/WhateverGreen)
— all cards seem to support AirPlay to Mac with Monterey
— some cards cause additional SMBUS address problems (W6170M, W5170M), CPU thermal readings are partly broken (hardware issue, needs modding the card)
— W5170M does not run properly in the iMac11,2, use the M5100 (hardware issue, needs modding the card)
— W6170M/W7170M/S7100X do not run properly in iMac12,2, please do not try unless you want to develop/explore a solution for the NVRAM corruption problems and failing start/reboot/boot problems happening on this machine
— if you find two ROM links we have later added new VRAM support, please check your card visually and the posts containing the different vBIOS versions.

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Card BIOS Boot Screen Brightness Control 21.5/27/MXM Heat Sink Mod OGL MET
AMD M4000 ROM yes (OpenCore) yes (natively) yes/yes/A special install 809 19
AMD M6000 ROM yes (OpenCore) yes (natively) no/yes/B 2 pipe MXM-B 1010 30
AMD M5100 ROM yes (OpenCore) yes (natively) yes/yes/A special install 983 31
AMD W5170M ROM yes (OpenCore) yes (natively) yes/yes/A special install 778 31
AMD M6100 ROMROM2 yes (OpenCore) yes (natively) no/yes/B 2 pipe MXM-B 1024 30
AMD W6170M ROM yes (OpenCore) yes (natively) no/yes/B 3 pipe special install 1805 57
AMD E8870 no/yes/B 3 pipe special install
AMD W7170M ROM yes (OpenCore) yes (natively) no/yes/B 3 pipe
AMD S7100X ROM yes (OpenCore) no (hw mod needed) no/yes/B 3 pipe 1812 86

OGL column: OpenGL performance based on the Unigine Valley score from this table.
MET column: Metal performance based on MetalBench score from the table.

These AMD cards have been published between 2012 and 2016 and use macOS HD7000 and HD8000 driver stack. The cards are supported natively with 10.8.3 and later. Latest known working macOS version is currently Monterey.

The E8870 seems to be a 4GB version of the 2GB W6170M. So in case someone comes up with a vBIOS from the card the modification will be fast to realize.

/.ssh/known_hosts .
If your router does not provide an IP automatically to new devices on the local network check and change its config.
3. Use Windows 7: @jowaju created a simple Installer package that can be run on macOS Sierra (10.12) and higher that creates a 15GB Windows 7 Bootcamp partition with all the needed tools. You may need to update software tools.
4. Build a GRML from the distribution yourself? Check this post. Of course you need to add tools and vBIOS files manually, see below.
Notes:
AMD flash software and NVIDIA flash software is only available on Windows and Linux.
THIS external POST helps describes the flashing process. Others have found THIS POST useful.
Do a PRAM reset after flashing if you cannot boot into a known to work MacOS version!

Do not use the @dosdude1 patcher with any iMac10,x or iMac11,x model!
OCLP is by far superior and one and only supported solution on this thread, no exception!

What is OpenCore?

OpenCore (OC) is software to enable some features and to provide necessary data before an unsupported or supported macOS boots. This way we can solve sleep/wake and black screen issues without modifying (aka patching) the original Apple macOS installation itself.

The most easy way to use OpenCore is by using the OCLP tool. Please just follow the online docs provided.

The Highlander rule applies here (There can be only one OpenCore installation in a single EFI partition on your iMac). Having installed OpenCore to several EFI partitions can break your installation seriously and with weird side effects. So take a note where you put this software and keep track of if!

AMD GPU users with a GOP vBIOS have no EFI Boot screen! So they cannot control the boot selection on boot! OpenCore offers a boot picker for those cases, but to use it OpenCore needs to be booted per default on power on. This setting is stored in the PRAM. So resetting the PRAM or changing the OpenCore config manually may delete this setting and you loose your boot picker which may leave your system unbootable.

How to keep the OpenCore boot screen alive?

Lately we discovered how to create a OpenCore Recovery CD. You can create such a CD in advance or using OLCP even on a different machine even after loosing a working internal OpenCore installation. Follow the guide from this thread (Maintainance->Creating a rescue CD). Follow the instructions to the letter. It needs manual editing of the OCLP generated config.plist file.

After a PRAM reset you can force booting the CD pressing the C button on power on. The only other method is maintaining a High Sierra partition which will be booted after PRAM reset automatically. But this causes problems with Big Sur and Monterey APFS partitions.

Owners of NVIDIA cards with an EFI Boot screen can install the EFI folder directly to the EFI partition of the internal disk (process described in the OCLP docs). Having an EFI Boot screen one can always boot without OpenCore just by pressing alt/option on boot and selecting a supported macOS version like High Sierra.

Why using OC or OCLP!

  1. Native and unpatched installation of Mojave, Catalina and Big Sur with OpenCore Legacy Patcher (OCLP)
  2. Brightness control with K610M, K1100M, K2100M, K1000M, K2000M, GTX765M, and GTX770M cards
  3. Emulated boot picker for all systems using AMD cards or NVIDIA cards having no EFI vBIOS!
  4. WINDOWS 10 UEFI installations on Mid 2011 sound patch
  5. AMD Video acceleration 4K HEVC and 4K H.264 for GCN4 cards
  6. OTA (over the air) Apple software upgrade on Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, and Mojave.
  7. AMD DRM (HW support) for Netflix (not in Safari), AppleTV, Amazon Prime etc. streaming (GCN4)
  8. solves black screen issue with all NVIDIA GPU (using agdpmod=vit9696 in boot-args)

Where to get it and how to use?

Download: OpenCore Legacy Patcher
Please do not change any of default values (like SIP) neither using the GUI or TUI version. You will only break the installation.

More in-depth information:

Catalina Loader (CL) is another software allowing OC to be installed and maintained more easily than on hidden EFI partitions

OpenCore can only boot UEFI installations. Legacy installations will not show up in the OC boot picker. Because we need OpenCore for most graphics cards UEFI installation is the best choice.
Follow this link to install Windows using the UEFI method or search the net for more ways to achieve this. You will need OpenCore to enable the sound on 2011 systems using this method! To avoid blue screen issues on the iMac12,x read this doc. In case you lost your Windows EFI boot entry accidentally after installing OCLP take a look at this post how to recover it.

Mid 2010 and Mid 2011 can have two SATA drives installed. Doing this will stop the UEFI Windows installer from copying the installation files from USB install media to the target disk. The only solution I found was disconnecting temporarily the second internal disk until the installation has been finished.

Users of UEFI Windows installation should check the contents of the internal EFI folder. You can both install OC and MICROSOFT sub folder in EFI. Using OCLP TUI choose 14. Advanced Patch Settings, for developers only , then 4. Set Generic Bootstrap and finally 2. EFI/BOOT/BOOTx64.efi . Then go back to the main menu and 1. Build OpenCore and 2. Install OpenCore to USB/internal drive .

Supported MacOS version can be installed using the original Apple installer. To avoid the black screen issue with NVIDIA cards install this package. To avoid APFS preboot corruption of other Big Sur or Monterey installation use HFS+ for High Sierra!!

Installing this last supported macOS version brings in the latest firmware. There will be unlikely ever new firmware versions since High Sierra went out of Apple support in Summer 2020.

Using an AMD GPU you need to install OpenCore using the latest OCLP. This way you can use all the superior functionality of the AMD GPU and avoid any possible problems like sleep/wake issues! Possibly one needs the agdpmod=vit9696 boot-args entry to enable the internal screen with AMD Polaris/Ellesmere cards on High Sierra using OCLP, this does not apply to GCN cards!

The recommended method for AMD GPU users is to have an OpenCore recovery CD prepared. This way you can force boot the CD pressing the C key on boot and get the OpenCore boot picker working in any case.

You have a single patcher option for all new macOS versions based on integration work of @Ausdauersportler into the tool provided by @khronokernel and @dhinakg! It can be used to install macOS Big Sur as well as Mojave and Catalina. After installing OpenCore your system will be qualified to run the stock installer programs provided by Apple.

  • OCLP (this package offers a recent OpenCore package and enables installation of most recent macOS versions)
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We recommend all new users to use OCLP. This is the future proof solution. First read the documentation linked on the download page.

The OCLP patcher TUI app will auto detect your system, BT, WiFi card and GPU. Carefully check in Build OpenCore step if everything has been detected properly. It generates a config specifically for your particular system and your GPU. You cannot use the config on other different iMacs! First install the new GPU, than install OCLP!
Having a Metal GPU makes your iMac Late 2009, Mid 2010, Mid 2011 fully compatible, again. All necessary WiFi, Ethernet, Sound, BT drivers will be injected using OCLP.

If you plan to use/install High Sierra or Mojave or Catalina using OCLP follow the manual approach described below.

If you plan to use/install High Sierra or Mojave or Catalina using OCLP enter the Patcher Settings and

  1. set SMBIOS Mode->moderate
  2. disable Securebootmodel by SBM->False
  3. disable SIP with setting SIP->False

This is currently unsupported by the OCLP dev team but it works like a charm. You can set everything according to your needs and even generate configs for different systems by bypassing the auto detection. Start with changing the model.

After Mojave/High Sierra installation you can fix the PreBoot/Recovery of both these macOS versions and reset SBM and SIP to true. This way you can use OCLP to boot into High Sierra, too. It enables the superior 4K HEVC and 4K H.264 as it contains the brightness control patches. No need to fix a Catalina installation!

Reboot, press alt/option and select the OpenCore on boot. Make it default by pressing CRTL.

Known Issues with Catalina:

  • OTA update with OpenCore will only work if your are using the VMM flags as needed for Catalina described here (needs config.plist editing!!)
  • OCLP 0.2.5 and later changed to shikigva=128, Catalina needs 80 to have working DRM. Go back to 0.2.4 or manually edit the config.plist when using later versions.

Known Issues with Big Sur 11.6+:

  • using Big Sur/Monterey and High Sierra on APFS on the same machine can corrupt the Big Sur/Monterey preboot volume and prevent it from booting properly. Take a look and this post for a solution. You will disable the mount of the Big Sur volumes when starting High Sierra. The best approach is using High Sierra on an HFS+ partition!
  • Using a AMD41x0 on Big Sur breaks screen recording (use a third party app). This happens even with supported systems. Fix is using this command defaults write com.apple.cmio CMIO_Unit_Input_ASC.DoNotUseOpenCL -bool true
  • Airplay to AppleTV is broken (needs BT/WiFi update, regardless which other hardware the best you can get is sound output, screen remains black)
  • Using new AirPods and HomePods needs BT/WiFi update

Known Issues with Monterey 12.5+:

  • Kepler support has been broken in Monterey 12.5
    solution: use OCLP 0.4.10 and later
  • on Monterey all old BT devices stopped working!
    solution: hardware upgrade with BCM94360CD or similar (HandOff, Continuity)
    solution: use latest OCLP 0.4.5+ with BT fixes
  • on Monterey all old WiFi devices stopped working!
    solution: hardware upgrade with BCM94360CD or similar (HandOff, Continuity)
    solution: use latest OCLP 0.4.5+ and apply WiFi post install patches
  • on Monterey even supported BT and WiFi devices work unstable
  • UC works on iMac12,x only and needs BT/WiFi upgrade and AMD GCN 4 dGPU
  • AirPlay to Mac needs BT/WiFi update and works on iMac12,x with AMD GCN 4 dGPU, only (AFIAK)
  • Using new AirPods and HomePods needs BT/WiFi update
  • 12.4 needs OCLP 0.4.6 (development build) to support original BT hardware

Known issues OCLP:

  • use the GUI only with OCLP 0.4.0 and later, otherwise use the TUI

Notes:

  1. Do not update a @dosdude1 patched installation of Mojave or Catalina, please backup user data, make a clean installation, restore user data.
  2. The stock Atheros WiFi and old BT works with both options, too. No HandOff and no Continuity, of course.
  3. AMD based systems offer 4K H.264 and 4K HEVC with Big Sur, again. DRM is working again and so Apple TV will show movies online, Netflix (currently not in Safari), Amazon Prime and others should work, too.
  4. Nvidia based systems cannot get iGPU based H.264 QuickSync acceleration back on Big Sur and later! So no Airplay using NVIDIA dGPU on iMac12,x systems.
  5. OCLP can be used without any patching and if offers SIP, File Vault and most importantly OTA upgrades. No other tool can offer this!
  6. AirPlay will work with every listed AMD dGPU and Mojave and Catalina using the original Atheros WiFI card. Big Sur needs a BT/WiFi and AMD GCN 4.0 dGPU upgrade, but AirPlay remains broken. No tests made with NVIDIA dGPU.

This is a legacy patching instruction. We strongly recommend to use OCLP to install any macOS Mojave and later. This section is only important for users of Mid 2011 systems with an NVIDIA card needing Intel QuickSync (H.264 encoding) to work.

AMD users will use the AMD GPU superior H.264 encoding and do not need Intel QuickSync. So an AMD user will never need to install using this method and have to use OCLP!

The recommended method is to have High Sierra as your primary OS and install Mojave/Catalina alongside on a separate partitions or APFS container partition. So if anything goes wrong, you can still boot back into High Sierra to fix issues. High Sierra offers a working recovery partition, too.

This is a two step installation. First you will use the @dosdude1 patcher and later install a package needed to address the hardware changes you made by changing the GPU.

1. You could preinstall Mojave before changing your GPU. Use dosdude1’s Mojave patcher to do the install.

Important: While running the Post Install tool, make sure you deselect the Legacy Video Card patch option (since you will using a new, compatible metal graphics card) .

2. GPU and machine related patches: (see next section common macOS problems)
Mid 2011: Install this package to avoid sleep problems, black screen etc. or follow this post.

Important: Post-install patching has changed since Mojave.
Patching is automated if your SMBIOS is detected to be an unsupported machine. Currently, only the 2011 iMacs have the «Legacy Video Card Patch» disabled by default. iMac11,x user should use OCLP to install Mojave or Catalina in any case!

Important: While running the Post Install tool, make sure you deselect the Legacy Video Card patch option (since you will using a new, compatible metal graphics card) .

1a. The process for Catalina is similar to Mojave as mentioned above. Use dosdude1’s Catalina patcher to do the installation.

1b. Getting the latest Catalina installer is broken with the latest @dosdude1 patcher. You need the gibMacOS utility to download the latest version and construct it from the several download files. Follow the instructions coming with the tool. Then in can be installed using the latest @dosdude1 patcher. This method works for all recent macOS versions!

2. GPU and machine related patches:
Mid 2011: Install this package to avoid sleep problems, black screen etc. or follow this post.

See next section to manually fix this issue if you have accidentally installed this patch. Best option is reinstalling Catalina from the scratch!!

Status 05/07/2021:

  • DRM is known to work and you can watch Apple TV and Netflix on your iMac with AMD GPU, only.
  • use gibMacOS (download code on green button and read the online docs) or the latest @dosdude1 patcher to download the latest and last full Catalina installer (19H05). A complete installation recipe has been published here.
  • (using NVIDIA GPU) the Intel H.264 iGPU acceleration is still working on the 2011 models
  • (having a 2011 system) installing @dosdude1 and later sleep patches found on post #1
  • security upgrades using the @jacklukeOTAfix trick (latest Beta security upgrade is 19H505)

After every MacOS update only when using a @dosdude1 patcher you will have to do the patching explained here to avoid common problems, again. Installing kernel extensions to the system is not an easy task. A complete installation guide to do this has been published (see link below with Q2). You can do this using the provided installer packages, using some tools or using the terminal and command line.

Q1: I get a black or blank screen on boot, how to fix?

A: Sierra and later has been causing «black screen» issues for many folks. This is caused by a lack of kext initialization due to a lacking board-id in the AppleGraphicsControl.kext (short AGC). A patched AGC kext and a further explanation can be found HERE, thanks to @highvoltage12v. Please look and the next question and link to get the installation guide, needed. Using some Nvidia cards in late 2009 iMac causes extra pain. The internal LCD will come up only after installing the patched AGC and booting into the newly patched MacOS. The BIOS versions will need a fix to come around this additional problem.

Q2: Sleep is broken and QuickSync is not working on my iMac 2011 in Mojave and Catalina, how do I fix this?

A: Solution for Mojave and Catalina, the SandyBridge kexts are missing. Installing them fixes sleep, but causes extended boot times. @highvoltage12v has provided the needed patches containing the SandyBridge kexts in THIS POST which can be installed. You can also simply install this Catalina package or this Mojave package.

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