GeForce 8800 GT and Leopard

October 5th, 2008 — Wordman

Upgrading the primary hard drive in my Mac Pro exposed an annoying hurdle that might not be very obvious: if you have upgraded your video card to an NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT, you might not be able to boot from your Leopard Install DVD any more.

I ran across this because, after installing my new drive, I decided to try a “full restore” from Time Machine. In theory, this would result in a clone of my old primary drive, just on a new, larger disk. It appears, however, the only way to use this feature is to boot from the Leopard Install DVD, and then select “Restore System from Backup” from the “Utilities” menu. The problem I had was that when booting from the DVD, I kept getting the dreaded grey screen telling me that “You must reboot your Mac” in several languages.

The DVD booted other machines just fine. The Pro booted from other sources just fine, at which point a dialog telling me that my machine crashed and would I like to submit a report to Apple? It didn’t even occur to me that the video card might be the culprit until I read the crash log attached to this report and noticed the stack contained a bunch of video initialization calls. From there it occurred to me that the GeForce 8800 GT to which I upgraded several months ago didn’t even exist when the install DVD I was using was created, so the DVD probably lacked the correct drivers.

Fortunately, I still had my old video card, so I swapped it in and the rest went as planned.

Looking on the net, I discovered that some others had my problem, but that there is a newer version of the install DVD (10.5.2) which does not have this problem. Most people reported that attempts to get the Apple store to exchange a 15.0 DVD for a 10.5.2 DVD failed, but since this seemed so stupid, I decided to try it anyway. I didn’t have much trouble (though I may have been helped by a) having once been a paying Apple developer and/or b) the long list of hardware I’ve purchased from the Apple store, including the Pro and the video card) and supposedly I will be getting mailed this newer DVD soon.

Sadly, even with all this, this was still probably my easiest primary drive upgrade ever.

Update: My (sparsely labelled) 10.5.2 DVD arrived.