Lion Upgrade Woes On A 2008 Mac Pro


The one thing that has really struck me over the past three and a half years is just how solid and reliable my early 2008 Mac Pro has been. It came installed with Leopard and when Snow Leopard came out I did a clean install of Snow Leopard without any problems. I’ve upgraded the RAM from the 2Gb it came with the 12Gb. I have upgraded the single 500Gb internal disk to two WD Caviar Black 1Tb drives and two WD Caviar Green 2Tb drives, as well as adding an NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 graphics card alongside the original NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT card. There’s also a three port PCIe USB card for good measure. Outside the box there’s a Lacie Quadra 2Tb firewire 800 drive, with a Voyager Q daisy-chained off that. USB-wise there’s a Logitech MX Revolution mouse, a Logitech diNovo Keyboard Mac Edition, a Logitech USB webcam, various iPad & iPhone docks, a Canon ip4000 printer, Fujitsu Scan Snap 300 and bringing up the rear some Logitech THX Z2300 speakers and a Magic Trackpad.

Mac Pro

2008 Mac Pro

Not bad for three and a half years of gradually enhancing my system. Snow Leopard has never flinched at all these extras, and when I fire up VMware Fusion and run three virtual Windows XP machines simultaneously, it still never skips a beat! In fact everything has been really impressive, until that is… I decided to install Lion.

Now rather than wipe out my Snow Leopard setup, I decided to install it on to a new partition so I have the choice to boot into either, thus a clean install of Lion was added to it’s own 500Gb partition. The Startup Disk feature works really well, I can boot into either Snow Leopard or Lion depending on what I want to do and the plan is (or rather was) to slowly migrate all my work across to Lion and eventually dump Snow Leopard.

First of all the pluses… Obviously booting into Lion the machine is a lot snappier presumably as there’s not two years worth of junk cluttering stuff up. Also there’s a few new features in Lion that I like although I have to say there’s nothing I couldn’t live without. However, the interwebs have been full of everyone explaining every new feature of Lion in painful detail so I won’t bother you with that here. Instead I’ll let you know what the downside has been… KERNEL PANICS.

Now I’ve heard of kernel panics, but as a Mac user I have thankfully been spared of this most troublesome problem. Now to be fair I still haven’t seen one first hand but that’s because my Mac Pro seems to panic at night. If I leave it running Lion when I go to bed, then in the morning I’ll see a message telling me that the computer has restarted because of a problem and I’m prompted to send the dump to Apple (which I do in the forlorn hope they’ll fix it). Ok there is a way around this – shut down the Mac before I go to bed, or just put it to sleep. However, choosing ‘Sleep’ from the Apple menu just causes the Mac to immediately crash and restart, so it looks like I’ll have to shut down every evening until they fix this (if they ever do). It is of course entirely possible that one of my many peripherals is causing the panic/sleep problem but I’ll have to try and figure that out by a process of elimination.

So what other problems are there?

  • Running Skitch 1.0.6 causes the mouse pointer to disappear. Perhaps a conflict between the Logitech Control Centre 3.4.0 software and Skitch and Lion somewhere?
  • When the screensaver kicks in, neither my Logitech mouse nor keyboard will prompt the Mac to  resume, I have to use the Magic Trackpad. Again a possible issue with the Logitech keyboard/mouse drivers.
  • My iPad 3G will no longer charge although it will sync. Strange thing is if I reboot into Snow Leopard then it will happily sync/charge using the same cable/USB port. Go back to Lion and it will only sync. Interestingly my iPhone 4 syncs/charges no problem using the same cable/port. I know the iPad has higher power requirements, too high in fact for some USB ports, but I’m using one of the Mac Pro’s built-in USB ports and it works fine under Snow Leopard so this must be a Lion issue.

Well that’s about it for now. I could live with the problems I guess and to be fair the panics/crashes don’t happen when I’m using Lion during the day (unless I try to manually put the Mac Pro to sleep). It does mean though that the Lion experience, and that the “it just works” mantra are a tiny bit tarnished at the moment. Maybe my only solution is to go and buy a new Mac?

If only I had the money…

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12 Responses

  1. Hi, I’m another one who still use 2008 MacPro 2.8GHz with similar (but different) upgrades. Thank you for your report—it’s good to know that Lion hasn’t been all ironed out with older hardware. This machine is still plenty fast so I sometimes forget how old the machine is. Maybe I’ll wait until 10.7.3 comes out before I switch – it seems that some of my softwares still have compatibility issues anyway.

  2. I’m finding Lion quite glitchy on the redraw with my 8800 gt MP 2.8. I am considering getting a new disk and installing from scratch. I’m also finding that after a while some system process is gobbling ram up. I’ve only 4gb but still – this wasn’t a problem in Snow Leopard.

  3. My early 2011 MBP upgraded to Lion loses the cursor in Skitch when trying to do a crosshair snap. Thought it might have to do with Better Touch Tool. Haven’t seen other problems with the upgrade to Lion.

  4. same problems here. After struggling to install it in the first place, I eventually got it to install on a stand alone disk then reconnected my RAID. I had the same problem with sleep mode and not waking. And crashing during Chrome browsing. I had the same problem with iPad recharging but also all my Office apps needed to have their license keys reapplied as well as iTune reauthorise the PC.

    It works flawlessly on my MBP and MBA and am very happy with it.

    Have gone back to SL for now on the MP.

  5. I downloaded Lion from the app store. I have a mid 2008 Pro Mac version 10.6.8 When I tried to install Lion it asked me to format my start up drive first ! I installed it on a spare 320gb drive until I had a better chance to weigh up my options. When my computer restarted it booted on the 320gb containing Lion, all of my content was missing iphoto, itunes, pages, keynotes, addressbook, email, etc. I tried to change the start up drive to my 750gb. It looked for an administrator username & password, as I never set up any of these I was locked out, only log in privileges available. After 2 days of playing around I took it to a mac repair workshop, They un installed Lion. I am now back with Snow Leopard again and happy. Relieved all my computer content is recovered. A big scare to have had.

    • I’ve had the same model through Snow Leopard and Lion and Mountain Lion. Mine started spontaneous reboot from sleep after applying the 10.8.1 update. The only way to stop it has so far been to tell it to never sleep. Hardly a fix but at least a short term solution.

  6. Sorry for your problems with your Mac Pro. I have an early 2008 Mac Pro (2 x 2.8 Quad Core + 8 Go RAM) and I had not a single Kernel Panic with Lion. And from what I know, neither do you.

    Kernel Panics freeze your computer in a way that it can’t be turned off or rebooted without manually pressing and holding the power button. So if your computer crash and reboot when you try to put it to sleep, it is not a Kernel Panic. You could try to boot in safe mode (after you hear the startup chime, press and hold the Shift key on your keyboard) and try to put it to sleep to see what happens. If, as you believe (and I am pretty sure you’re right), the culprit is one of your peripherals or one of your software that is loaded at startup, it should not crash. But if it does, I would check to repair the permission on my disk first.

    Also, since you have 12 Go of RAM, I would be curious to know what is the Memory Page Out on your system after a day of work. I used to get about 300-500 Mo in SL with my 8 Go of Ram. But now with Lion, it goes up to 8-9 Go.

    Thanks and good luck!

  7. Having issues myself. Everything seemed to be fine then I plugged my iPad in to sync for the first time and it aborted mid-sync and iTunes locked up. Then it wouldn’t recognize the iPad at all, then I tried to restore the iPad, it won’t restore.

    So I figure I’ll hook my iPhone up to it that has been syncing fine – now my iPhone won’t sync right! Seem to be having USB problems as I took the iPad to another Mac in the house and it was about to restore the iPad with no problem.

    I’m thinking about ordering a PCIe USB card and see if that will help any.

  8. I also have a 2008 Mac Pro with 24GB and am having daily (mostly nightly) kernel panics. I know they are panics because i must hold down the power button for the computer to restart. Otherwise, I’m staring at a black screen. When it restarts, it tells me there was a panic.

    Robin, just like you, I’ve basically had panic-free performance since I got the Mac Pro. A call to Apple support generated an explanation — “you’re problem is hardware, not Lion. You see, when you install a new OS, it uses parts of the computer had haven’t been used before (and thus were not able to cause a previous panic).” Not sure I’m buying that excuse, especially with the problems so many others are having.

  9. I see comments stopped in late August, but did the problem get solved?

  10. I too am curious to see if this was fixed.

  11. I recently purchased a “new” Mid 2011 iMac that came with Lion pre-installed.
    I had all of the same problems, and then after a several days, it began to give kernel panics.
    I returned the machine for a refund.
    I’m writing this on my good old 2005 G5 dual 1.8 with 10.5.8.
    It’s never missed a single heartbeat in all these years. Too bad the rest of the world has abandoned PPC along with Apple, but that’s progress.

    I was actually thinking about purchasing a used early 2008 Mac Pro and running SL, but sooner or later, probably sooner, it too will be sent off to unsupported land. 😦

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