Wireless everything? Not quite. Apple’s 2011 iMac marketing material may need to be adjusted a bit.
When I received my refurbished 27-inch 2011 iMac two months ago, I couldn’t connect it to my Wi-Fi network. The typical Wi-Fi logo wasn’t in the top right corner of the screen. Even worse, there was absolutely no way to enable the connection from System Preferences.
The usual suspect
Typically, you can go to the Apple Logo, click System Preferences, then Network and then add the missing interface. But in the case of these refurbished iMacs, the Wi-Fi interface doesn’t exist. It’s not in the list…
What’s causing the problem?
I believe it has something to do with incompatibilities between the 2011 iMac and base version of Lion. Apple is still shipping Mac OS 10.7 Lion on these machines even though Apple released 10.7.1 nearly two months ago. Did they even check compatibility before they started imaging these machines?
It appears that the 2011 iMac isn’t compatible with the default Lion Wi-Fi drivers… so it doesn’t even recognize the card. If you purchased a 2011 iMac that shipped with Snow Leopard you should be fine. I’ve verified that upgrading from 10.6.8 to 10.7 retains proper Wi-Fi functionality. None of the refurbished iMacs start on 10.6.8. They start with a fresh copy of 10.7. Therein lies the problem.
Is this an isolated incident?
I was hoping this was just my iMac and that Apple would take better care of other customers. I was wrong. I suggested that local a church buy one of these refurbished iMacs to save nearly $500 on the sticker price. They did. They also found the same issue I had with the Wi-Fi connection… two months later.
None of these refurbished 27-inch iMacs can connect to a Wi-Fi connection out of the box. You must have a local ethernet connection to get online. It seems kind of counter-productive to ship a Wi-Fi-capable machine without a properly functioning Wi-Fi connection, right?
Not everyone is going to know what to do when they can’t get online. I suggested updating to 10.7.1 via ethernet and that seemed to get everything working, at least in their case. 10.7.1 didn’t exist in my case, so I had to find a workaround.
What did I do?
I created a 10.6.8 boot image and cloned it to the 2011 iMac. These iMacs can still run Snow Leopard because they originally shipped with it. Not all new Macs can run the older operating systems due to firmware incompatibilities… but the 2011 iMac is still capable of it. If you’re looking for a Snow Leopard machine but want the power of the new iMac, give this same strategy a shot.
You cannot install Snow Leopard on these iMacs. The most recent retail Snow Leopard installation is 10.6.3, which isn’t compatible with the 2011 iMac. I installed Snow Leopard on another computer to an external hard drive. Updated it to 10.6.8 and then used Disk Utility to clone it over to the 2011 iMac. When all was said and done, I had 10.6.8 on my 2011 iMac and working Wi-Fi drivers.
After living on Snow Leopard for a couple more months, I ended up biting the bullet and upgrading it to Lion. After the upgrade, the Wi-Fi still worked. I’m still unsure if it works because I upgraded from Snow Leopard… or if Apple really fixed the compatibility issue with the release of 10.7.1. It appears that it’s doing the trick either way.
While you figure out what’s best for you, call Apple and let them know you’re not happy.