During WWDC 2014 Keynote, Apple first unveiled OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 beta versions.
OS X has undergone a deep restyling, sporting a new UI inspired by the translucencies first seen on iOS 7.
iOS 8 gained a new set of Touch ID APIs and new Extensions that will enable easier inter-app communication.
Both systems are going towards a stronger platform integration, following a clear path Apple already set years ago, thanks to a feature group aptly named Continuity. AirDrop will finally let user exchange data between iOS and OS X devices, while with Handoff users will be able to seamlessly switch their current activity between the iPhone/iPad and a Mac.
Unfortunately, these new features will be available only on newer Macs. More precisely, only on those Macs that already support Bluetooth 4.0 LE.
There’s still some hope, though, even for those users stuck with Yosemite-compatible Macs that won’t support the Continuity features out of the box.
With this guide we will show you how we successfully enabled Continuity (Handoff, AirDrop etc…) on a mid–2007 iMac.
Netkas.org has already shown that it’s possible to enable Continuity on an older Mac Pro (2008) thanks to a Wi-Fi card borrowed from a newer MacBook Pro and a mini-PCIe slot adapter. Although our approach is different and needs a bit more tinkering, the final result is the same.
What we want to achieve
We still haven’t found a thorough guide on enabling Handoff on older Macs. Some documentation can be found in forums for Mac-modding enthusiasts, but it’s hardly useful and often misleading.
We would like to simplify the process and make clear that Handoff and the Continuity feature set can be enabled on older Macs, like our trusted mid–2007 20″ iMac.
What you’ll need
- Suction Cups (⌀10 cm min.)
- Torx T5 screwdriver
- Torx T6 screwdriver
- Torx T8 screwdriver
- Spudger (optional, but recommended)
- Tin foil (to protect the iMac front glass panel once removed)
- Broadcom BCM94360CD Wi-Fi card (that’s the Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 LE compatible card that can be found on the latest iMacs)
- mini-PCIe adapter for the BCM94360CD card (available as a kit from OSXWiFi.com)
- 2 U.FL antennas (you can scrape those from some old laptop)
- USB D+ and D- connector (some iMac models may require it – available on the Wi-Fi card kit sold by OSXWiFi.com)
We won’t cover the disassembly procedure, since we just followed the instructions from this iFixit tutorial to replace AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth A1115 cards. Once the two modules were removed, we proceeded as follows:
- We put the Broadcom BCM94360CD card inside the adapter.
- We positioned the adapter inside the iMac’s mini-PCIe slot, where the older Airport Extreme used to be.
- We connected the cables from the older Wi-Fi antennas to the new card, then we connected the two U.FL cables (one for the third Wi-Fi antenna, missing from the old iMac, one for the Bluetooth antenna, because the cable from the older one was too short). Important: the two antennas should be located where the Apple Logo on the front-cover will be, in order to ensure better reception.
- With a bit too much zeal on our side, we proceeded to tape some components on the Logic Board, to make sure there won’t be dangerous contacts due to the new dangling cables.
Our mid–2007 iMac didn’t need to the D+ an D- USB power cables. Some older Macs will do, though, and you’ll be better off asking to the OSXWiFi team about your specific model.
In case your Mac will need USB data lines/wires for Bluetooth 4.0 to properly work, here’s what to do:
- Connect the plug you have on your kit to the D+ and D- pins that can be found on the BCM94360CD card adapter.
- Pass the cable through the RAM cover-grid on the bottom of the iMac so you can plug it in one of the USB port on the back.
Alternative to point #2, only for expert tinkerers: create a custom USB connector and use one of internal USB connections. Be careful: we won’t be guiding you there.
When you are done, get your iMac back in one piece following the iFixit guide in reverse order. Turn on your computer and open the System Preferences. If everything’s fine, you should be able to see a new checkbox inside the General tab: “Allow Handoff between this Mac and your iCloud devices”. Mission Complete.
Tales of experience
Before our wrap-up, we want to share some advice on the perils of our non-linear path to enabling Continuity on older Macs.
- Don’t buy any USB Bluetooth 4.0 dongles, unless you need them for other reasons: they won’t enable Handoff, no matter what. It’s a pretty beaten topic, we know, but repetita iuvant.
- Don’t buy any M.2 (NGFF) mini-PCIe full size to half mini-PCIe adapters. We bought one, thanks to a comment on the netkas.org’s post we mentioned before, and we’re sorry we did: Apple implements proprietary connectors.
- Be aware of the available space inside your iMac! Do your research on the topic (especially if you’re going to perform the upgrade inside a newer post–2007 iMac) before buying the card and the adapter kit.
If you’re a tinkerer beyond redemption (like we are), here’s a couple of pinouts that you’ll find useful in case you want to try and make your own home-baked adapter.
BCM94360CD card pinout, found inside a thread at tonymacx86.com forums (kudos to Skvo). Useful to build a mini-PCIe slot adapter.
Bluetooth A1115 module pinout, created by Tommaso Masini. Useful if you want to build your own data connector for the iMac’s internal USB hub (pin D+ and D-).
We hope you’ve found this guide as useful as it would have been for us when we started our research.
As you can see, bringing Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 support on an older Mac, therefore enabling Yosemite’s Continuity features, is totally possible and not even that difficult, if you know how to use a screwdriver.
It shouldn’t be needed but here’s a final disclaimer: if you follow this guide, you do so at your own risk. We’re not even remotely responsible for any damage you may cause to your Mac. Be careful.
It should be noted that OS X Yosemite is still in beta. That means that some details of this guide may become outdated once the final version will be sealed and shipped.
Last but not least: special thanks to Tommaso Masini, a longtime friend of mine who actually made this guide possibile and was responsible for the technical sections in this article.
This guide has been translated into English by Andrea “Camillo Miller” Nepori.
TheAppleLounge and its authors are not affiliated to any of the resellers mentioned in this article.