So, you’ve decided to download an older version of Mac OS X. There are many reasons that could point you to this radical decision. To begin with, some of your apps may not be working properly (or simply crash) on newer operating systems. Also, you may have noticed your Mac’s performance went down right after the last update. Finally, if you want to run a parallel copy of Mac OS X on a virtual machine, you too will need a working installation file of an older Mac OS X. Further down we’ll explain where to get one and what problems you may face down the road.
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A list of all Mac OS X versions
We’ll be repeatedly referring to these Apple OS versions below, so it’s good to know the basic macOS timeline.
|Cheetah 10.0||Puma 10.1||Jaguar 10.2|
|Panther 10.3||Tiger 10.4||Leopard 10.5|
|Snow Leopard 10.6||Lion 10.7||Mountain Lion 10.8|
|Mavericks 10.9||Yosemite 10.10||El Capitan 10.11|
|Sierra 10.12||High Sierra 10.13||Mojave 10.14|
STEP 1. Prepare your Mac for installation
Given your Mac isn’t new and is filled with data, you will probably need enough free space on your Mac. This includes not just space for the OS itself but also space for other applications and your user data. One more argument is that the free space on your disk translates into virtual memory so your apps have “fuel” to operate on. The chart below tells you how much free space is needed.
Note, that it is recommended that you install OS on a clean drive. Next, you will need enough disk space available, for example, to create Recovery Partition. Here are some ideas to free up space on your drive:
- Uninstall large unused apps
- Empty Trash Bin and Downloads
- Locate the biggest files on your computer:
Go to Finder > All My Files > Arrange by size
Then you can move your space hoggers onto an external drive or a cloud storage.
If you aren’t comfortable with cleaning the Mac manually, there are some nice automatic “room cleaners”. Our favorite is CleanMyMac as it’s most simple to use of all. It deletes system junk, old broken apps, and the rest of hidden junk on your drive.
Download CleanMyMac for OS 10.4 - 10.8 (free version)
Download CleanMyMac for OS 10.9 (free version)
Download CleanMyMac for OS 10.10 - 10.14 (free version)
STEP 2. Get a copy of Mac OS X download
Apple Macos Mojave Update
Normally, it is assumed that updating OS is a one-way road. That’s why going back to a past Apple OS version is problematic. The main challenge is to download the OS installation file itself, because your Mac may already be running a newer version. If you succeed in downloading the OS installation, your next step is to create a bootable USB or DVD and then reinstall the OS on your computer.
How to download older Mac OS X versions via the App Store
If you once had purchased an old version of Mac OS X from the App Store, open it and go to the Purchased tab. There you’ll find all the installers you can download. However, it doesn’t always work that way. The purchased section lists only those operating systems that you had downloaded in the past. But here is the path to check it:
- Click the App Store icon.
- Click Purchases in the top menu.
- Scroll down to find the preferred OS X version.
- Click Download.
This method allows you to download Mavericks and Yosemite by logging with your Apple ID — only if you previously downloaded them from the Mac App Store.
Without App Store: Download Mac OS version as Apple Developer
If you are signed with an Apple Developer account, you can get access to products that are no longer listed on the App Store. If you desperately need a lower OS X version build, consider creating a new Developer account among other options. The membership cost is $99/year and provides a bunch of perks unavailable to ordinary users.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that if you visit developer.apple.com/downloads, you can only find 10.3-10.6 OS X operating systems there. Newer versions are not available because starting Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.7, the App Store has become the only source of updating Apple OS versions.
Purchase an older version of Mac operating system
You can purchase a boxed or email version of past Mac OS X directly from Apple. Both will cost you around $20. For the reason of being rather antiquated, Snow Leopard and earlier Apple versions can only be installed from DVD.
Buy a boxed edition of Snow Leopard 10.6
Get an email copy of Lion 10.7
Get an email copy of Mountain Lion 10.8
The email edition comes with a special download code you can use for the Mac App Store. Note, that to install the Lion or Mountain Lion, your Mac needs to be running Snow Leopard so you can install the newer OS on top of it.
How to get macOS El Capitan download
If you are wondering if you can run El Capitan on an older Mac, rejoice as it’s possible too. But before your Mac can run El Capitan it has to be updated to OS X 10.6.8. So, here are main steps you should take:
1. Install Snow Leopard from install DVD.
2. Update to 10.6.8 using Software Update.
3. Download El Capitan here.
“I can’t download an old version of Mac OS X”
If you have a newer Mac, there is no physical option to install Mac OS versions older than your current Mac model. For instance, if your MacBook was released in 2014, don’t expect it to run any OS released prior of that time, because older Apple OS versions simply do not include hardware drivers for your Mac.
But as it often happens, workarounds are possible. There is still a chance to download the installation file if you have an access to a Mac (or virtual machine) running that operating system. For example, to get an installer for Lion, you may ask a friend who has Lion-operated Mac or, once again, set up a virtual machine running Lion. Then you will need to prepare an external drive to download the installation file using OS X Utilities.
After you’ve completed the download, the installer should launch automatically, but you can click Cancel and copy the file you need. Below is the detailed instruction how to do it.
STEP 3. Install older OS X onto an external drive
The following method allows you to download Mac OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks.
- Start your Mac holding down Command + R.
- Prepare a clean external drive (at least 10 GB of storage).
- Within OS X Utilities, choose Reinstall OS X.
- Select external drive as a source.
- Enter your Apple ID.
Now the OS should start downloading automatically onto the external drive. After the download is complete, your Mac will prompt you to do a restart, but at this point, you should completely shut it down. Now that the installation file is “captured” onto your external drive, you can reinstall the OS, this time running the file on your Mac.
- Boot your Mac from your standard drive.
- Connect the external drive.
- Go to external drive > OS X Install Data.
Locate InstallESD.dmg disk image file — this is the file you need to reinstall Lion OS X. The same steps are valid for Mountain Lion and Mavericks.
How to downgrade a Mac running later macOS versions
If your Mac runs macOS Sierra 10.12 or macOS High Sierra 10.13, it is possible to revert it to the previous system if you are not satisfied with the experience. You can do it either with Time Machine or by creating a bootable USB or external drive.
Instruction to downgrade from macOS Sierra
Instruction to downgrade from macOS High Sierra
Instruction to downgrade from macOS Mojave
Instruction to downgrade from macOS Catalina
Before you do it, the best advice is to back your Mac up so your most important files stay intact. In addition to that, it makes sense to clean up your Mac from old system junk files and application leftovers. The easiest way to do it is to run CleanMyMac X on your machine (download it for free here).
Ios Update For Mac Os 10.13
Visit your local Apple Store to download older OS X version
How To Update Mac Os
If none of the options to get older OS X worked, pay a visit to nearest local Apple Store. They should have image installations going back to OS Leopard and earlier. You can also ask their assistance to create a bootable USB drive with the installation file. So here you are. We hope this article has helped you to download an old version of Mac OS X. Below are a few more links you may find interesting.
These might also interest you:
This article explains how you can fix the software update problem. More specifically, the focus of this article is on what you can do to when your Mac won’t update to the latest version of macOS.
Some Mac users, unfortunately, have been and continue to be affected by various macOS software update issues where they may experience a stalled macOS update. By stalled, we mean that macOS updates won’t download and install successfully.
Sometimes, you may see an error message saying “The macOS installation couldn’t be completed” or “macOS could not be installed on your computer”.
Mac Won’t Update?
Please try the tips belove if you are unable to update your computer:
It is important that you back up your Mac before you do anything.
There could be a variety of reasons for this. Before you do anything:
- Make sure there is enough space to download and install an update. If not, you may see error messages. To see if your computer has enough room to store the update, go to the Apple menu > About This Mac and click the Storage tap. You can easily free up storage space on your Mac.
- If you see a “Update Not Found” error, see this article.
- Make sure that you have an Internet connection to update your Mac. You can troubleshoot your connection.
- Be patient. An update may take some time. Just waiting may fix your problem. Sometimes more than a few hours. Do not put your Mac to sleep or closing its lid. Also ensure than your Macbook, if it is a Macbook, it is plugged it into AC power.
- If the update does not complete, your computer may seem stuck or frozen, for an extended time, try to restart your computer by pressing and holding the power button on your Mac for up to 10 seconds.
- If you have any external hard drives or peripherals connected to your Mac, try removing them. And try to update now.
- Reset PRAM on your Mac and then try again. To reset PRAM, turn off your Mac and then turn it on and immediately press and hold the Option, Command, P, and R keys together for about 20 seconds.
- It is possible that your Mac may unable to reach the update server. There could be two reasons for this:
- You may have a slow internet connection. You may want to restart your router and modem to fix this problem. If you are using a Wi-Fi connection, try a wired connection, if possible.
- Or there could be issues with Apple servers. It is possible that Apple servers are overloaded as a lot of people may be trying to update. You can check if Apple servers are experiencing issues.
If you are still having issues, then you may try the followings:
Try updating your Mac in safe mode. Here is how:
- Startup your Mac in safe mode. To do that, turn off your Mac and then turn on your Mac and immediately press and hold the Shift key until you see the login screen. Then release the Shift key. And login.
- Now your computer is in safe mode. Try to update now.
- Then exit safe mode when you are done (in either case). To exit safe mode, restart your Mac normally, without pressing the Shift key.
You can use a combo update to install Mac updates. Please note that before you continue, you may want to back up your Mac. You can back up with Time Machine or you can use iCloud.
Please note that combo updates let you update your Mac from a prior version of macOS within the same major release. A combo update is a combined update that means that it contains all of the changes since the original release of that major version. This further means that, using a combo update, you can update from macOS 10.15 directly to Mac OS X 10.15.2, skipping the 10.15.1. But you cannot go from, let’s say, 10.14.x to 10.15.x. For example, using a combo update, you cannot upgrade from macOS Mojave to macOS Catalina.
Please note that combo updates are huge. Here is how you can use them:
- Visit Apple’s combo updates site: https://support.apple.com/downloads/macos
- Find the right combo update. And download it. As stated above, they can be huge. The combo will download as a .dmg file.
- Now quit all apps on your Mac.
- Double-click the downloaded file, if it does not start automatically.
- Follow the onscreen instructions.
Using macOS Recovery to update your Mac
If you still could not update, you may try this. To do this, you need to restart your Mac from macOS Recovery. Using the method below, you will be able to upgrade to the latest macOS that is compatible with your Mac. Here is how:
- Turn off your Mac.
- Turn on your Mac and immediately press and hold the Option-⌘-R keys together until you see the Apple logo or the spinning globe icon.
- Click Reinstall macOS and follow the onscreen instructions.
See also: How to fix Catalina update problems