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Is it possible to downgrade a Mac App Store app? One of my apps has an update showing today, and I want to know if it's a one-way street.

For example, if I make a copy of the app before upgrading, and then do the App Store upgrade, and then delete the upgrade and move the original back, will I be back where I was before the upgrade? (Or does it keep track of versions elsewhere, so things would get screwed up if I tried this?)

Or is there an easier way? Are downgrades a native feature of the App Store, so I don't have to do anything special myself?

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Something to be careful of: The Mac App Store doesn't just check your Applications folder when looking for apps. It searches for apps everywhere on your mac, even on other hard drives. So unless you're using a backup system such as Time Machine, you will want to make a zip or something of the old version of the app, to make sure the App Store doesn't upgrade the backup copy you've made instead of upgrading the one in the Applications folder –  Abhi Beckert Jul 24 '12 at 4:07
    
Thanks for the Time Machine idea. Fortunately I could dig out an older version of SpriteBuilder through TimeMachine. Happiness. –  Jonny Nov 12 at 2:55

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Typically, the method that you described will work. However, in some (rare) cases, the app will change the way it stores settings and other information, and that would cause the old version to misbehave until you delete the app's settings (usually found in the Library folder) and start anew.

But, as far as the App Store goes, your method is pretty much the only way to go, and the App Store shouldn't complain if you reinstall the old version.

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This can only be answered properly if you ask about a specific app. However, for the vast majority of apps there are three things you need to be aware of:

the app bundle

Inside the Applications folder (or wherever you've moved it to), you will find the app. If you have a backup (eg: with Time Machine) of an older version, simply restore the old version.

Technically, this is the only thing you need to do. But it won't always go smooth, so continue reading.

the settings

Almost all apps will write to a file ~/Library/Preferences/com.developer.AppName.plist and some will write to other locations inside ~/Library (a common one is Application Support).

Depending on what the developer has done, these files may or may not need to be reverted to a backup that you made before upgrading the app (again, Time Machine is probably the best way to revert these files).

Most of the time, it should be fine. Personally I would try using the old version without reverting these files, and if you do run into problems - then revert them.

(note: the paths have changed a bit for apps that use the new sandboxing model... perhaps someone can edit my answer to describe how)

your documents

Any document you've edited in a newer version of the app, might not be fully compatible with the old versions. For example Microsoft Word 2003 documents do not always open perfectly in Microsoft Word '98, depending what features you used.

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