I own old versions of Mac OS X, Mountain Lion in particular. The old versions are listed in the "Purchases" list within App Store app on my Mac.

But when I hit the "Download" button a message appears refusing to start the download because my MacBook Pro is too new and does not support that OS.

Other Questions are similar to this but not quite the same.

  • Others say to use the App Store to download, but no mention of the App Store refusal that I encounter.
  • Others suggest using developer.apple.com, but even with a paid membership that download page no longer offers old versions. The Download page offers only 2 versions: the current version (Yosemite) and the future beta (El Capitan).

My goal is to install Mac OS X on a virtual machine, Parallels.

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  • Not directly relevant, but my motivation is to install the older OS into a virtual machine (Parallels) for developing and testing software. Apple does not make this easy. Ironically, Microsoft makes this testing chore super easy by providing pre-configured virtual machine files ready to run in Parallels/VirtualBox/Fusion for a variety of current and older versions of Windows ( XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 ) at no cost. Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 1:47
  • 1
    Now you can no longer download even the current version of MacOS from the App Store if you already have it installed. So now you have to download the installer from some shady torrent tracker to create a MacOS virtual machine. Absolutely ridiculous.
    – Miscreant
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 14:04
  • And it doesn't seem to have got better, if anything it's worse now with Mojave and trying to find old installers. Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 21:23
  • 1
    Unfortunately, I have learned to collect an installer from each generation of macOS, like putting away antiques in the attic. Sad when it is easier to get a watch band from Apple than an OS. Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 21:26

7 Answers 7


If you need it for an older Mac, download it on that one.

No Mac OS will install on any machine newer than the OS, as the drivers for the hardware simply didn't exist at the time.

If you fake it by installing on an older machine then swapping drives, it will just fail to start up.

  • 1
    I'm trying to install the older Mac OS X versions into a virtual machine (Parallels, VirtualBox, Fusion). Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 1:53
  • This Answer is indeed the only option I've found. I tracked down a friend with an older Mac, used the Guest user account to log into my Apple App Store account, then used App Store app to download the ≈ 5 gig file for the Mountain Lion installer app. I also had to provide the borrowed Mac’s admin user name and password because I was downloading an OS installer. The installer auto-launches, but you can quit the installer before it does anything. Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 1:57
  • Ah, it wasn't obvious from your question that you were trying to virtualise - which would have changed the tone of my answer, but not the actual content. I don't have a paid developer account, so @user128998 's answer would not be one open to me.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 7:22

If you go to developer.apple.com/downloads you will find all downloads that Apple has available. Limit your search to the "OS X" category and you'll see downloads for all versions of OS X from version 10.3 to 10.6.

I'm guessing that 10.7 and up are missing because starting with 10.7, the OS was only available via the App store. Unfortunately, that means that you'll only be able to get the installer from the App store, and the only way I know of getting older version from the App store is if you have previously "purchased" that version and wish to download it again.

  • 9
    When I filter that list for "os x mountain lion" I get no offers to download the entire OS installer. I see five downloads for updates not original installers. Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 21:47
  • 2
    I looked through the list and found base installers for all OS versions up to 10.6. However, like you, I could not find base installers for 10.7 and later. I'm guessing that is because starting with 10.7, the OS was only available via the App store. Unfortunately, that means that you'll only be able to get the installer from the App store, and the only way I know of getting older version from the App store is if you have previously "purchased" that version and wish to download it again.
    – user128998
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 3:25
  • The developer software list seems difficult to use. I found Yosemite but nothing else. Can you provide direct links?
    – aVeRTRAC
    Commented Aug 13, 2022 at 18:46

Apple "How to download macOS Sierra" via Mac App Store

For those who do not have Apple Developer Subscriptions, Apple also provides an official support article, How to download macOS Sierra:

If you still need Sierra, follow these steps:

  1. Use this link to open the macOS Sierra page on the App Store: Get macOS Sierra.
  2. Click the Download button on the Sierra page. If your Mac is compatible with Sierra, a file named Install macOS Sierra downloads to your Applications folder.
  3. After download is complete, the installer opens automatically. Click Continue and follow the onscreen instructions.
  • Doesn't contain a download link for Sierra, just a link to the app store page.
    – Miscreant
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 13:55
  • Yes, of which you can click the download button.
    – balupton
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 22:45
  • I was going to write that "that doesn't work anymore", because it doesn't on my iMac Pro. Now I tried it on an older Macbook Pro (with High Sierra installed), and it does work. Weird.
    – Miscreant
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 6:46
  • This is wonderful. I spent an hour running around the app store and fighting Apple's useless support (designed to make sure you can't reach out to anyone) trying to find a way to get Sierra (which I don't want but need for a FCPX update, High Sierra is too big a mess to consider). If you really want to contact someone at Apple this might help - apple.com/emea/support/itunes/contact.html Commented May 18, 2018 at 0:47
  • I tried this on my iMac running Catalina, and it opens the software update installer which fails because I am trying to download an older version. Am I missing something?
    – aVeRTRAC
    Commented Aug 13, 2022 at 18:47

Go to the Purchased tab in the Mac App Store, you can redownload previously purchased macOS versions there (even if they are older than the currently installed one).

  • 1
    The problem here is that a 2013 MacBookAir will refuse to download a 2010 OS X Lion from the Mac App Store.
    – esaruoho
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 8:39
  • 2
    well, it worked for me downloading "El Capitan" on my 2011 MacBook Air even if it had Sierra installed already...
    – mb21
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 8:54
  • mb21, please note that El Capitan was released post-2011. If your device is released in the year 2012, you can download the OSX that was current back then, i.e. Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan, macOS Sierra. But you can't download Lion, Snow Leopard etc. Not that Snow Leopard is available on the Mac App Store, but ykwim.
    – esaruoho
    Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 8:19
  • @esaruoho the versions of macOS that were released before certain hardware simply don't have the drivers for that hardware. so you'll never be able to run them on that hardware...
    – mb21
    Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 11:25
  • This worked for El Capitan -- I was looking for Sierra because the PDFKit bug in High Sierra broke my pdf apps (e.g., Skim). Now I'll have to use my Skim app in a VM running El Capitan -- how sad that Apple has been breaking Mac OSX users so frequently.
    – rholmes
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 23:11

From my experience, the simplest method if you need a version older than the one on your own Mac is to download one that is available direct from Apple but outside App Store and then run Software Update and/or the App Store to update to your preferred version.

Apple offers Lion and Mountain Lion available through the support download page.

Yosemite, El Capitan, and Sierra can be downloaded directly from the links on Apple Support article HT211683.

High Sierra and later can only be downloaded through the App store. The same support article has links for those in the App store, however I cannot get to work to download an older version on my iMac (running Catalina).

As far as I can tell there is no way to obtain versions prior to Mountain Lion from Apple.


Solved for me by logging out of app store then, on log in, having to sign a new user agreement.

Apps dowloaded as normal afterwards, both el capitan and mavericks.



Hope this is what you were looking for -- er, a year later. Better late than never.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS_X_Mountain_Lion (can also do same with other OSX versions)

Scroll down to a chart that has the diff updates/combo updates, and on the far right column, there are links to download the each one.

Hope this helps someone!

  • you need to have actual builds though, you cant install with simple updates can you ? Commented May 25, 2016 at 5:16
  • 4
    since the dmgs for the updates are in the <1G size range, I'd say no - it's not a complete installer.
    – keen
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 21:22
  • 1
    No, this Answer does not address the Question. The links here are for partial updaters, not full installers. Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 20:45

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