Apple now allows you to run OS X inside a Virtual Machine as long as the host is running Apple hardware. Because we need to test our web site on various versions of Safari, we picked up a Mac Mini running Yosemite for testing purposes. The idea is to run Mavericks (currently our largest user base) and possible Mountain Lion in a VM on demand, similar to what we do on our Windows.

However, I've yet to be able to find a place to download prior installer apps. I've found other StackExchange posts referring to the App Store, but since this is a new Apple ID there are no previous purchases for old versions, and as far as I can tell they are no longer available to "purchase". Likewise, I have not been able to find any OS X Installer apps on the Apple Developer site.

Am I missing something? Is there an easy-ish way to get these apps to install OS X to a VM?

(For VM host, we are currently using Virtualbox, but would be willing to use VMWare or Parallels if needed)

2 Answers 2


There are many ways to skin this cat.

First, check to see what minimum version of the OS ships with your Mac:

That establishes the version you can get easily from Apple either through Internet Recovery or contacting AppleCare to order replacement media or a download code for the Mac App Store. At that point, the AppleID you are using should be able to upgrade to each of the versions of the OS newer than the build that shipped with your hardware.

To go earlier, you can join Apple as a developer and request download codes and direct download of all manner of older OS for testing purposes. If this isn't worth the time/budget to spend one time $99 you could also look for hardware that shipped with the version you require and buy it at a steep discount. For example, laptops with broken screens and failing batteries will work just fine with external keyboards and power cables in most cases long enough to get to the Mac App Store and "purchase" the version of the core OS for your AppleID. At that point, you can start building your archive of installers.

I would caution on torrenting OS unless you check the file sizes and hashes. It's probably better to network with other developers to exchange a USB drive with the media in exchange for brownies or such things like fermented grain based liquids.

Now that you have the ingredients, it's time to cook. Many open source tools exist to help you make bootable images:

My advice would be to pick one tool like Rich's create_os_xvm_install_dmg script or decide to set up deploy studio and/or a netboot server and then automate one of the newer OS. You'll then be able to not get hung up on gathering all the images and instead get going with the tools. You can ask specific follow on questions here or on the Mac Admin slack channel once you have your feet wet and are in the weeds of a specific install.

  • Just to be clear, becoming a Paid Developer will give us access to prior versions for testing? It sounds like this is exactly what we need, but before spending $99 I want to be sure. I haven't been able to find this in any documentation or promotional text on the site?
    – DOOManiac
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 20:29
  • 1
    I hadn't considered the Developer route, which makes my answer a little redundant now. However, if the offer of fermented grain-based liquids is on the table… I have all OS installers back as far as Lion, with .dmg of 10.6 & 10.5 ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 7:59

I'm afraid you may struggle…

There is no official way to obtain previous OSes, unless they are in your purchase history.
You also need a full installer, not a recovery image.

Your options are really
1. Find someone who already has the previous installers
2. Usenet/torrents

The 2nd option is, of course, the least-trusted.


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