So it turns out that I am not the greatest fan of Lion after all. Is there a way I can downgrade from the Lion OS to the Snow Leopard OS if I bought my laptop in mid 2011?

There are plenty of sites (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2389334,00.asp and http://gigaom.com/apple/how-to-downgrade-from-lion-to-snow-leopard/ are two examples) that demonstrate how to revert back to Snow Leopard if your computer is older and once operated in Snow Leopard. But my MacBook Pro is brand new, and shipped with Lion. Trying to start in recovery mode (command - R at boot) , or from the Snow Leopard disk (C at boot) just results in kernel panics. Running the Snow Leopard disk from the Lion OS results in error messages ("You can't install this version of the application Install Mac OS X with this version of Mac OS X. You have Install Mac OS X 23.1"). And the one thing that does give me access to the Snow Leopard Drive (pressing option during startup with the Snow Leopard CD inserted and choosing "Recovery HD") only allows me to reinstall the Lion OS, not the Snow Leopard OS.

What should I do?

  • It might be that SL is missing some hardware drivers needed for the new laptops. Can you install SL on an external disk and boot from there?
    – nohillside
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 8:32
  • Can you boot from a linux live-CD and wipe the drive, including the recovery partition? I don't think the hardware changed since lion came out.
    – Fake Name
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 9:02
  • Fake Name, where would I get such a linux-live CD? And what kind would I get? A simple search presents hundreds of options. Pardon my naivete, but what are these for / what do they precisely do?
    – Coder
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 9:57
  • You don't need any linux live CD - holding the option key will let your mac boot from the Snow Leopard install media. You just need a DVD with the right build to support your hardware. People are thinking you are Lion and won't have external media - but you have Snow Leopard external media - it's just too old for your mac.
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 13:08
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    I don't mind it because i only usually have like 10 windows open and i know them by their thumbnails but press space doesn't hurt either
    – Alexander
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 12:56

7 Answers 7


Any time you have problems starting a mac with an installer - do check these three articles:

In your case - you probably have a MacBook Pro (Early 2011) which will boot from (Mac OS X v10.6.6 Build 10J567) or later. You might see the term "retail disk" which means it has drivers for all Macs that can run that level of OS - this is different from the disks that ship with macs - you almost never can use say a MacBook Air restore disk on a MacBook Pro - they just have the drivers for that one model.

Normally, you could just buy a retail copy but the last 10.6 retail copy I've seen documented is 10.6.3 and is too old. You'll need to order a replacement disk through AppleCare online or via phone (or find someone in possession of your MacBook Pro's install media for Snow Leopard)

Most Apple Retail stores are set up to image your mac from the factory builds through the genius bar and since your mac is so new, I can't imagine the seller you bought it wouldn't bend over backwards to make sure you got a copy of the appropriate disk (they might even have a service desk that could assist you)

  • You might need a license for snow leopard if you don't have one available with the current DVD but the install only needs a newer media to be technically feasable.
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 17:42

What version of Snow Leopard is this?

Your MacBook Pro's revision originally shipped with a newer build of 10.6.6 (10J3210, 10J3331a, or 10J4139), which means you need either that exact build, or something even newer — 10.6.7 or 10.6.8 will do.

The DVD you have, however, likely has an older build, such as 10.6.0, and will therefore lack the necessary drivers.

  • 1
    The DVD I have has a 10.6.3 build. Is there anything I can do to convert the build into 10.6.7 or 10.6.8?
    – Coder
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 9:39
  • 2
    I don't believe that's possible. Your best bet is finding a machine that has 10.6.7 or 10.6.8 installed, and restoring from that to your machine (using CarbonCopyCloner or the likes). Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 10:24
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    Sören is correct - the installer packages and scripts for 10.6.6 are different than the 10.6.3 so you can't simply apply the normal updates and have it work. If you duplicate another mac - try at all pains to make it the same size and model machine to ensure you get the correct drivers. Reapplying the latest combo updater can sometimes make up for a missing driver or two - but it's best to just order a replacement DVD from Apple - they will have the correct one in their service wing / AppleCare.
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 13:05

Exact procedure for your specific model of MacBook.

1) Make a full bootable .img backup of your MacBook to an external hard drive, using a utility such as Carbon Copy Cloner.

2) Get a friend who has another Mac that can run Snow Leopard 10.6.8. From this other Mac, with yet another external hard drive, and a Snow Leopard install DVD, make a virgin installation of Snow Leopard on the external drive. Run Software Update and install everything, up to 10.6.8 with all patches.

3) Wipe the hard drive on your MacBook.

4) Take the external disk that has the virgin full installation of Snow Leopard 10.6.8 and attach it to your MacBook and boot from it.

Use Carbon Copy Cloner to restore the virgin installation of Snow Leopard 10.6.8 on the external hard drive to over-write the internal hard drive on your MacBook.

5) Boot your MacBook from the new 10.6.8 installation. Attach the external hard drive with the backup image of your Lion installation, and mount it. Manually copy your documents from your Lion image back to your MacBook with 10.6.8. Don't copy any system settings from Lion back to Snow Leopard. Be extremely judicious about copying anything in any /Library/ folder. Don't copy any applications. Re-install all the applications you need directly onto your MacBook with 10.6.8, from scratch.

This procedure will take a full day.

You should be familiar with disk cloning, disk formatting,, the use of external drives, Target Disk Mode, and how to boot a Mac into one of several volumes at startup using the Option key. You should also know a lot about installing and configuring applications on Mac and their support files, where they go, and what you can safely copy and what you can't.

You may well decide that all this is not worth the trouble, and learn to deal with Lion. It will get better, because Apple and third-party software and hardware companies are hard at work with updates and upgrades to fix all the bugs.

My advice is to sit and be patient and work with the system you already have.


I figured it out thanks to your comments. Here are the steps:

  1. CCC from your old SL Macbook Pro to an external disk.
  2. Boot the new MacBook Pro from the "Recovery HD" disk (this is an emergency bootable disk that comes with every new MacBook Pro).
  3. Use the "Restore" command in the disk utility to transfer all the data from your external disk to the "MacBook HD" of the new MacBook Pro.

And that's it! There is probably an even simpler method using Target Disk Mode and a FireWire cable, but unfortunately I did not have access to the latter.

  • Nice procedure - do be aware that the software from the older MacBook Pro might not have all the drivers needed for the new one if it's a bit older. You can always re-run the install from the Snow Leopard DVD that came with your new mac after you finish with the "restore" operation to ensure the drivers are correct and your old data is preserved.
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 23:32

Aaditya S, You are saying that Lion 10.7 was pre-installed on your new Mac and you don't like it and want to instead install Snow Leopard, right? Downgrading would be a very bad idea. Please see the page at http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2186 The summary is: "Both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs ship with a certain version of Mac OS X (or Mac OS X Server) on their installation disc(s). You should not install a version of Mac OS X earlier than that which came with your Mac."

I know that this is not what you want to hear, but Apple strongly recommends against doing what you want to do. If you really, really HATE Lion, perhaps you should contact Powermax at http://www.powermax.com/ They specialize in trade-ins. Since your Mac is brand new and still under its factory 1-year service warranty they may be able to trade your new machine for a slightly older one which originally shipped with Snow Leopard. As long as that replacement is still under its original 1-year factory warranty you can purchase a 3-year AppleCare warranty for it if you wish. This way you would get your Snow Leopard Mac losing possibly only a few months of warranty coveage compared to buying the 3-year AppleCare warranty for your Lion Mac.

I am speculating here, but installing an older version of Mac OS X could possibly void certain parts of your original warranty.

  • 1
    Do you have any evidence that shows this specific mac generation doesn't work with Snow Leopard? What I see shows the mac is perfectly capable of running the last several versions of Snow Leopard - why are several people here so wanting to change the OP's mind? The OP wasn't asking for why this might be a good or bad idea - it's simply how can I do X?
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 14:13
  • stargood, while you're generally right that older Mac OS X versions may not work, in this case, his MacBook Pro revision originally shipped with a later build of 10.6.6, so 10.6.7 and 10.6.8 will work just fine. Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 14:36
  • My intent is not to try to change the OPs mind, but rather to offer my opinion as to why installing an older OS version against Apple's recommendation might not be wise. I offered an alternative which would preserve the OPs warranty coverage. I have no reason not to believe what Soren says about 10.6.7 or 10.6.8 working just fine. However, to be safe rather than sorry, I would still advise the OP to check with Apple support first to see whether installing an older OS might affect his warranty coverage. If they say they don't recommend it but his warranty would still be in effect, then great.
    – stargood
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 4:39

If your machine shipped with Snow Leopard then you will be fine to install it, but if the machine was sent from the factory with Lion Pre-Installed, then it means all firmware has been upgraded to work with Lion hence you being unable to boot from any snow leopard disc.


  • This has never happened with mac firmware before. Can you back this up? We are not talking about an air or mac mini that got released with new hardware. This is exactly the same MacBook Pro that has run snow leopard for all of 2011. Are you sure about this? It would be huge news.
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 16:53
  • Have a read at this article. support.apple.com/kb/HT2186
    – Slick
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 22:14

Google Mac os x snow leopard 10.6.7 ISO and download the full 7-8 GB ISO make a new partition about 8-10 GB in disk utility open the ISO put all of the files from the ISO to the new partition and boot from the partition and it will boot in to snow leopard

  • 3
    Besides being illegal there is no guarantee that new hardware will be fully supported by old OSX versions.
    – nohillside
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 9:21

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