My dad gave me his old 2009 MacBook Pro yesterday. It was slow and clunky so I reformatted the drive. Now I'm trying to reinstall macOS through OS X utilities. It asks me to agree to Yosemite terms and conditions, and when inputting my or my dad's Apple ID and password it says the product is temporarily unavailable.

I tried creating a bootable USB for macOS Sierra from the Mac desktop we have in the house, however when booting from the USB the screen gives me a circle with a cross in it.

I believe I may have to purchase Yosemite for my profile before it will work, but I cannot find the item in the App Store.

If I buy Snow Leopard instead, will I be able to install it from the utilities? At the moment it tries to install Yosemite.

  • Did you test the USB would boot the other Mac? If it does, then the Snow Leo DVD might be the way to go. The machine is too old to use Internet Recovery.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 24, 2017 at 5:49

6 Answers 6


Just to clarify the terminology used: If you ask about "reinstall macOS" that would mean macOS "Sierra", at least, strictly speaking, older versions of the Macintosh operating system are called Mac OS X.

This 2009 MacBook Pro should be able to boot anything from Leopard, Snow Leopard, Yosemite to Sierra. That translate into version numbers as anything from 10.5.7 (9J3050) to 10.11 (and with caveats: also 10.12) can be installed.

To install any version of OS X/macOS it is strictly speaking not necessary to provide or even have an AppleID. But you need access to an ***Install.app that is usually downloaded via the AppStore. Once that is downloaded or came otherwise into your possession in full then the app is transferable to other Macs.

For the actual install it is possible to create a real external install medium, most users opt for a USB-stick. An application that greatly simplifies the task is DiskMakerX.

Sierra is not officially supported on that machine you have now. It might also be a challenge to request that download from a machine that Apple is no longer supporting or if you want to use the AppStore and have not previously downloaded the installer with the AppleID currently in use. (And now that High Sierra s released a re-download of the Sierra installer seems impossible…)

That sign you see on screen when booting an installer with the official version of Sierra shows you that Apple has blacklisted this machine from receiving this upgrade. But Sierra can be installed and works for many more Macs than Apple allows. (Which would be self-evident if the terminology used in the OP's question is accurate.) See this Sierrapatch to help you with that. A 2009 MacBook Pro is listed there as a supported machine, in principle.

But be sure to verify your WiFi card is supported before you go that route. That might be the only real deal breaker for Sierra on this hardware. If it had Sierra previously installed and WiFi was working you are good to go with it.

"If I buy Snow Leopard[…]?" As stated above Snow Leopard should work. But there are now certain downsides to be considered for this approach. In terms of performance, security and support, whether from Apple or third party developers, Snow Leopard is not that good of a choice, especially if this machine is going to be used on the net. [Currently Yosemite would be the best pick as it has recently received at least some security updates.] Update: Since the release of High Sierra it has to be presumed that also Yosemite is now some kind of abandonware. A recommendation would therefore move up to 10.11 El Capitan.

  • I probably would not recommend going straight to Sierra/High Sierra. On those Core2Duo MacBooks you have to modify the installer for this to work and like you said there are some things that will probably not work.. When I did this on an older MacBook I partitioned the drive & then installed on to that as kind of a dual boot to test it out first. If all is well you can migrate/delete the Yosemite partition & expand the High Sierra one. Nov 2, 2018 at 20:11
  • It's also maybe worth noting that the PCI Express slot will not work beyond Yosemite - I personally haven't messed around with modifying kexts much but there's probably a way to get it to work if you try hard enough. Nov 15, 2018 at 1:31

This is a tough scenario - you need to use an Apple ID that has previously downloaded Yosemite before. This ID is not tied to the machine afterwards in any way. The App Store removes old versions of OS X so it is normal to not find it there. You could build a bootable installer but you'd still have to find a copy of Yosemite which like I said is not in the App Store anymore unless you've previously downloaded it, in which case you'll find it in the 'Purchased' tab.

It's also worth noting that an Apple Store could likely do this for you, most of them have old bootable installer copies just for this purpose. Just call ahead to make sure. Purchasing Snow Leopard would work as well, the Snow Leopard disk would install Snow Leopard but be aware you still won't have an upgrade path to Yosemite from the App Store.


With help from someone from a Mac forum to which I belong, I solved the problem.

The advice was: • Boot the 2009 from the Snow Leopard Install DVD I happened to have. • Once booted up, choose English as your language. • Next go to Disk Utility (in the desktop menubar) and erase the HDD, completely - including the Recovery Partition. •Restart from the SL Install DVD a second time and install SL.

It worked perfectly, and now on to upgrade it to, I believe, Mavericks.


You can create a new Apple ID and try using that new Apple ID, for that,

In the four choices you get click "GET HELP ONLINE"

This opens Safari.

Click iCloud and Sign-In with your Apple ID.

Now you can go back to installing screen and the downloading will finally work because you have now shown Apple ID you've logged in from your computer

  • This is not how this utility works. It doesn't check to see if you're signed in it only checks to see whether your Apple ID has Yosemite available to download, which only happens if you've downloaded it before. For this reason it's a good idea to always download each copy of OS X at release even if you don't need it. Nov 2, 2018 at 20:07

You can create a new Apple ID and try using that new Apple ID, for that,

  1. In the four choices you get click "GET HELP ONLINE"

  2. This opens Safari.

  3. Click iCloud and Sign-In with your Apple ID.

  4. Now you can go back to installing screen and the downloading will finally work because you have now shown Apple ID you've logged in from your computer.

  • I created a new apple ID, but it still says The item is temporarily unavailable. Try again later Jun 24, 2017 at 7:26
  • @DanielKenny Did you follow above steps? Jun 24, 2017 at 7:34
  • This will not work - see my answer. You must have downloaded Yosemite before with the Apple ID in question. There's not really a way around this. Nov 2, 2018 at 20:07

Sierra doesn't run on older 2009 MacBooks. You can use any older version down to Mountain Lion. You can have it installed at an Apple Store for free, or download an old version from the store. To do this, use the list of older/previous purchases to download it instead of the product page which only shows the latest.

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