I have very recently purchased a Macbook Pro pre-installed with Lion. After spending several days unsuccessfully trying to get it to play nicely with Active Directory I purchased a retail copy of Snow Leopard, booted it from an external DVD drive (wouldn't read the disc) erased the HDD and attempted to install Snow Leopard. No go. Forums suggest it cannot be done. I now have a blank HDD.

Has anyone successfully downgraded from Lion to Snow Leopard on a pre-installed Lion system? If so, can you give instructions or point me in the direction of how to do this please?

  • Is it an Early 2011 or Late 2011 model according to Apple? The former has official Snow Leopard support - documentation on the latter is not released yet.
    – bmike
    Oct 27, 2011 at 15:21
  • What is it that displeases you in lion? perhaps fixing those "issues" would be easier than downgrading the OS
    – Alexander
    Nov 21, 2011 at 0:13

4 Answers 4


I'm not sure if this will work in your case. But I have a 2010 MacBook Pro I cannot install the retail copy of Snow Leopard onto. That retail disc is 10.6.3, and the laptop needs a higher version.

To overcome this, I installed Snow Leopard on an external drive connected to an older Mac. I then updated Snow Leopard to 10.6.8 and copied the contents of that drive back to my MacBook Pro via SuperDuper.

Now, in your case, I'm not sure if Snow Leopard will work at all on the recent MacBook Pro. But, if you have access to an older Mac, give my solution a try.

  • Huh. Installing the retail SL disc on my 2010 15" to downgrade always worked for me.
    – abc905
    Jan 8, 2012 at 9:41

Although in general running an older OS than what ships is not something that works, during the transition there is often more leeway for the drivers needed to be in a late enough version

Since you just bought a retail version of the OS - call Apple immediately and ask if they can assist to see if they need to ship a different build to you at no cost. (You usually have to pay if you lose a disc, but in this case, if the mac supports Snow Leopard there may be an install disc for that specific model or a newer pressing of the DVD may be the only thing you need.)

You can also research it here:

Chances are you have an Early 2011 model MacBook Pro, but it pays to be sure by running the serial number (and even that can be wrong - but Apple support can help in that case...)

If my guess is correct, you just need 10.6.6 and a build of 10J3210 or newer. I haven't seen a retail Snow Leopard disc that is newer than 10.6.3 Build 10D575 so you may need a newer build to get going.

Armed with this information, you now can understand why "Retail copies of Mac OS X may not always work properly with new Macs" Do call Apple Care and see if they can and will get you a machine specific build since you are a paying customer :-)


Walter, this excellent page is the solution I will be using on my recently purchased hexacore Mac Pro:


Hope this helps anyone else who is in a similar position!

  • 1
    Answers on Ask Different need to be more than just a link. It's okay to include a link, but please summarize or excerpt it in the answer. The idea is to make the answer stand alone.
    – Daniel
    Feb 19, 2012 at 20:06

You can do it fairly easily via target disk mode if you have another Mac running 10.6.8.

You need: - OS X 10.6 retail disc - OS X combo update 10.6.8 - firewire cable (400/800) depending on the mac you're using to target the machine you want to downgrade

Connect the computers via firewire cable, hold down "T" on the computer you wish to downgrade while starting up. There should be a firewire icon on the screen of the downgrading computer, so you know it's connected properly.

From there, format the hard drive in the computer you wish to downgrade - you should be able to select it using Disk Utility. Make sure there's 1 partition and format it. Then, insert your Snow Leopard retail disk and install it on the freshly formatted hard drive.

Once Snow Leopard is done installing, it will restart and boot up using the freshly downgraded computer's hard drive. From there, you can install the Mac OS X 10.6.8. combo update - either have it already downloaded and on a USB drive, or you can download it from apple's site. Once that installs, you should be able to disconnect the computers and boot normally into Snow Leopard on the early 2011 MBP.

It worked perfectly for me. Good luck.

  • I just tried the Target disk option... No go. I am trying to figure out how to install lion onto my late 2011 15" macbook pro... ALl it would do is get stuck in a 3 beep cycle whenever I tried to boot to snow leopard after installing it, so I have to live with Lion. Not cool, Apple. Not cool. Still beats a PC though :)
    – user13935
    Nov 20, 2011 at 23:53

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