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Sometimes it's hard to search for older / previous versions of macOS & OS X on the App Store or Apple web site since they change links to promote the newest shipping version.

This is an attempt to provide the canonical QA for this issue, as per the Meta QA -
Where is the list of canonical questions stored for Ask Different?
I expect it to be modified over time to hopefully become a complete information resource.

How can I get any older version of a Mac OS to be able to run virtually (as a VM) or to reinstall a specific previous version on my Mac?

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6 Answers 6

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Every year/release this answer on installing previous versions of macOS will need updating. Last update Nov 2023.

In the past couple of years - since this answer was first devised - Apple now have an official list of available installers making them much easier to find than before.
So, before working right down this answer, check here as a first step.

Apple Knowledge Base - How to download macOS

One thing that still applies throughout: you really need a Mac to get macOS easily. As all Macs since approximately 2011 can use Internet Recovery to at least get a workable OS on the Mac, this might often be the best initial approach, from which you can investigate further once you have a basic working Mac.

Always use Safari when trying to connect with anything to do with the Apple KB or the App Store.


Accessing an OS your current Mac cannot itself run….

The App Store will not let you download an OS that is either too old or too new for the Mac you are downloading to - which is an annoying hurdle.

For High Sierra & later
There are several ways to deal with this - all freeware, but with different approaches.

TwoCanoes' MDS 'Deploy Stick' [free to use & open source, but without support or automation, which are paid add-ons].
This seems to be just about foolproof. A two-click solution.
Update Nov '23 - Since V5, MDS now seems to be paid only. Try v4.3 or older from https://twocanoes.com/products/mac/mds/history/ & report back in comments if that still woks as freeware.

Mist from ninxsoft which can download & build official installers.
MDS actually uses this as its download mechanism. This is the more 'raw' version, but also looks more powerful if you need additional tools.

dosdude1 Patchers - Sierra to Catalina.
A suite of apps ostensibly for installing macOS on unsupported hardware, but each of which includes direct download of the relevant OS, & separate download of the firmware update necessary for APFS.

As I have not yet tested alll of these personally, if you hit a stumbling block, please raise a new question and link back to here/leave a comment below, so we can add information to this as a 'master list'.


For Sierra & earlier
There is a list of older OS installers - Snow Leopard to Sierra - which can be accessed even using older versions of Safari which do not support modern https links.
http://maclinks.publicvm.com
It can also be accessed with https
https://maclinks.publicvm.com
This links to official Apple installers, just by an 'easier' route for older Macs.
There are also instructions for each to make bootable installers.

If you are trying to jump a long way - say from 10.8 to 10.14 or later, received wisdom is to first upgrade to El Capitan 10.11, then High Sierra 10.13.
This will prepare your machine for the long jump.
Some users seem to have managed to skip El Capitan, but High Sierra is still necessary, if it or newer has never been on the Mac before, as it adds a firmware update required to read the newer APFS filesystem.


If you need to create a bootable USB to install from

First see MDS or Mist, above, if you have access to another Mac.

How do I create El Capitan installer on a Catalina (or post-El Capitan) installed Mac for use on USB boot installer?

How do I make a bootable USB OS X installer on a Mac?

How do I create an OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) bootable USB drive using Windows?


Recovery Options

If you need to reinstall from Recovery on an Intel-based Mac, & were previously running High Sierra or later, there are now 3 options available.
Hold the appropriate key combo at the boot chimes...

  • Cmd ⌘ R
    reinstall the latest macOS that was installed on your Mac, without upgrading to a later version [this relies on your Recovery drive being intact & bootable.]
  • Opt ⌥ Cmd ⌘ R
    upgrade to the latest macOS that is compatible with your Mac
  • Shift ⇧ Opt ⌥ Cmd ⌘ R
    reinstall the macOS that came with your Mac, or the version nearest to it that is still available.

Should you have access to an older point release of any OS, 10.11.0 etc & wish to upgrade, then you can download Combo Updaters from Apple that contain everything necessary to go straight to the latest point release in a single step, e.g. 10.11.6

Google is good at finding these, as the top hit if you just search combo update 10.11 etc but here are links to a few

Mavericks 10.9.5
Yosemite 10.10.5
El Capitan 10.11.6
Sierra 10.12.6
High Sierra 10.13.6
Mojave 10.14.6
Catalina 10.15.7

Since Big Sur, Apple have stopped making combo updaters.


If none of these methods are available to you, you have two options

  1. Find a friend who can access the download [recommended]

  2. Find a torrent/sharing site [not recommended]


Note: You can not use a Time Machine backup to revert to an OS which is older than the OS of the latest backup on that Time Machine drive.

This means that to preserve your ability to ever restore to an earlier backup & OS with your Time Machine backup, you must swap out that Time Machine drive before upgrading the OS. This is because once the Time Machine drive sees the new OS, there's no going back to the older OS using it. You can still pick data out from the Time Machine manually, but cannot use it to restore to the older OS.

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  • When you are signing into the app store on OSX Lion, you will need to re-enter your password "with the verification code". This is the 6-digit verification that will pop up on another device - append it to your password with no spaces. There is no box that appears to enter it separately. This works to sign in.
    – Deborah
    Aug 16, 2018 at 20:33
  • @TJLuoma I found one of your blog posts and was able to create a bootable USB key for El Capitan from a Mojave VM (using the InstallMacOSX.pkg provided by Apple) so I'm sharing the link here. Thanks a lot!
    – nyg
    Jan 29, 2020 at 19:24
  • FWIW, the "Installer can't be verified" issue does not occur on 10.9, and presumably nothing below that, either. I don't know about 10.10. On 10.11–10.12, the error is very easy to bypass in the Terminal: apple.stackexchange.com/a/232016/150839 Apr 17, 2020 at 19:10
  • As of May 2024, the Apple Knowledge Base page only offers direct downloads for systems up to Sierra 10.12. For more recent systems it channels you to the App Store, which at least for me then refuses to install any except the most recent (currently Sonoma). The command-line download command given in this answer worked for me instead, to get a recent Ventura installer.
    – PLL
    May 5 at 12:33
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I prefer the command line tools for performing the downloads as it's straightforward and scriptable.

sudo /usr/sbin/softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer

If you need to specify a version that's not current:

 sudo /usr/sbin/softwareupdate \
     --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version 10.14.6

macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 included the new option --eraseinstall to the startosinstall tool, enabling admins to not only update or upgrade existing Macs, but completely erase them and cleanly reinstall the macOS.

The above quote is from jamf software which has a very detailed article with Q&A on all sorts of interesting abilities to script an erase install and more.

The Mac administrators community has open sourced a tool to help download OS installers using a python script. Even as Apple releases newer versions, this convenient script keeps getting updated:

installinstallmacos.py is the solution if you need several versions or just want to script parts of the amazing other answer to this question.

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  • I like the sound of this approach - I've been wandering in the wilderness for a couple of days now trying to set up a Fusion VM for macOS 10.13.6. Fusion seems to like .dmg files, but I think I need a full image - not just an installer.
    – Seamus
    Jun 11, 2020 at 8:26
  • @Seamus I need to add a link on changes needed for virtual installs - unless there’s a new question asking that specifically. @ me if you ask a new question or find one that covers getting an installer ready for VM use.
    – bmike
    Jun 11, 2020 at 14:58
  • Please let me know when you add that link to this answer!
    – Seamus
    Jun 11, 2020 at 20:08
  • @Seamus all good now?
    – bmike
    Sep 26, 2020 at 22:08
  • Thanks for following up. I did post a question, and I at least tried to @ you. I did eventually find a solution that worked for me, but I've not tried this script yet. But as I look at the answer, I'm not sure which one is the link you mentioned earlier: ... link on changes needed for virtual installs? Did I miss that?
    – Seamus
    Sep 27, 2020 at 14:56
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macOS 10.15 Catalina adds a new feature to the command line softwareupdate tool to download older versions of macOS:

--fetch-full-installer Install the latest macOS Installer
--full-installer-version The version of macOS to install. Ex: --full-installer-version 10.15

Some people have reported being able to download 10.14 using this feature in 10.15, however I was unable to reproduce this. In the future, this feature should allow you to choose older versions of macOS.

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    Nice find, unfortunately not something I can test, no Catalina capable Macs here. Do we know how far back that is intended to reach? Right back to 10.1, 10.6.8, or just 10.14?
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 16, 2019 at 8:32
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    it does not download older macOS though
    – ikel
    Sep 9, 2020 at 19:12
  • On Ventura, softwareupdate --full-installer-version 10.11 gets two screens of help text. Adding sudo doesn't help. Same results with 10.14 and even with 10.15 (which is one of the options the help screen offers!)
    – WGroleau
    Jan 29, 2023 at 23:32
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    It's supposed to be sudo /usr/sbin/softwareupdate \ --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version 10.11 but that did "Scanning for 10.11 installer … Install failed with error: Update not found" Apple's page offering older versions was missing 10.9 and when I clicked on "download El Capitan 10.11" what I got was Mountain Lion!
    – WGroleau
    Jan 29, 2023 at 23:36
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For macOS versions from High Sierra to Big Sur, I prefer gibMacOS script available here: https://github.com/corpnewt/gibMacOS. Extract the file, and execute the gibMacOS.command Terminal Shell Script to download macOS High Sierra/Mojave/Catalina/Big Sur latest versions from Apple, directly to your Mac. Check this video to see how it works for downloading new and old versions of macOS.

Also, check this web page https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211683 on Apple.com to download Sierra, El Capitan, and Yosemite as DMG images.

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How to Create USB Bootable Installers for Some Older Versions of OS X/macOS from Windows

The links below provide instructions for creating USB Bootable Installers from Windows.

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If you're a registered developer (IMHO about the only reason to install an older version of macOS...flame me by e-mail if you must), you can go all the way back to 10.3.9 Panther.Apple Developer legacy library.

Please, please, please don't try to install a version of OS X that predates your machine; there may not be a way to get you back to the future. I strongly suggest running older versions exclusively in a virtualization host (i.e. Parallels, VMware Fusion or VirtualBox).

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    "Please, please, please don't try to install a version of OS X that predates your machine; there may not be a way to get you back to the future." Huh? That's not true at all—you can always boot from a USB, and usually do network recovery. Worse case scenario you need to find another machine to make the USB. Nov 5, 2019 at 14:34
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    @Wowfunhappy sigh. Updating the OS also updates EFI and the recovery partition. With a bad/wrong EFI, you can’t boot or do network recovery. Nov 5, 2019 at 22:06
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    If the EFI is wrong, the old OS just won't boot, and your new OS will still work. If you downgrade your EFI (which can be more difficult), all you'd need to do is upgrade your EFI again, which Apple does automatically. I've done all of these things a lot, and I'm not seeing a scenario where the user could unintentionally screw themselves. Nov 5, 2019 at 22:26
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    BTW, other reasons non-developers might want or even need to downgrade: The new OS isn't compatible with a critical app or 3rd party driver; the new OS has a bug that critically breaks your workflow; the new OS performs poorly on your hardware. Nov 5, 2019 at 22:33

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