The file system on an older Mac mini (early 2009, latest supported OS 10.11) got corrupt, and disk utilities ended up in an infinity verify-can't-repair loop. Thanks to a insightful tip I could mount it on a different machine and restore my files. (I physically removed the disk and mounted it with a USB-to-SATA cable).

I proceeded to reformat the disk, and now want to install a bootable macOS on this disk.

The best action seems to follow the Apple guide "How to create a bootable installer for macOS", which requires me to download macOS 10.11 (El Capitan). It's normally hidden in the App Store, but I found the direct link. Unfortunately, I can't seem to download it on my new Mac: It gives me a warning "OS X can't be installed on "MyNewMac" because the version of macOS is too new.". I know, but don't want to run it, just install on the disk for the older Mac, so I can run it on the early 2009 Mac mini.

How to proceed?

  • 1
    By reformatting before acquiring the Installer, you've kind of locked yourself into a Catch22 - see apple.stackexchange.com/q/309399/85275 Your 'simplest' get-out would be to take it to an Apple Store & they'll do it for you [or find a friend who can access the EL Cap 'special' version.] Alternatively, that machine may be capable of Internet Recovery.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 25 '18 at 7:00
  • is this your link itunes.apple.com/us/app/os-x-el-capitan/id1147835434?mt=12 Apple says ..To download it, your Mac must be using macOS High Sierra or earlier. Here is the problem ..After downloading, the installer opens automatically and it will not do that.
    – Ruskes
    Oct 25 '18 at 7:28
  • so the problem is .. The installer will automatically launch itself when the download completes. I do not know how to stop that and download without automatically wanting to start the installation.
    – Ruskes
    Oct 25 '18 at 7:36
  • @Buscar웃 - Read my linked QA. That El Cap link is already known to not work if the machine is capable of running anything newer.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 25 '18 at 7:46
  • @Tetsujin exactly, you are right, it wont even download
    – Ruskes
    Oct 25 '18 at 7:48

Note: A more complete and up to date answer to this question can be found at this link: How can I download an older version of OS X/macOS?

I tried your link https://itunes.apple.com/app/os-x-el-capitan/id1147835434?mt=12 and received the following error message. Assume your error message was the same.


The answer below assumes the Mac is running High Sierra.

If you purchased El Capitan for free in the past, then you will find this recorded in your App Store account. Open the App Store application, then click on the Purchased button. Enter your username and password. If you purchased El Capitan in the passed, then El Capitan will appear in the list. You will be able to download even if the macOS is newer than El Capitan.

If El Capitan does not appear in your list of purchases, then try to find someone who has purchased El Capitan and use their username and password.

  • he already has a Link to app store that works. itunes.apple.com/us/app/os-x-el-capitan/id1147835434?mt=12
    – Ruskes
    Oct 25 '18 at 7:20
  • @Buscar: It tried that link. I received an error message stating the download would not occur because I am running High Sierra. However, once logged in to the App Store, I could download El Capitan from my list of previously purchased items. Oct 25 '18 at 7:29
  • @DavidAnderson - I've just been looking at this in Mojave, to add details to my 'older OS X' QA & older OSes are no longer even listed in Purchased, at all. The El Cap link comes up as 'not available'.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 25 '18 at 7:40
  • BTW, that El Cap link is already known to not work if the machine is capable of newer than El Cap - it is not a get out of jail free card. [also noted in my 'older OS X' QA] Purchase history was already the only way to get it.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 25 '18 at 7:43
  • 2
    @Tetsujin: You are right. If the Mac was running Mojava, then the procedure would have been as follows: 1) Download High Sierra. 2) Transfer High Sierra to a flash drive. 3) Boot from the flash drive. 4) Install High Sierra to the external drive. 3) Boot from the external drive. 4) Login into the App Store. 5) Download El Capitan. Oct 25 '18 at 10:31

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