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I just erased an MBP 2014 that had been running the latest Big Sur to factory settings in preparation for migrating from another MPB running Big Sur, following the instructions provided by Apple. But the process has installed Mavericks and provides no way to install Big Sur.

How do I install Big Sur on a Mavericks machine? Can I just run Migration Assistant on the Big Sur (source) - Mavericks (destination) combo and end up with Big Sur on the destination? Is there some way to download a disk image to the Mavericks Mac that will work as an installer there?

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  • Neither App Store nor Software Update show Big Sur in the Mavericks Mac, and the link provided in the Apple documentation fails to work on the Mavericks machine.
    – orome
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 21:15
  • Did you try Internet Recovery?
    – Allan
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 21:21
  • @Allen Internet Recovery is how I ended up with Mavericks!
    – orome
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 21:31
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    There are several methods in that link. Did you try Opt-Cmd-R which will install the latest compatible version? Are you certain it’s a 2014 MBP? What does “About this Mac” say?
    – Allan
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 21:47
  • Opt-Cmd-R did it. The issue was Apple's terrible instructions which bore no resemblance to what was happening.
    – orome
    Commented Feb 19, 2023 at 19:05

2 Answers 2

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If using the various macOS Recovery options doesn't get you there, you should be able to upgrade to a more recent version of macOS from Mavericks.

Once you're up to El Capitan (or later) you then have the option of creating a bootable installer for macOS.

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  • Option-Command-R did the trick. For some reason Command-R that's specified in the documentation didn't work as described and effectively ended up doing a Option-Shift-Command-R which landed me with Mavericks.
    – orome
    Commented Feb 19, 2023 at 19:07
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If you make the mistake of erasing your old machine's Big Sur partition using Disk Utility, and then restart the machine into Internet Recovery BEFORE re-installing Big Sur... no matter what key combination you use on restart, it boots into Internet Recovery and the only OS option you get is the original shipped OS (Mavericks in my case).

:(

I believe this is implied by the small statement here: "If you just used Disk Utility to erase your startup disk, you might be offered an earlier compatible version of macOS".

In this case, your Mavericks version of Disk Utility will not recognize the Big Sur APFS formatted partition you just created. So...

Option 1: Use a bootable USB with Big Sur image on it to re-install on your APFS partition. Follow Apple's instructions. Good luck finding a machine with old USB ports on which to download and install the image cuz new machines only have USB-C ports.

Option 2: (this is going to take a while)

  1. Open Disk Utility on the erased machine.
  2. Erase the disk partition and format using Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
  3. Re-install Mac OS Mavericks.
  4. Start the machine. You might try searching the App Store for newer versions of the OS but you won't find them. My first thought was: open Safari and search for "download and install Mac OS", open the Apple page to download OSs via direct links... but I got an error message that Safari cannot establish a secure connection (this version of Safari is quite old). So instead, I typed in the direct Sierra download link manually, downloaded the Sierra OS disk image (the newest version that they link to at this time), and installed that.
  5. Now start Sierra, go to the direct link page (which will now open in the newer version of Safari) and click on the Big Sur App Store link, download it, and install it.
  6. Restart the machine, login, and run Software Update. Install any updates available. The machine should now have APFS formatted partitions thanks to the upgrades, so you're all set to go.
  7. (Optionally) Restart the machine in recovery mode (command+R), follow steps to re-install Big Sur if you want to start fresh.

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