I'm currently running Mountain Lion, but I'd like to redownload Lion (to create a bootable install drive). However, when I click the download button in the App Store, I receive a message telling me my current OS X is newer and the download will not start.

You can’t upgrade this version of Mac OS X ...

Does anyone know a way to download Lion when already running Mountain Lion?


4 Answers 4


Official Answer:

Unfortunately, it is not possible to download OS X Lion 10.7 from a computer currently running OS X Mountain Lion 10.8 unless you want to do a little hacking see below for more on that.

I would like to be proved wrong, but the results around the web such as Apple Support Communities - How do I download Lion if I'm running Mountain Lion? kind of confim you can no longer just download 10.7 from a Mac running 10.8.

  • I Attempted to Download OS X Lion from a Mountain Lion Mac but no amount of option key tricks could get it to work.

  • The Lion re-download started immediately on a Mac running OS X Lion 10.7.4

Confirming, you will need to download the "OS X Lion" Installer from a computer not running Mountain Lion. This limits downloading OS X Lion to a Mac running OS X Lion 10.7, or OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.6 or later. Once you meet the requirements for OS X Lion the Mac App Store will allow you to download an already purchased version of OS X Lion.

Super User Hack: Yes its possible to download Lion from Mountain Lion if you perform the following hack, as usual proceed at your own risk.

Here is what we are you are going to do Temporarily trick OS X Mountain Lion into thinking it is Lion. by version number alone.

  1. Open the Terminal App

  2. Open the SystemVersion.plist file with sudo privileges I used vim but feel free to use your favorite command line text editor, some GUI program like TextEdit seem to complain of locked files, etc a.k.a "...a bag of hurt."

    So to avoid nonsense like the following Duplicate message below, use an editor thats less aware of OS X file versioning.
    MTN Lion GUI editor Bag of Hurt

    "This Works:"

    $ sudo vim /System/Library/CoreServices/SystemVersion.plist

  3. Edit the file changing 10.8 to 10.7 for the following lines

    Find the lines in the file that look like this:


    Change it to look like so:

  4. Save the file, keep the editor open...

    For vim use :w! to force save the file.

  5. Open the Mac App Store and click download for "OS X Lion" in your purchases. Unhide it if its hidden.

  6. In your open editor window change your OS version number back to "10.8" in the SystemVersion.plist file. You can do this while you are waiting for Lion to finish downloading in the Mac App Store.

    For vim use :wq! to force save the file and exit the editor.

  7. Ignore the message from the Lion Installer that runs on OS X Mountain Lion after the Lion installer has finished downloading as pictured below. Note: This is what you will see if you attempt to run the Lion Installer from Mountain Lion.

    OS is too new to run this installer :(

  8. Grab the "Install Mac OS X Lion" installer from the Applications folder a.k.a /Applications.

  9. Now, you are ready to make a bootable Lion install drive.

  • 6
    It never ceases to amaze me how much stuff is hiding behind that option key … Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 12:36
  • Lion does not appear in the list for me after Option clicking.
    – Gerry
    Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 13:00
  • 1
    It doesn't seem to work. When clicking while holding option, I still get the same message.
    – René
    Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 14:45
  • I can't see it in the purchases tab either.
    – Lri
    Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 16:30
  • 1
    Btw: to change the file using TextEdit you can copy it to your documents folder, edit it there, and copy the edited version to the original location (you'll be asked to enter your account password).
    – René
    Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 7:32

Option clicking should work so long as you purchased Lion previously from the app store and you're using the same Apple ID to download now. Hold the option key and click the purchases tab as shown here.

  • 1
    Actually, I don't have to hold option to see Lion in my purchased list; it's always there. The problem is I cannot download it. Clicking the link itself shows a message that Lion is no longer available in the store; clicking the download button shows a message that it won't download because I'm already running Mountain Lion.
    – René
    Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 6:36
  • I think this article is no longer true, looks like Apple implemented a time-frame to re-download, and that time window has passed. As the author hinted at in the article with "it’s not known if Apple will remove this feature in the future to help direct users toward OS X Mountain Lion". Well it looks like they have...
    – MrDaniel
    Commented Aug 17, 2012 at 13:38

Without hacking or otherwise disturbing Mountain Lion

If you ran Apple's Recovery Disk Assistant with Lion, and if you kept that separate disk:

Try VirtualBox, and a third party bootloader

  1. Use Disk Utility to image all partitions/slices of the Lion Recovery disk
  2. change the Apple_Boot slice of the image to Apple_HFS
  3. mount the Apple_HFS volume
  4. install to that volume a bootloader that does not require EFI
  5. maybe also install something to make the virtual machine acceptable for reinstallation of Lion (see below)
  6. detach the image
  7. use VBoxManage convertfromraw to convert the first image to a virtual disk image
  8. use the vdi in a VirtualBoxVM without EFI
  9. in Recovery OS, in Mac OS X Utilities, Reinstall Mac OS X.

After download completes, after the next start of the virtual machine, at the root of the virtual disk that you targeted for reinstallation you'll find a directory:

/Mac OS X Install Data

In that directory: InstallESD.dmg

The .dmg alone is not as useful as the .app from the App Store, but it can be used for installation.

If anyone is interested in this approach, please vote up.

For +2 or more I'll:

  • discover what's required at step 5
  • detail each step.

(Steps other than 5 are already tried and tested.)

  • I'm not sure how this is relevant; if I would've had a Lion recovery disk, I wouldn't have to be able to redownload Lion in order to create such a disk in the first place...
    – René
    Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 7:25
  • I added a little to the answer. A person with Lion Recovery should be able to download the InstallESD.dmg for Lion. Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 11:24

I'm currently downloading Lion from Mountain Lion.

It appears Lion was "hidden". option+click wouldn't reveal Lion in my previously purchased list.

To reveal it I had to go to "Store" > "View my account ([email protected])..."

In the iTunes in the cloud section click on reveal hidden items.

On the new list click on Display for Lion

Then in the previousely purchased list Lion will appear without having to option+click

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