There are a few reasons why you might want to download and install old versions of macOS or Mac OS X. Perhaps you are relying on software you have discovered doesn't work properly in the newest version. Or maybe you just don't like the new version of macOS that you have installed.
Another scenario is that you are a developer and you need to be running multiple versions of macOS and Mac OS X so that you can be sure that your software runs correctly on them. Either way, you have questions and we have answers.
In this article we will cover how to get old versions of macOS including Catalina, Mojave, El Capitan, Sierra, Yosemite and even old versions of Mac OS X. We explain how to get hold of the relevant installer files so that you can install the software on your Mac.
We have a separate article about how to install old versions of Mac OS X for when you get to that stage of the process.
If you are looking for a way to revert to the previous version of macOS, we have a more specific article about downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina. We also have this guide to downgrading from the macOS beta.
You also might want to get the installer for a version of macOS in order to make a bootable installer for installing macOS on multiple Macs (we also look at that scenario separately).
Where can I download old macOS?
Before you can install an older version of macOS or Mac OS X you will need to get hold of the installer for the version of macOS you want to install. Luckily it is possible to gets hold of these files - as long as you know where to go on the Mac App Store.
We have the necessary links to the Mac App Store below. We will show you a way to get the following macOS installers:
- macOS Catalina
- macOS Mojave
- macOS High Sierra
- macOS Sierra
- OS X El Capitan
- OS X Yosemite
- OS X Mavericks
- OS X Mountain Lion
- OS X Lion
*Note that we have discovered that the links we give below will only work if you are surfing in Safari, so we suggest you switch to Apple's browser before moving on.*
You won't be able to get the Mac OS X Snow Leopard download this way - but we'll look at that later. In fact, we tell you how to get copies of Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion too!
We have a full list of which Macs run which versions of macOS & Mac OS X.
How to download macOS Catalina
Despite the fact that Catalina updates would have arrived on your Mac via Software Update you can download the installer from the Mac App Store - as long as you know the magic link.
- Click on this link which will open the Mac App Store on the Catalina page. (Use Safari)
Follow these steps to download Catalina (or any other version of macOS) from the Mac App Store:
- Click this link to open the Mac App Store on the Catalina page.
- Click on Get.
- Software Update will open with the words "Finding Update". Eventually a message "Are you sure you want to download macOS Catalina" will appear. It might look like an update rather than the full version, but you'll see from the size of the download (around 6GB) that this is the complete installer for Catalina.
- Once the installer has downloaded do not click Install. If you install it the installer will automatically be deleted.
- You should be able to find the Install macOS Catalina app in your Applications folder, you'll need this for the next steps, which we outline here: How to downgrade macOS, install an older version on your Mac.
How to download macOS Mojave
It is also possible to access the Mojave installer via this link to the Mac App Store. Note that for this link to work you need to be running Safari and you need to close the Mac App Store app first. If the Mac App Store app is open this redirect will not work.
- Click on this link to open the Mac App Store on the Mojave page.
Follow the steps in the section above to download it.
How to download High Sierra
It is also possible to download High Sierra via this link. (Use Safari)
Follow the steps in the section above to download High Sierra.
How to download Sierra, El Capitan or Yosemite
- You can Sierra via this link.
- El Capitan can be downloaded from this link.
- Yosemite is available here.
That Mac App Store link isn't working for me!
We've said above that in our experience usually the reason the above links don't work is if you are browsing in something other than Safari, or if you have already got the Mac App Store open. However, if you are still finding that the link isn't working you could try the alternative methods below.
Another issue is if the link takes you to the correct page in the Mac App Store, but you see an Update not found error message when you try to download it. This is an issue we are aware others have encountered, although we haven't. In that case we suggest you try to download the installer via that link using an older Mac.
Other ways to get old macOS versions
If you are running an older version of macOS - or someone you know is - you should be able to easily find older versions of macOS and even Mac OS X in the Mac App Store. How easy they are to find will be determined by the version of macOS running on that Mac.
Prior to macOS Mojave's arrival in 2018 the installers for the older macOS versions could be searched for or found via the Purchased tab (not that anyone has had to pay for a Mac OS X update for years).
However, when Apple introduced Mojave the Mac App Store changed, and these installers can no longer be searched for or found in the purchased section of the store. (Although we do have redirect links in the section above to each of the relevant pages on the Mac App Store.)
If you happen to have access to a Mac that's running an older version of macOS, log into the Mac App Store with your password and download the Mojave installer on that Mac. Alternatively ask a friend to download a copy of the installer from the Mac App Store for you. We run through this method in the section below.
As above, once the installer has downloaded don't install it! If you do then the installer will be deleted. You'll find the installer in your Applications folder from which you can copy on to your Mac - or create a bootable installer.
We've heard that it may be possible to download the installer via Terminal, however we were unable to get that method to work.
You may also find updates to old version of macOS on Apple's website here, however these are just point updates, rather than the full version, so it won't be much help if you are trying to get the full download.
The one thing you really mustn't do is go to a torrent site and download a copy of the OS X you want. Just because Apple gives away its software for free, don't think it's fine to just pick up a copy. Pirated copies of Apple software could have been adjusted to allow hackers access to the software and your Mac.
Download Mac OS X
If you have access to a Mac running OS X Yosemite or older it is possible to see old versions of Mac OS X in the Mac App Store. Yosemite, Mavericks and Mountain Lion can all be seen here.
It's worth noting that you'll only see old versions of Mac OS X that you've downloaded under Purchased - if you never downloaded it (or if it was never on the Mac App Store), that version will not be in your Purchased section. Another reason why the version of Mac OS X might be missing is if your machine shipped with that version installed. We'll look at that scenario later.
Here is how to get an older version of Mac OS X from the Mac App Store (this only works if you've downloaded it in the past and it won't work if you have already installed Mojave or later):
- Open the Mac App Store (choose Store > Sign In if you need to log in).
- Click Purchased.
- Scroll down to find the copy of OS X or macOS you want.
- Click Install.
Clicking Install won't actually install the software, but it will download the installer application to your Applications folder.
You won't be able to simply install this older version of the operating system directly onto a Mac running a newer version of OS X or macOS. We will explain how it can be installed on a Mac - including one currently running an earlier operating system here: How to install old Mac OS X versions.
Can't find Mac OS X in Purchased?
If you know you have previously downloaded the version of macOS you are after, but you aren't seeing it in the Purchased section, there are a few things to try:
- Log out of the App Store then log in again.
- If it's a possibility that you downloaded it while logged in to a different Apple ID (perhaps a work-related one), log in using that ID.
- Alternatively, find someone who has downloaded that version of the Mac operating system and ask them to download the installation file for you.
If you never downloaded the version of Mac OS X then jump to step 3 and find a friendly person who did. Ask them to download the Mac OS X installer for you.
Luckily the copy of OS X isn't locked to their account so it will install on any Mac.
How to get OS X Snow Leopard
It is possible that the version of Mac OS X you are after was never available from the Mac App Store. This is the case with Snow Leopard - the first version of Mac OS X to come with the Mac App Store.
That way of downloading Mac OS X updates and new apps was introduced with Snow Leopard and means that anyone with a Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard or earlier can't actually access the Mac App Store to download anything.
The good news is that Apple still sells a boxed version of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard here for £19.99 (at its launch in 2009 it cost £25). In the case of Snow Leopard you will be sent a physical box containing an optical disc - so you will need a CD/DVD drive to install it (which you will probably have if the Mac is that old).
How to get OS X Lion, Mountain Lion
It's not just Snow Leopard that you can purchase from Apple's website - you can purchase copies of Lion and Mountain Lion from Apple.
If it's Mac OS X 10.7 Lion that you are after, it's available for £19.99 here US or here UK. Apple will send you a download code to use on the Mac App Store, so you will need to be running Snow Leopard to install it.
If it's OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion that you need you can buy it for £19.99 here US or here UK As with Lion, Apple will send you a download code to use on the Mac App Store, so you will need to be running Snow Leopard to install it.
How to get OS X Leopard or earlier
If the old version of the OS you are after predates Snow Leopard and you have a developer account you might be able to get it from developer.apple.com/downloads. If you search within the OS X category you should see downloads for all versions of OS X, at least from version 10.3 to 10.6.
You may be able to access the Developer section of the website, but you will only be able to access certain software downloads if your Apple ID is associated with a paid Apple Developer Program.
If you haven't signed up as a Apple Developer, find out what that entails here. It costs £79 ($99) a year to join the Apple Developer Program and you have to sign a non disclosure agreement.
You could also try looking on Amazon or eBay to see if anyone is selling old versions of the Mac operating system. For example there's a Full Install of OS X Lion available for £8.50 on Amazon here.
If it's Tiger you are after, then it will cost a little more. There was a copy of Tiger on Amazon for £89.99 but it's currently unavailable.