How to download old versions of macOS: Get Ventura, Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, and more

Table of Contents

Macworld

There are a few reasons why you might want to download and install an old version of macOS or Mac OS X. Perhaps you’re relying on software you have discovered doesn’t work properly in the latest version. Perhaps your Mac has run slowly ever since you updated. Or maybe you just don’t like the new version of macOS that you have installed. Either way, you have questions and we have answers. 

In this article, we will cover how to get old versions of macOS, including Ventura, Monterey, Big Sur, 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.

Just note: if you were hoping to run Catalina, Mojave, or a version of macOS older than Big Sur on an M1- or later Mac, that’s not possible.

If you are looking for a way to go back to the previous version of macOS, we have an article about reverting a macOS update.

You also might want to get the installer for a version of macOS to make a bootable installer for installing macOS on multiple Macs. We have a separate article that explains how to downgrade macOS when you get to that stage of the process.

Where to get older versions of 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 get ahold of these files, as long as you know where to go on the Mac App Store. If you’re unsure of your Mac’s compatibility, check out our list of which Macs run which versions of macOS & Mac OS X.

It is possible to download older versions of macOS from the Mac App Store. Click on the links to download the installers for the following macOS versions:

*Note that we have discovered that the links we give below will only work if you are using Safari, so we suggest you switch to Apple’s browser before moving on. You should also close the Mac App Store app if you have that open or the link may not work*

macOS Ventura

macOS Monterey

macOS Big Sur

macOS Catalina

macOS Mojave

macOS High Siera

Older verisons of macOS aren’t availbale on the Mac App Store, but Apple does provide dmg files of them. You need to download them in Safari. A disk image named InstallOS.dmg will download and once it does you need to locate the pkg installer inside the disk image.

macOS Sierra

OS X El Capitan

OS X Yosemite

OS X Mountain Lion

OS X Lion

We discuss this process in more detail below.

How to download an older version of macOS for an M-Series Mac

Apple began transitioning away from Apple silicon with the release of macOS Big Sur in 2020, so any version of macOS before that won’t run on an M1 Mac or later.

If you have a M1 or later Mac you will see a message that your Mac is not compatible with versions of macOS that predate Apple’s move to its own silicon. All versions of macOS prior to Big Sur require an Intel Mac.

How to download macOS Ventura, Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave and High Sierra

Foundry

You can download the installers for many versions of macOS from the Mac App Store. Follow these steps to download the version of macOS that you want from the Mac App Store. Use Safari and close the Mac App Store app if you have that open before you begin.

Follow the Mac App Store link above to the software you require. Use Safari and the Mac App Store will open on the page for the macOS version you require.

Click on Get.

Software Update will open with the words “Finding Update”. Eventually a message “Are you sure you want to download macOS [name]” 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 macOS.

Once the installer has downloaded do not click “Install”. If you do, the installer will automatically be deleted (plus it won’t install if you are already running something newer).

You should be able to find the “Install macOS [name]” app in your Applications folder, which you can use to downgrade macOS to an older version (see our separate tutorial).

How to download Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite, Mountain Lion and Lion

Apple provides dmg files of these older macOS versions, but you need to download them using Safari. A disk image named InstallOS.dmg will download and once it does you need to locate the pkg installer inside the disk image.

Prior to June 2021, you could purchase OS X 10.7 Lion or Mountain Lion from Apple for $19.99/£19.99 each – Apple would send you a download code. Now Apple has stopped charging for the aging operating system versions. Instead, you can download the operating systems directly from the company along with these other versions.

macOS Sierra

OS X El Capitan

OS X Yosemite

OS X Mountain Lion

OS X Lion

We saw a warning about the connection not being private when trying to download these, this message is appearing because it’s not an https connection, probably because these files predate that standard, but do exercise caution here. The links come from this Apple page so should be secure.

What to do if the Mac App Store links above aren’t working

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 of that 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.

You may also encounter issues if you are trying to download an older version of macOS that your Mac cannot support. Usually, when Apple introduces a new Mac it will not be able to run the version of macOS that shipped before the one installed on that Mac. The older macOS might not support certain components in that Mac, for example.

Other ways to get older 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. Once the installer has downloaded don’t install it! If you do the installer will be deleted. You’ll find the installer in your Applications folder from which you can copy it onto your Mac or create a bootable installer.

You may also find updates to an older version of macOS on Apple’s website. 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 macOS 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.

How to get OS X Snow Leopard 

If your Mac has a version of macOS installed that is older than Snow Leopard you won’t have access to the Mac App Store. For a number of years after Snow Leopard arrived all versions of Mac OS X arrived via the Mac App Store, those who never installed Snow Leopard had a problem: without Snow Leopard, they couldn’t update.

Until 2021 Apple still sold a boxed version of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard for $19.99/£19.99 (at its launch in 2009 it cost $25/£25). If you purchased Snow Leopard this way you were 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).

Apple has now removed the ability to buy Snow Leopard. However, this isn’t a big problem because those people who were previously locked out of updates can now download the Lion or Mountain Lion update via the links provided above.

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. It costs $99/£79 a year to join the Apple Developer Program and you have to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

You could also try looking on Amazon or eBay to see if anyone is selling old versions of the Mac operating system or perhaps a Mac running one.

Mac, MacOS, Personal Software

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top