There are a few reasons why you might want to download and install old versions of Mac OS X or macOS. Perhaps you are relying on software you have discovered doesn't work properly in the newest version. Maybe you are using ancient software that requires Rosetta, Apple’s solution for translating PowerPC apps after the Intel transition back in 2006, 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 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 Mac OS X including El Capitan, Sierra, Yosemite and more - or rather how to get hold of the installer 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.

If you are looking for a way to revert to the previous version of Mac OS X, we have a more specific article about downgrading from Catalina to an older version of macOS. We also have this guide to downgrading from the macOS beta here.

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 look at that scenario here. 

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. Unfortunately getting hold of these files may not be as easy as you might be hoping.

Depending on the version of macOS you are running, you should be able to find older versions of Mac OS X (and macOS) in the Mac App Store. However, these may not be available to you if you are running a more receent version of the Mac operating system.

Prior to macOS Mojave's arrival in 2018 the installers for the older macOS versions could be found via the Purchased tab, that's assuming you 'purchased' them (not that anyone has had to actually pay for a Mac OS X update for years).

Old versions of mac os x in the app store

However, when Apple launched Mojave the Mac App Store changed, and these installers are no longer downloadable - unless you are using an old version of macOS/macOS X..

We will walk you through the various methods of downloading old Mac OS X versions from the Mac App Store below. We will show you a way to get the following Mac OS X installers:

  • macOS Catalina
  • macOS Mojave
  • macOS High Sierra
  • macOS Sierra
  • OS X El Capitan download
  • OS X Yosemite download
  • OS X Mavericks download
  • OS X Mountain Lion download
  • OS X Lion download

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 Mac OS X and macOS here.

How to download the Mojave installer

Despite the fact that Mojave updates come via Software Update, you can still download the installer from the Mac App Store, even if you are running Catalina.

  1. Click this link - this will open the Mac App Store on the Mojave page.
  2. Click on Get.
  3. Software Update will open with the words "Finding Update". Eventually a message "Are you sure you want to download macOS Mojave 10.14.6" will appear. It might look like a .6 update, or later, but you'll see from the size of the download (just over 6GB) that this is the complete installer for Mojave.
  4. Once the installer has downloaded do not click Install. If you install it the installer will automatically be deleted.
  5. You should be able to find the Install macOS Mojave app in your Applications folder, you'll need this for the next steps, which we outline here: How to downgrade macOS, install an older verison on your Mac.

Download Mojave

How to download High Sierra installer

Back when we last updated this article it was also possible to access the High Sierra installer via this link to the Mac App Store. However, since Catalina arrived it is no longer possible to doanload the installer if you are running Catalina.

In that case you need to find a Mac that's running an older version of the macOS, log into the Mac App Store with your password and download High Sierra's installer. Or ask a friend to download a copy of the installer from the Mac App Store for you.

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.

Beware of downloading the installer from a file sharing site as you can't be sure that it's safe. It's safest to say: just don't do that.

It may be possible to download the installer via Terminal, however we were unable to get that method to work.

You will 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 of High Sierra, for example.

How to download Sierra installer

In 2017, when Apple introduced MacOS High Sierra, the company removed Sierra from the Purchased list, which made it more difficult to revert to that earlier version, but it was still possible to download the Sierra installer via this link that Apple provided.

The link still takes you to a page for macOS Sierra, but if you are running Mojave you will see an “Update not found” error message if you try to download it. We have been able to download the installer on older versions of MacOS though. So as above, find a friend who isn't running Mojave.

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

On a computer running OS X Yosemite it is possible to see versions of Mac OS X in the Mac App Store. Yosemite, Mavericks and Mountain Lion can all be seen here.

If you can find a Mac running High Sierra or older, log onto the Mac App Store and download the Installer there, as we describe below.

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 Catalina):

  1. Open the Mac App Store (choose Store > Sign In if you need to log in).
  2. Click Purchased.
  3. Scroll down to find the copy of OS X or macOS you want.
  4. 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:

  1. Log out of the App Store then log in again.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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.

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).

Get Snow Leopard

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. 

How to download Mac OS X Mountain Lion, Snow Leopard and older Mac software