3 Ways To Downgrade MacOS To An Older Version

By | December 17, 2021

It’s always tempting to install the latest version of macOS, full of new features and updates. Even so, you may find that after you go through the upgrade process, your system does not function properly.

Luckily, if you need to, you can revert to the previous version of macOS you were running. On the downside, the downgrade process isn’t as easy as it used to be. We’ll walk you through how to downgrade macOS.

Why You Might Want to Downgrade MacOS

Apple tries to make the macOS upgrade as backwards compatible as possible, but there’s still an edge case. Certain types of hardware and software may not function properly after the upgrade.

This is especially true when it comes to hardware and software related to audio, video, and graphics. For that reason, many vendors of this type of software will recommend that you never upgrade your operating system in the middle of a project. However, you may notice that you have to revert to a project that won’t work on recent versions of macOS.

Before You Downgrade, Backup Your Data!

It doesn’t matter where you downgrade your macOS, you’ll erase everything on your hard drive. To make sure you don’t lose anything, your best bet is to back up your entire hard drive.

You can back up with the built-in Time Machine, though you have to be careful when using this option. One way you can downgrade is to restore an old Time Machine backup (if available). If you do this and then want to restore a recent backup, make sure to only restore your personal data so you don’t undo the downgrade.

Downgrade Using macOS Recovery

Assuming your Mac doesn’t have the latest version of macOS installed, downgrading is pretty easy. You can use the built-in macOS recovery to downgrade. Make sure you have internet access during installation, as the software will download earlier versions of MacOS.

The process is similar to reinstalling macOS, but instead will download the version of macOS that your computer shipped with. If your computer is old enough, it will download the oldest version still available.

Make sure you make a full backup, as this will wipe your startup disk:

  • Shut down your Mac completely.
  • Turn on your computer and immediately hold down Shift + Option + Cmd + R. You will see a longer than usual startup as macOS Recovery loads.
  • Once the macOS Utilities screen loads, select Reinstall macOS (or Reinstall OS X) and click Continue.
  • Follow the prompts and select your startup disk. Now click Install.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the rest of the installation process.
  • Once the installation is complete, restore your files from the backup you made.

Downgrade Using Time Machine Backup

Using Time Machine backups is another simple way to install an older version of macOS. This of course assumes that you are backing up on an older version of macOS.

To downgrade using a previous Time Machine backup:

  • Insert your Time Machine disk into the Mac and turn it off or on again.
  • At startup, hold down Cmd + R to enter macOS Recovery.
  • When the macOS Utilities screen appears, select Restore From Time Machine Backup and click Continue.
  • On the next screen, click Continue again.
  • Select your Recovery Source. In this case, that’s the backup drive you used before.
  • On the following screen, select the backup you want to restore. You’ll be able to see which version of macOS was used to create that backup.
  • Follow the prompts to complete the reinstallation, then restore your files from the backup you made.

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Downgrade Using the macOS Installer MORE

Prior to the release of macOS Mojave, it was possible to download older versions of macOS through the App Store. With the updated Mojave Mac App Store, this is no longer possible. However, this is still an option on older versions of macOS.

If you have an older Mac, you can download an older version of the OS as long as you haven’t upgraded the machine to Mojave. You can also sign in to your iCloud account on a friend or family member’s Mac and download an older version that way. It’s also possible that you have the installer as part of the backup.

Moving forward, keep in mind that older versions of macOS are now more difficult to download. Next time you upgrade, you may want to make a backup of the previous version’s installer, just in case.

For this process, you will need a 16GB or larger USB flash drive or external hard drive.

Preparing the External Drive

Before you can create an installer, you will need to format the drive. If your drive is already formatted, you can skip this section.

  • Connect your external drive.
  • Open the Disk Utility application. You can find this with Spotlight (Cmd + Space), or by going to the Applications folder in the Finder, then up to the Utilities menu and double-clicking on the app.
  • Under External in the list on the left, select your disk and then click the Erase button at the top of the window.
  • Under Format, select the HFS+ or APFS file system. Which file system you should choose for your Mac’s external drive depends on what you plan to use it for.
  • Click Delete, then Finish when the process is complete.

Creating an Installer

You should follow these steps on a machine that has an installer for an earlier version of macOS.

Connect your formatted external hard drive and launch the Terminal application. You’ll need to enter a command, which will differ based on what version of macOS you’re using. For macOS 10.13 High Sierra and an external drive named External, the command will look like this:

sudo /Applications/Install macOS High Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/External –applicationpath /Applications/Install macOS High Sierra.app

This will create the installer, wiping the external drive in the process.

Using the Installer

Finally, to run the installer you’ve created and downgrade macro:

  • Shut down the Mac you want to downgrade and mount the newly created external drive.
  • Turn on the Mac while holding Option + R.
  • When the macOS Utilities screen appears, select Disk Utility
  • Select your Startup Disk and click Erase. Choose the same format you chose when creating your installer.
  • Restart the Mac again, this time holding down Option. The Startup Manager will appear.
  • Select the drive you created with the installer and click Install macOS.
  • Once the installation is complete, you can restore files from the backup you made.

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