Three Methods to Downgrade to an Older Model of macOS

It's always tempting to get the latest version of macOS with loads of new features and updates. Even so, you may find that your system is not working properly after the upgrade process.

Fortunately, if you need to, you can revert to the previous version of macOS you were running. However, the downgrade process is not as easy as it used to be. We'll walk you through downgrading macOS Monterey or earlier to an older version of macOS.

Why you want to downgrade macOS

Apple tries to make macOS upgrades as backward compatible as possible, but there are still edge cases. Certain types of hardware and software may not function properly after upgrading.

This is especially true when it comes to audio, video and graphics-related hardware and software. For this reason, many vendors of this type of software recommend that you never update your operating system in the middle of a project. However, you may find that you need to go back to a project that doesn't work on the latest version of macOS.

Back up your data before downgrading!

No matter how you downgrade your macOS version, you'll wipe everything on your hard drive. To ensure that you do not lose valuable data, it is best to back up your entire hard drive.


Related: How to Back Up Your Mac

You can back up using the built-in Time Machine service, but you need to be careful when using this option. You can downgrade by restoring an old Time Machine backup (if available). If you do this and then want to restore a recent backup, make sure that you only restore your personal data so that you don't undo the downgrade.

If you want to play it safe or just aren't a Time Machine fan, don't be scared. We've covered several different Mac backup solutions, which are solid options too.

After the backup, here are the different methods you can use to downgrade your Mac.

Option 1. Downgrade with macOS Recovery: Intel Macs only

Assuming your Mac originally had an older version of macOS, downgrading is pretty straightforward. You can use the built-in macOS recovery tool to downgrade. Just make sure you have internet access during the installation as the software will download an earlier version of macOS.

Note: This method only works on Intel-based Macs and cannot be used on M1 Macs. For M1 Macs, you'll need to use the Time Machine or Bootable Disk method.

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

Make sure you are fully backed up first because This will erase your startup disk:

  1. Shut down your Mac.

  2. Turn on your computer and press and hold immediately Shift + Option + Command + R. You will find that while loading macOS Recovery it takes longer than normal to start.

  3. As soon as the macOS utilities Loading screen, choose Reinstall macOS (or Reinstall OS X) and click Keep going.

  4. Follow the instructions and select your startup disk. Now click To install.

  5. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the rest of the installation process.

  6. When the installation is complete, restore your files from the backup you created.

Option 2. Downgrade with a Time Machine backup

Using a Time Machine backup is another easy way to install an older version of macOS. Of course, this assumes that you have created the backup on an older version of macOS.

To downgrade from a previous Time Machine backup:

  1. Connect your Time Machine hard drive to your Mac and turn it off or restart it.

  2. Boot your Mac into Recovery Mode. To do this on an Intel Mac, hold Command + R to go to macOS recovery. On M1-based Macs, keep the power Key at startup until you see the message Load start options. Select on the next screen Options to enter recovery mode.

  3. If that macOS utilities Screen appears, choose Restore from Time Machine backup and click Keep going.

  4. On the next screen, click Keep going again.

  5. Choose your Restore source. In this case, this is the backup drive that you connected earlier.

  6. On the following screen, select the backup you want to restore from. You can see which version of macOS was used to create this backup.

  7. Follow the instructions to complete the reinstallation, and then restore your files from the backup you created.

Option 3. Downgrade with an older macOS installer

Before macOS Mojave was released, it was possible to download older versions of macOS directly from the App Store. This is no longer possible with the updated Mac App Store; However, they can still be downloaded from Apple's support website. The installer is downloaded from the Software Update section of System Preferences and should be available in your Applications folder when finished.

Once you've downloaded the specific macOS installer onto your Mac, you can use it to create a bootable drive that you can reinstall macOS from. This is helpful for users trying to downgrade from macOS Monterey to macOS Big Sur or older on M1 Macs, as Standard Recovery Mode only installs the latest version of macOS.

For the future it should be noted that older macOS versions are now more difficult to download. The next time you upgrade, you may want to back up the previous version's installer, just in case.

You will need a 16 GB or larger USB flash drive or external hard drive for this process.

Prepare the external drive

Before you can create the installer, you must format the drive. If your drive is already formatted, you can skip this section. To format the drive:

  1. Connect your external drive.

  2. Start the Disk utility App. You can find this with Spotlight (Command + Space) or go to Applications Folder in Finder and then open the Utilities Menu and double click on the app.

  3. Under External Select your hard drive from the list on the left, then click Extinguish Button at the top of the window.

  4. Under format, choose either the HFS + or APFS File system. Which Mac file system is best to choose depends on what you plan to use it for.

  5. click Extinguish, then completeonce the process is complete.

Build the installer

You must follow these steps on the computer that has the installer for the older version of macOS installed.

Connect your formatted external hard drive and launch the terminal App. You'll need to enter a command that differs depending on the version of macOS you're using. If you want to create a bootable drive for macOS Big Sur, use the following command as it is. Otherwise replace Big Sur with the macOS version name (for example Mojave):

sudo / Applications / Install macOS Big –volume / Volumes / Untitled

This will create the installer (titled Untitled) that you can use as a bootable drive.

Related: How to Install macOS from USB

Use the installer

Finally, to run the installer you created and downgrade macOS:

  1. Shut down the Mac you want to downgrade and connect the newly created external drive.

  2. Boot the Mac into Recovery Mode. On Intel Macs, this can be done by holding Command + R at the start. On M1-based Macs, keep the power Key at startup until you see the message Load start options. Select on the next screen Options to enter recovery mode.

  3. If that macOS utilities Screen appears, choose Disk utility

  4. Choose your Startup disk and click Extinguish. Choose either the HFS + or APFS File system for the format.

  5. Restart the Mac, this time holding down opportunity (Intel Macs) or keep the power Key pressed (M1-Macs). the Startup manager will appear. You should see your USB as a bootable disk. Use the arrow keys to select it and press To return on your keyboard.

  6. After the installation program loads, select Install macOS.

  7. Once the installation is complete, you can restore your files from the backup you made.

You may not need to downgrade at all

If you're thinking of downgrading your macOS version because your computer is slowing down, you might want to reconsider that decision. While this can solve your speed problem, you could go through all of these problems only to find that your Mac still feels slow. First, try cleaning up your hard drive and reducing your startup applications for better Mac performance.

Is your Mac running slowly? 10 simple tips to speed it up

Is Your Mac Slow? Follow these simple tips to learn how you can speed up your Mac and get better performance again.

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About the author

Kris Wouk
(116 published articles)

Kris Wouk is a musician, writer, and whatever it's called when someone is making videos for the web. He's been a tech enthusiast for as long as he can remember, has definitely favorite operating systems and devices, but uses as many others as he can anyway just to stay updated.

By Kris Wouk

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