How to Downgrade from macOS Catalina to a Previous Version

Downgrade Macos Cover

macOS Catalina arrived recently, and although the update was well-received, a small number of users faced many issues with their installations. As is the usual case with fresh software releases, Catalina also had some problems and vulnerabilities. Complaints included unresponsive systems and unsupported and buggy apps.

Fortunately, it’s possible to downgrade your system to an earlier version of macOS, though the process isn’t as easy as you may think. Below we list the steps of how to downgrade from macOS Catalina to an earlier macOS version. (This method is not limited to macOS Catalina but can downgrade any macOS version.)

Back Up Your Mac

The first step before any software upgrade/downgrade is to back up your Mac. This is especially important in this case, since you’ll be completely formatting your hard drive before downgrading your system.┬áThus, make sure you back up all your files before proceeding.

Make sure you back up your files the traditional way (by copying them somewhere safe) or by using a free backup app instead of using Time Machine. If you use Time Machine to create a backup and recover from that backup later, you’ll also inadvertently recover the original macOS you used to create the backup.

Macos Startup Modes Cover

Downgrade Your Mac Using Time Machine

If you already have a Time Machine backup from an earlier macOS version (such as Mojave or High Sierra) that you’ll be downgrading to, it’ll come in handy since restoring your Mac from a Time Machine backup is way simpler than formatting your hard drive and reinstalling macOS.

Downgrade Macos Time Machine

Remember that even though you’ll be restoring your Mac from a Time Machine backup, your startup disk will be completely wiped. Hence, any work you’ve done or music or photos you’ve downloaded after you made the initial backup will be deleted, so make sure you back up each and everything you want to keep.

The below instructions show how to use Time Machine to recover the earlier version of macOS.

1. Connect the Time Machine disk to your Mac.

2. Restart your Mac. Hold down Command + R until the Apple logo appears.

3. Once the Recovery Mode loads, choose “Restore fom Time Machine Backup” and click Continue.

4. You’ll now see “Restore from Time Machine Backup.”. Click Continue again.

Downgrade Macos Restore Fromtime Machine

5. Select the disc you’ll be restoring your Time Machine backup from.

6. The next screen shows all your backups over time. Pick the last one you made prior to updating to the newer version of the Mac operating system. (You can see which version of macOS the backup was made in.)

Once done, your Mac should be up and running with a downgraded version of macOS.

Downgrade Your Mac without Time Machine

If you don’t have a Time Machine backup, you’ll have to downgrade macOS the old-fashioned way: by resetting your hard drive. This method will wipe the data from your hard drive, so make sure you’ve backed up all your data somewhere safe.

1. Download the installer of the macOS version you want to install. We’ve covered the download links and methods here.

2. Once downloaded, don’t click on Install! You’ll need to create a bootable installer for macOS first, which can be done on any external disk (such as a USB thumb stick.)

3. Once done, restart your Mac. When it’s booting, hold down Command + R to activate Recovery mode.

4. In Recovery mode, select “Reinstall macOS” from Utilities. Follow the on-screen instructions to reinstall macOS from your bootable installer.

(You’ll require an Internet connection for the downgrade, since macOS needs to connect to the Internet for installation.)

5. Once done, you should have a working copy of an older version of macOS. You can now restore all your data and continue working as you normally would.

If you’re reverting from macOS Catalina or Mojave to macOS High Sierra or earlier, you might face an issue while downgrading, as Apple changed the file system from HFS+ to AFPS in macOS High Sierra. If this is the case, you’ll need to wipe your hard drive by changing its file format before downgrading macOS. To do this:

1. After Step 3, open Disk Utility.

2. Select “Display All Drives.”

3. Choose your drive and click on Erase. Change the format to “MacOS Extended (Journaled).”

Downgrade Macos Format Disk

4. Change the name of your drive to something else.

5. Quit Disk Utility, reinstall macOS and select the new drive name as your installation drive.

That’s it. Using the methods described above, you’ll be able to downgrade your macOS version. If you faced any issues or have any questions, let us know in the Comments section below.

Shujaa Imran Shujaa Imran

Shujaa Imran is MakeTechEasier's resident Mac tutorial writer. He's currently training to follow his other passion become a commercial pilot. You can check his content out on Youtube