There are various instructions online on how to download old versions of OS X and macOS. You can even find one at Apple and also at Sir Apfelot Download list with instructions.
In practice, however, you quickly realize that this is not so easy. I've only managed to create a bootable El Capitan USB stick myself and have failed with other versions. But a reader pointed me to a more practical - if not free - solution: Ready-made USB boot sticks for the different OS X and macOS versions.
Chapter in this post:
DS Systems boot sticks on Amazon
The USB sticks from DS Systems can be found with the capital A in a wide variety of versions. The advantage of this is that you get tested and working Apple operating systems that are bootable and can therefore also save Macs that no longer boot.
The nice thing is that you will not only find old OS X systems here, but also modern macOS installers like macOS is coming or Monterey.
Important: If the system you are looking for is not in the list below, go through this link and look there in the list, because this one on the page does not necessarily have to be up to date.
And pay attention to the product images, because there you can often see whether the USB stick has a USB-A or USB-C connector. If you don't have the right ports on your Mac, here is an adapter set, which makes every stick suitable for every Mac.
Here is the list of systems to buy from DS Systems:
- OS X Snow Leopard – Release 10.6 (2009) – Info
- OS X Lion – Release 10.7 (2011) – Info
- OS X Mountain Lion – Release 10.8 (2012) – Info
- OS X Mavericks – Release 10.9 (2013) – Info
- OS X Yosemite – Release 10.10 (2014) – Info
- OS X El Capitan – Release 10.11 (2015) – Info
- MacOS Sierra – Release 10.12 (2016) – Info
- MacOS High Sierra – Release 10.13 (2017) – Info
- macOS Mojave – Release 10.14 (2018) – Info
- macos catalina – Release 10.15 (2019) – Info
- Big Sur macOS – Release 11 (2020) – Info
- macOS Monterey – Release 12 (2021) – Info
- macOS is coming – Release 13 (2022) – Info
- macOS Sonoma – Version 14 (2023 – not yet available)
I'll try to keep the list above up to date, but if you realize I didn't seem to make it, feel free to leave a comment and scold me. I'll do the update right away.
Alternative: macOS Internet Recovery
If you have a Mac that was made after 2009, then there's a good chance you can use Internet Recovery to fix your problem. Maybe you don't need a boot stick and you can save the money.
Why not buy boot sticks on eBay and Co?
Very simple: Several readers have already written that they bought macOS boot sticks on eBay. Then, when they installed their Mac, the Mac behaved strangely.
Confused by this, they installed an antivirus program and this immediately reported a number of malware infections. A manipulated macOS or OS X installation package was already on these sticks, so that the Mac was directly infected with malware.
There are no virus-infected boot sticks on DS Systems USB sticks, because the feedback from readers on these installers has always been very positive.
Here are some questions that are frequently asked on this topic.
How do I boot from USB stick Mac?
Turn on the computer, hold down the Option (Alt) key as it boots up, select the USB drive as the startup disc, and the system will boot from the USB drive.
What key to press to boot from USB?
To boot from a USB stick, restart the Mac and hold down the ALT key directly until the boot manager appears. There you can then select the volume and the USB stick from which to boot.
Where can I find the USB stick on Mac?
Another option to access your flash drive is to open Finder and click the flash drive icon in the left sidebar.
Can you connect a USB stick to a Macbook?
You can connect storage devices like external hard drives, thumb drives, flash cards, and USB drives to your Mac using wired connections like Thunderbolt, USB-A, and USB-C. If the USB stick does not fit any socket on the Mac, you have to use an adapter.
Jens has been running the blog since 2012. He acts as Sir Apfelot for his readers and helps them with technical problems. In his spare time he rides electric unicycles, takes photos (preferably with the iPhone, of course), climbs around in the Hessian mountains or hikes with the family. His articles deal with Apple products, news from the world of drones or solutions to current bugs.