Downgrade El Capitan

The latest Mac OS X released was in September last year, under the name “El Capitan”. This firmware came with performance and stock app improvements, better windows management, improved search and many more. Overall, it provides a better performance than OS X Yosemite. However, there have been many users who were left unsatisfied with OS X El Capitan firmware, due to many reasons such as experiencing a lower performance on their Mac, unsupported apps and so on. If you’re also in the same situation and not fond of OS X El Capitan then the best thing to do would be to downgrade your Mac to prior versions.

In this guide, we will show you two methods of downgrading OS X El Capitan on your Mac. Whichever method you choose, it is crucial to first perform a complete backup of your contents and data. Even if you are not performing any downgrade, backing up your data should be on your “priority list”.

Disclaimer: iBlogApple will not be responsible for any damages caused during the process. Proceed at your own risk and take extreme caution. 

Method 1: Downgrade OS X El Capitan via Time Machine

Before reading this method, note that it requires you to have a Time Machine backup from your prior OS X install. If you don’t have it, skip to method 2 outlined later in this article.

Time machine is a very useful feature provided in OS X. It allows you to perform a complete back-up of your data and contents and keep you in a safe haven position. What’s best about Time Machine is that it will automatically backup any new data that were created after the last back-up you took, thereby saving you the time of doing it manually. Therefore, if you have used Time Machine to back-up your data from an older firmware before updating to El Capitan, the downgrade process will be much easier.

Before getting started, make sure you to take a fresh backup of your current files on a different drive. This method will use the backup files from a previous OS X firmware and will remove any new data and contents that were created in El Capitan so it’s recommend that you first perform a complete backup of all your files on El Capitan.

Step 1: Connect your Time Machine drive to your Macbook which contains the backed up data of your previous OS X firmware. 

Step 2: Now, restart your Macbook. When you hear the startup/boot up sound, hold down the “Command + R” combination keys to enter recovery mode.  Alternatively, you can hold down the “Option/Alt” key and then choose “Recovery 10.11” option. 

Step 3: A new window is displayed labelled OS X Utilities. Select “Restore From Time Machine Backup” then click Continue.

Downgrade-El Capitan-Step 3

Step 4: You will be taken to a new page where you’ll have to select a backup source. Choose the Time Machine drive that you connected in step 1, which contains the backup data of your older OS X firmware. If you don’t see the drive, it might not be connected properly. Make sure that it is connected properly to your Mac to be able to choose it.

Step 5: The next screen will display a list of all the backups made on the Time Machine drive along with the date and the OS X firmware version it belongs to. It’s recommend that you select the latest backup you made from the prior OS X version. Your backed up date could be from the following OS X versions:

  • “10.10.5” or any “10.10.x” version is Yosemite
  • “10.9.5” or any “10.9.x” version is Mavericks
  • “10.8.x” version is Mountain Lion

Select your desired version and click continue. 

Step 6: Once you’ve selected a backup to use, you will be asked to choose the restore destination. This will usually be “Macintosh HD”. Select it and click on Restore. This will start the restore process. 

Restoring OS X usually takes a lot of time (sometimes hours) depending on the restore size, network speed and your Mac’s processing speed. Therefore, sit back and relax while the the recovery process takes place. Make sure that your Mac is plugged in to the charger to avoid your battery from dying or experiencing interruptions. 

Once the restore is complete, your Mac will restart and start off with the data and contents from the backup you chose, including the OS X version it was associated with.

If you took a backup of OS X El Capitan before starting this guide, you can manually copy the new files to your current OS X installation. 

Method 2: Using a Bootable USB drive

If you don’t have a Time Machine backup from a prior OS X installation then this method should be followed. Compared to the prior method, this one has a few additional steps and requires more effort but it gets the job done.

Keep in mind that this method will completely wipe your Mac  and perform a fresh install of any OS X firmware you choose. Therefore, it is in your best interest to perform a fresh backup of all your files/data before starting the process.

In this method, we will use OS X Yosemite as an example for downgrading but you can use prior firmwares as well if you have the installer.

To perform this process, you are required to first have an OS X Yosemite installer (or any other firmware) and an 8GB USB drive. To download OS X Yosemite, simply launch your Mac App Store, navigate to the “Purchased” tab, scroll down to find OS X Yosemite and click on Download (as shown in the screenshot below).

Note: Apple keeps these OS X installers available on its server for a short period of time. Once removed, you won’t be able to downgrade from El Capitan to a prior version. As of now, the Yosemite installer is still available.

Downgrade-El Capitan-USB

Once the download is complete, the next step is to create a bootable USB drive. To do this, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Connect your USB drive to your Mac and launch Disk Utility (you can search it in Finder and open it). Next, select the name of your USB drive from the sidebar and navigate to “Erase” tab as shown below. 

Step 2: On the “Erase” tab, choose “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” as the format and click the Erase button. This will create an installer USB drive.Downgrade-El Capitan-USB-Step 1-2Step 3: Now navigate to the “Partition” tab in the same window shown above and change the partition layout to “1 Partition”. Change the name of the partition to anything you desire, in my case I used “YOSEMITE”. Click on “Options“, select “GUID Partition Table” and click OK. Then click Apply. 

Step 4: Launch Terminal (again you can find it by searching “Terminal” in Finder) and insert the text shown below (copy and paste it into the terminal). If you used a different name for the partition in step 3, make sure to replace the red highlighted text below with the partition name you chose:

sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ –volume /Volumes/YOSEMITE –applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ –nointeraction

Hit the enter key and you will be asked to enter your administrative password (login password). Once entered, the process will start and when it finishes, you should see the following message:

Erasing Disk: 0%… 10%… 20%… 30%…100%…
Copying installer files to disk…
Copy complete.
Making disk bootable…
Copying boot files…
Copy complete.

The bootable USB drive for Yosemite has been created. You can now close terminal.

Step 5: Next, connect the bootable USB drive to your Mac and restart it. When your Mac is starting up/booting up, hold down the “Option/Alt” key. From the new window that opens, select the USB drive you just connected (Install OS X Yosemite)

Downgrade-El Capitan-Step 5

Step 6: Wait until the OS X Yosemite Installer page appears. 

Step 7: On the menu bar, click Utilities and then choose Disk Utility

Step 8: On the Disk Utility page select the hard drive on the sidebar (usually Macintosh HD), click on the “Erase” tab, select “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” as the format and give the hard drive a new name (if required, else leave it as is). Then click the Erase button to format and wipe clean the hard drive. 

Step 9: Close the Disk Utility window and navigate back to the installer page. Click on “Install OS X” and click Continue

Step 10: Choose the hard drive (usually Macintosh HD or any other name you have given in step 8) and click Install

This will start installing OS X Yosemite on your Mac and downgrade you from OS X El Capitan. Once the installation completes, you can start copying your files or folders manually to your new OS X Yosemite installation and embark on the adventurous journey of configuring your new settings on Mac. If you ever faced any problem during the downgrade process, use the comment section below and we will help you out. 

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