How to Downgrade to OS X El Capitan from macOS Sierra

You can downgrade to OS X El Capitan from macOS Sierra if you don’t like the performance of the update or run into too many macOS Sierra problems. Here’s how to downgrade macOS Sierra to OS X El Capitan.

Unlike iOS, there is no time limit on how long you have to downgrade to OS X El Capitan, so you can choose to go back to your old version of OS X whenever it best suits you.

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Apple renames OS X to macOS with the macOS Sierra update and adds a number of new features like Siri and the ability to unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch.

If you upgraded and then ran into issues or apps that don’t work on macOS Sierra yet, it is possible to go back. The sooner you make this decision the better, since the easiest way to downgrade macOS Sierra to OS X is to restore a Time Machine backup.

There are several ways to downgrade to OS X El Capitan from macOS Sierra, ranging in difficulty.

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How to Downgrade to OS X El Capitan

How to downgrade to OS X El Capitan from macOS Sierra.

How to downgrade to OS X El Capitan from macOS Sierra.

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The easiest way to downgrade to OS X El Capitan is to restore to a Time Machine Backup made before you upgraded to macOS Sierra. No matter which way you are looking to downgrade it’s a good idea to have a backup since there is alway’s a chance that something could cause issues with your data when changing the operating system.

If you use Time Machine, you should already have the backup you need to start the macOS Sierra downgrade to OS X El Capitan. It’s a good idea to perform a current backup before you start, just to be safe. It’s also a good idea to make sure your photos are in the cloud or a USB drive to be absolutely safe.

Restart your Mac and when it is booting back up, hold Cmd + R at the same time. This opens Recovery Mode on your Mac. Another option that you may be familiar with is holding alt/option during boot and choosing recovery.

Boot into recovery to downgrade to OS X El Capitan by restoring a Time Machine backup.

Boot into recovery to downgrade to OS X El Capitan by restoring a Time Machine backup.

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You will see a macOS Utilities menu with several options. Click on Restore from Time Machine Backup. You’ll need your Time Machine hard drive plugged in if you don’t already have it connected.

Choose a Time Machine backup to restore to.

Choose a Time Machine backup to restore to.

After a short wait you will see an option to Select a Backup Source. Choose the Time Machine Drive that has your backup on it. Click Continue on this screen.

Choose a backup to restore that has OS X El Capitan on it.

Choose a backup to restore that has OS X El Capitan on it.

Now you should see a screen where you can choose the backup. This will allow you to pick the backup that you want to restore to. You need to choose the backup from when you were running OS X El Capitan. You’ll see an macOS Sierra version listed on the right side of this screen so you know which one to pick. Choose your backup and click Continue.

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Now you need to choose your destination to restore to. Choose Macintosh HD, or whatever the name is, and then click on Restore. This will start the downgrade to OS X El Capitan.

Choose your Macintosh HD to complete the macOS Sierra to OS X El Capitan downgrade.

Choose your Macintosh HD to complete the macOS Sierra to OS X El Capitan downgrade.

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It will take a while to restore your Time Machine backup to downgrade from macOS Sierra to OS X El Capitan. Make sure your Mac is connected to power and you don’t force it to restart during this time.

When the restore completes you will be back on OS X El Capitan, right where your computer was during the last update.

If you don’t have a Time Machine backup you can still downgrade, but you will need to start over from scratch. That means you need to backup your photos, files and apps on your own and then perform a clean install of OS X El Capitan.