Finding and Using Operating System DVDs

Mac users have a few different ways to install a new OS. Depending on your device and the version that you want to install, installing from a disk can be the ideal option.

When Should I Reinstall My Mac Operating System?

  • Mac OS doesn't need to be reinstalled regularly, but if your device is performing poorly, a clean reinstall can help to bring it back up to speed. Remember to back up any software and files that you want to keep, as reinstalling your OS from a DVD will delete everything. Consider running diagnostic tools first.
  • If you want to sell or give away your Mac desktop or laptop, you should reinstall OS X. Because reinstalling Mac OS X deletes your software and resets user preferences, it gives the new user a clean slate and protects any private data installed on your Mac.
  • Apple doesn't officially support rolling back your version of Mac OS, at least not without restrictions. While you can reinstall older versions of OS X using the Mac App Store, this only applies to versions that you have installed before. If you have the latest Mac OS X version but want to reinstall an older operating system, installing OS X from a DVD is a convenient way of doing it. This is especially useful for developers who may wish to check software compatibility on hardware running different versions of OS X. Older versions also often work better on older hardware.

Which Mac OS X Versions Can I Choose From?

  • Early Mac OS X versions from 2001 to 2012 were mostly named after big cats. These include OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.
  • From the release of Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks in 2013, the company began naming operating systems after places in California. These versions included 2014's OS X Yosemite and 2017's 10.13 High Sierra. From the release of Sierra in 2016, Mac OS X was brought under the new macOS name to bring it into line with iOS and watchOS.
  • You can also find classic Mac OS versions released before Mac OS X launched in 2000. Mac OS versions have been around since 7.6 launched in 1997, and you can also find even older operating systems like Macintosh System Software. When installing one of these older operating systems, remember that it is likely to work with very little of your software, and older operating systems may be supplied on CD-ROM and not DVD. Most classic versions still have graphical user interfaces, but very old ones like Apple DOS have command-line user interfaces instead.