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How to downgrade from OS X El Capitan back to OS X Yosemite

The OS X El Capitan public beta is a way to test the next generation of Mac software. If it turns out you don't enjoy the process, or would prefer to wait and try again later, you can go back to OS X Yosemite. Downgrading is a simple process, but it's also a bit of a chore. Don't worry, though, we'll walk you through it!

Note: If you're reading this article on the Mac you want to revert, either print it out first, or open it on iPhone, iPad, or another Mac so you can read along as you go.

If you made a bootable OS X Yosemite install drive before you went on the El Capitan beta, then simply plug it in, reboot, hold down the Option key, and you'll be on your way.

If not, you'll need to erase OS X El Capitan first, and then re-install.

How to erase OS X El Capitan

  1. Make sure your Mac is connected to the internet over W-Fi or Ethernet.
  2. Go to the menu and select Restart....
  3. Hold down Command+R while your Mac reboots.
  4. Click on Disk Utility in the OS X Utilities selector.
  5. Click Continue.

  1. Select your Startup Disk.
  2. Click on the Erase tap.
  3. Type in Macintosh HD for the name (or whatever you like.)
  4. Select Mac OS Extended (Journaled)* from the **Format list, if it isn't selected already.
  5. Click Erase.

Once it's done, quit Disk Utility and get ready to reinstall.

How to reinstall OS X Yosemite

  1. Click on Reinstall OS X in the OS X Utilities selector.
  2. Click Continue on the OS X Yosemite Installer.

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From this point on it's the same as a standard update, simply continue on and agree to the licensing terms as you go. When you're done, your Mac will reboot into OS X Yosemite.

Note: Depending how old your Mac is, you may get an older version of the installer—typically the one that originally shipped on your Mac (That's especially true if you end up in Internet Recovery mode).

If that happens, complete the installation of Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, or whichever version you're offered, and when you're done and rebooted, go to the Mac App Store and re-run the OS X Yosemite update.

How to restore your data from Time Machine

You should be asked if you want to restore from Time Machine as part of the reinstallation process. If not, or if you choose not to, you can restore at any time.

  1. Power up or restart your Mac.
  2. Hold down Command+R while your Mac boots.
  3. Click Restore from Time Machine Backup from the OS X Utilities menu.
  4. Click Continue.
  5. Read the Restore Your System page and click Continue.
  6. Select your Time Machine backup
  7. Click Continue.
  8. Select the most recent backup of your drive and click Continue.

Your Mac will then restore from Time Machine and reboot. The process can take a while so, depending on network speeds and the amount of data, so be patient.

If you run into any trouble or have any questions, ask away in the comments!

Rene Ritchie
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I was and still am thinking of going back just so I can have XtraFinder working again.. I never knew how much I relied on and used that to properly format and enhance Finder. Just the automatic column feature alone was worth it.. Apple STILL doesn't auto-adujest column widths properly in Finder.. which is mind boggling.
  • Thanks Rene!
    Here's another little question ... does the backup have to be from Yosemite when doing a restore after install?
  • From personal experience the backup has to be from Yosemite. Just found out the hard way and got a new macbook pro last weekend. My backup was on el capitan and i had to upgrade to the beta in order to restore my last time machine backup. So basically there is no way to downgrade and save your stuff if all your time machine backups are on el capitan.
  • I rebooted with Command-R, selected 'Restore from Time Machine Backup' and let it run (I did a full backup just prior to upgrading). That worked, Yosemite returned without my having to first select 'reinstall OS' and then 'restore'. Glad I didn't read these instructions first ;-)
  • Question @benjitek... did the machine you were downgrading come preinstalled with El Capitan? I ask because I am getting a new laptop and don't want to use El Capitan, so I'd like to downgrade to Yosemite... I will do a full time machine back up, then try and set up the new machine via time machine backup..... as you mentioned. Thanks in advance. Derek
  • That was 9 months ago... It was a backup of the machine he purchased, so, common sense may help answer that question ;-)
  • I did the same as you, the only problem is that you are left with the rescue partition created by El Captain including the new version of Disk Utility. I believe following the article procedure the rescue partition will also be downgraded to Yosemite as well.
  • Hi, I tried the instructions above, When I clicked on reinstall OSX only choice I was given was El Capitan. I chose a recent back up of Time Machine that was Yosemite when it was backed up. Went to bed, awoke to find "restart to complete restore" I did. It's gotten appx 1/2 way (status bar has been stuck dead center below the apple) for a few hours now?
  • Same here, you need to reinstall Yosemite, make a bootable drive from App Store, in your purchases hopefully. You get version 10.10.4, no more iPhoto.
  • Help! Tried downgrading back to Yosemite, it only gave me the option of El Capitan, so I think I've cocked up by rebooting from OS Utilities, now how I have a white screen with a flashing folder with a question mark on it, what do I do now? No time machine back up. Thanks in advance.
  • Hi did you ever figure out this dilemma. I just tried to downgrade from elcapitan back to Yosemite and I follow all the steps and when I attempted to reinstall it only gave me the El Capitan option. What do I do?
  • I solved the problem by doing a clone of my hard drive, then upgrade. If I don't like anything just pop the old hard drive back in. I've got as far back as Mavericks.
  • This article is great. Covers all permutations and helped me go back to Yosemite. The beta was to buggy for me and was to unreliable to use on my main computer. Thank you very much for writing this article in a clear and concise manner! Tim
  • Only negative is if you like iPhoto the version available to download of Yosemite doesn't contain it, so it'll be gone for good if you erase your hard drive.
  • Quick question! I understand the processes going on here but I just wanted to clarify, will all my information be deleted when I downgrade from El Capitan? Is this a format that Im doing here because I did not have a time machine set up before I upgraded
  • I have the exact same question, seeing as I had to turn off time machine long ago since my backups were getting out of hand … of course after I got my backup sizes more manageable I had kind of had a brain cramp and never turned time machine back on. lots of audio and image/video … wonder if I can pull out the important stuff onto an external, then throw it back on once i've reverted
  • I followed all the steps above. Erased El Capitan and have been trying to reinstall Yosemite and when I get to the app store to install it gave me the message "this item is temporarily unavailable. Try again later." Suggestions??
  • This article just fucked me over so badly. Followed all the instructions, pressed the erase button not realizing that everything on my computer is now gone including a program I've been working on for weeks that's due today. This article wrongly assumes that everyone has made a backup and doesn't mention the need for it until after everyone has completely erased their drive. Thanks for fucking my GPA!
  • Oh what an informatics genius!! Maybe you should have taken a look in the dictionary for the word "erase"... What did you think would happen?? Blaming the author is not a valid option here.. You should rather blame your parents....
  • I think backing up is a pretty standard thing to do in any situation even remotely resembling what you tried to accomplish.
    P.S. Are you referring to your Grandpa or grades, I hope the latter as I don't want to form any pictures in my mind,
  • As a Mac user or any PC for that matter, When you work with important files always have as many back drives as possible. You have learnt a thing or two by erasing without a back plan. I reverted back last night and i did not have a Time maching backup. Connect direct internet cable to my MBP. command +R to go into recovery mode.
    Utility to Erase you MaC HD drive ( JUST Macintosh HD) once I did that I restarted the mac with Command + R for the 2nd time with my boot drive inserted (as I had a usb boot drive in place that I kept as in case i may one day need to revert back to Lion and this was hand yesterday). I repeated the same process by reformating MY macintash HD just to make sure i am able to install with a any issue, not that this was important. form there every thing went fine. now am back to my old OS. El capitan Slow down MY PC the slowest i have ever seen since using MAC.
  • this doesn't work exactly like the instructions. OS X El Capitan was the only OS X available when I came to step 2 of the reinstall. You left out the part where you have to make a bootable drive of an older version OS X. This is a waste of time without the bootable drive. Now I have to find instructions to make the bootable drive and start over. I wish I could have those 3 hours of my life back. : (
  • Try this instead: