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 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.