Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Catalina “softwareupdate” Can Download Old Installers

Armin Briegel:

The softwareupdate command has gained a new option in Catalina:

% softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer

Will download the latest ‘Install macOS’ application to this Mac’s /Applications folder. This is extremely useful for many admin tasks.

The --fetch-full-installer flag has a sub-flag: --full-installer-version which allows you to download a specific version.

% softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version 10.14.6

Oddly, specifying either 10.14 or 10.14.0 works, but to download Catalina you need to specify 10.15 or else it will fail with an “Update not found” error.

These installers can be used with DropDMG’s Create macOS Install Disk command.


Update (2019-10-16): There are some questions about which old versions this works for.

Update (2020-06-01): Helge Heß:

I was refusing to install Catalina on my machines for a loong time, living on 10.14. Eventually I did, Xcode 11.4 told me I had to.

You can’t imagine how hard it is to rebuild a working 10.14 dev install. No simple “download installer and put it on a partition” 🤷‍♀️ Wasted hours.

A problem is that the Mojave installer doesn’t run on Catalina, can’t be used to install it on a different partition from within 10.15. And the rescue system brings up 10.15 (or 10.10). So I’m trying to go with the external boot volume thing next …

See also: How to Downgrade a New Mac to Mojave From Catalina, Xcode 11.4 and Swift 5.2.

Update (2021-12-20): See also: Howard Oakley.

9 Comments RSS · Twitter

Does it also work for older version like 10.11? I succeeded downloading the installer for 10.11 only within 10.11 itself. Didn't work from 10.9 (which i had a VM left somewhere) or in 10.14 (which i have on my macs).

Sören Nils Kuklau

It seems they have the last point releases of some updates. For example, they have 10.12.5 and 10.13.5, but apparently nothing in between. I couldn't find any 10.11.* release that worked.

It’s hard to tell because it’s so unreliable. The exact same Terminal command will sometimes work and sometimes fail, so I can’t tell if it’s because that update isn’t available or because of a transient error.

Hello Michael. Thank you for this very useful tip. While I already have the original Catalina installer saved on disk from October 8th, I wanted to test this out, so I am re-downloading Catalina via the Terminal this very minute. I am assuming it might be a little newer than what I already have. So does this mean that the former method via the App Store no longer works? I am referring to the fact that if you already had a particular OS installed, the App Store would give you the option of downloading the full installer. I in fact currently have the full installers for everything from Leopard to Catalina. I don't know why. I will probably never use any of them, other than El Capitan on my ten-year-old iMac. :)

Out of curiosity, just now I also tried downloading 10.11.6 and got the same "Install failed with error: Update not found" error message. I actually tried four times. The first time, it just threw me the "Update not found" error. The second time, the "Installing" counter got up to about 69% completed, and then failed. The third time it got up to 80% completed and then failed. The final time, there was no counter at all. Just "Install failed with error: Update not found"

It seems that at this late date, the only way now to get older installers is if you have a very old machine, in which you still have the original full installers in the "Purchased" section of the App Store app. I in fact have a few of those on my old El Capitan machine. However, I am not even sure if the installers I currently have on my hard drive will even work.

As a case in point, about a week ago, I finally decided to reinstall El Capitan on my 10-year-old iMac, because I kept getting notices regarding the Security Update 2018-004 for El Capitan. I think at some point, my receipts may have gotten messed up, because each time I would try to download the update via the App Store, the progress bar refused to budge, as if the file was no longer available for download, or something.

It was at that point that I decided to use the full El Capitan installer that I have here. I tried two or three times, but the installer kept throwing me an error. I can't remember what it was now. In the end, I had to boot in Recovery Mode, and download and install El Capitan over the Internet.

@Bill Correct, even if the old installers still show up in the App Store, the links to download them no longer work.

Why does Apple make it so hard to download the full installer for macOS? I just experience this problem last week! My dad only uses Macs for development these days and getting the proper full installer should not be an adventure.

Sören Nils Kuklau

Why does Apple make it so hard to download the full installer for macOS?

I guess part paranoia and part annoyance of Hackintosh. (Not that I expect such measures to be very effective to counter piracy.)

And, for regular users, it’s almost entirely irrelevant. The OS updates automatically or downloads through Recovery, if need be.

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