Is there any Mac Operating System available to download ?


16 Answers 16


The short answer is, as others already said, there is no free OS X.

The long answer is this: An operating system consists of many parts and large parts of OS X are indeed free. If you are interested in this have a look at the Darwin project.

What is missing from Darwin is mainly the graphical user interface of OS X (Aqua). You can run GNOME or KDE instead if you like. One of the consequences is that you can't run applications that depend on Aqua, like Safari or iTunes.

And just not to give false hopes: Darwin is very cool if you are interested in operating systems but in my opinion it's not very useful for most practical purposes.

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    Darwin is under an open source license, you can download and use it for free. I have done so. – Ludwig Weinzierl Jul 24 '09 at 19:22

You can't get Mac OS X for free, at least not legally.

  • if I buy a Mac, do I have to pay for OS X? – splattne Jul 24 '09 at 19:13
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    No, you do not. All Macs come with OS X preinstalled. – waiwai933 Jul 24 '09 at 19:14
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    Does the engine come free with purchase of a car? You're paying for Mac OS X as part of buying the Mac. – スーパーファミコン Jul 24 '09 at 19:17
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    No, because theoretically the cost of the OS is included with the cost of the computer. Plus, you still buy new versions of OS X. – jtbandes Jul 24 '09 at 19:18
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    @splattne: In any case you already paid for the OS when buying the Mac. Is like, they don't charge you by the display separately nor de HD. That doesn't make it free. – OscarRyz Jul 24 '09 at 20:28

OS X updates tend to be free - but IIRC its between consecutive versions, and you need to have apple hardware, or a running system. There's no way to 'simply' download an ISO and install it on an arbitrary system. Annoyingly for a reinstall there's no 'iso' download - you could in theory build an installer off of an ESD if you did have a mac and internet recovery is your best bet/supported bet for a bare metal install.

I'm assuming that's not what this is about. You'd want to run this on arbitrary hardware.

As of 2016. Nope. There's been a few attempts - you could get the kernels free for a while (there seem to be versions here), and attempts to throw together a functional userland around that - puredarwin at least has a webpage, but is not really there.

Kernels are lovely. Also entirely useless on their own. Get a usable userland and you can run the otherguy's stuff. For that matter, apple keeps its userland close to its chest, and that's the big pain point. Darling might help with that, you'd essentially need to port that back to darwin, which would be wierd. You can't simply download the GUI elements of OS X in any way.

In short, the fragments of a usable 'free' OS X 'compatible' system exists, but is in no way usable, and there's no official legal gratis release of OS X. There's pirated/hacked ones, but those are out of the scope of this site.

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    I don't want to run on arbitrary non-Apple hardware. I want to install on a MacBook that was discarded with a broken screen backlight and without its SSD. The Apple Store Genius Bar told me the diagnostic tool found no other problems and I should be able to use it with the OS booting off a USB and display on an external monitor. I'm now trying to fill in the blanks of how to do that. – hippietrail Apr 23 '16 at 9:42
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    I wanted to answer the original questionas well. The link on internet recovery should help you get a reinstall started. We used to do that routinely at my last job. – Journeyman Geek Apr 23 '16 at 9:52

Nope, sorry. However, you can (questionably legally) buy a copy of Mac OS X and install it on a PC ("hackintosh"). Also, keep in mind that new Macs come with Mac OS X.

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    There are no problems with purchasing a copy of OS X: you are not required to own Apple hardware to purchase it, however, there are legal issues related to installing it on non-Apple hardware. – Matthew Schinckel Jul 28 '09 at 14:14
  • That's what I meant, yeah. Thanks for clarifying. – jtbandes Jul 28 '09 at 15:30

Based on what I read on the Apple forums, if your Mac is really old (mid 2009 or older) you can use the supplied installation discs to reinstall the OS.

If you don't have the install discs, you can contact Apple and they'll ship it to you for a small fee. After installing an older version of OS X, you can then upgrade to El Capitan if your Mac meets the hardware requirements.

Alternatively, if you have access to another Mac or can borrow one from a friend, you can create a bootable USB recovery drive using OS X Recovery Disk Assistant and use it to reinstall Mac on your machine.

Reading posts on this thread, if you don't have access to an Apple ID, you can use OS X Internet Recovery to install the version of OS X that came with the machine when you purchased the Mac.


Assuming that you mean a) legally and b) newer than, say, System 7, then your answer is no, there isn't.

  • I think versions as 'new' as System 7.5.5 are freely downloadable. I seem to recall that possession of a Macintosh computer capable of running it is technically required for the license, but don't quote me on that. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jul 24 '09 at 19:31
  • @dmckee - wow! you mean I can get System 7.5.5 free?! why did I pay for Leopard... Joking aside it's certainly a condition of the license for OS X that it be run on Apple hardware. – Jon Hopkins Jul 28 '09 at 15:49

No. Mac OS X costs $129 USD and is available through Apple. While you may be able to find some locations that sell it for slightly less, you will not be able to obtain it for free unless, say, a friend gives it to you.

Also, please keep in mind that according to the License Agreement (or whatever), you can only install Mac OS X on Apple computers. (But it's possible to do so on other computers, just not legal).

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    I think that's debatable. I'm pretty sure it's not entirely illegal to install it on other computers, as long as you bought it — just in violation of the EULA and so you won't get any support from Apple. – jtbandes Jul 24 '09 at 19:26
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    Well, it would be violating a contract, which is legally enforceable, so it is technically illegal, albeit being done quite often. – waiwai933 Jul 24 '09 at 19:31
  • It's one of those violations where they'd likely go after a distributer selling/installing it on non-Apple hardware (hi Psystar) but ignore individual violations unless it got out of hand. – Jon Hopkins Jul 28 '09 at 15:51
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    EULAs as contracts are legally a bit iffy. Consult a lawyer if you're wondering about it. Psystar not only violated the EULA, but modified Apple software to make it work on their systems, and that's copyright violation (which is a lot less iffy). – David Thornley Aug 19 '09 at 16:15

You can get Linux distributions that run on Macs (ppc and x86)


Get up to 7.5.5 from here.

  • Technically, 7.1 is not free. – Troggy Aug 4 '09 at 7:07

(I am not a Mac user, but I believe I can point you in the right direction.)

I understand you are looking to install OS X on a bare-metal MacBook that you brought back to life. I assume here that you are having this difficulty because you are using Windows.

El Capitan is the latest OS X version. You may download a DMG file of it from Getintopc. I have verified that the download starts, but as its size is 5.7 GB, I did not wait for it to finish. The same website also has other downloads for previous versions of OS X.

To install it, the next step is to convert the DMG to a bootable format. See this post for doing that: Create a bootable USB drive from a DMG file on Windows.

In case of a problem with the above, the DMG file can also be converted to ISO and then to a bootable CD/USB. See this article: How to Convert DMG Files to ISO Files on Windows.

Once you have the bootable CD/USB, the next step is to boot and install. However, not posseding a Mac, I cannot help you with this.

You could also try first to install the bootable media in a virtual machine by using VirtualBox, VMware or Hyper-V (if you have Windows 10). This exercise may help you to prepare for the real thing.

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    The download is not provided by Apple and therefore, almost by definition, not legal. At the best, it might work, at the worst, it contains malware. Updates to a newer version of Mac OS X are free, since a few versions, but they always require a Mac, i.e. if you want to keep things legal. If you're looking for a free download, to install on a PC, there is no legal route for that. It's not even possible to do that if you want to pay money for it. – Sander de Jong Apr 25 '16 at 12:24
  • @SanderdeJong: This is a blank machine. So if worried, do this: Get from this website the previous OS X version, install it and use to get a legit version of El Capitan from Apple, create bootable media, wipe out the disk, install El Capitan. – harrymc Apr 25 '16 at 12:40

The original question does not give any details as to the purpose or target hardware of the OS.

Apple stopped charging for OS X as of 10.7 (Lion). They also stopped pressing physical media at that time. The ONLY authorized distribution channel for OS X 10.7 and higher is the Mac App store.

For computers that shipped with 10.6 (Snow Leopard), the App Store must be downloaded and installed as a separate application to gain access to Lion and higher (which is free).

For computers that shipped with 10.5 (Leopard) and lower, they must upgrade to Snow Leopard first (which is NOT free), so that they can download the App Store app and then upgrade to Lion or higher.

So the answer to the question is yes, there is a free version of OS X available from Apple IF your Mac originally shipped with Snow Leopard or higher. Otherwise, you must pay for Snow Leopard (which Apple no longer sells) to do the upgrade.

And since the EULA prohibits OS X from running on non-Apple hardware, the answer is always no if you don't actually own a Mac.

  • To me, this now seems to be the best answer for being both general and up-to-date! – hippietrail Apr 28 '16 at 4:08
  • Wikipedia and my own research suggests that Lion & Mountain Lion were/are not free, but OS X Mavericks (10.9) and later are. – M. Justin Jan 31 at 8:37
  • OS X Yosemite 10.10 - macOS Catalina 10.15 have installers available through Apple's How to get old versions of macOS article. So this is an authorized distribution channel that is not the Mac App Store. – M. Justin Jan 31 at 8:39

You can't get Mac OS for free, but you can run most versions of GNU/Linux on a Mac. Even the older macs (PowerPCs, LCIIs) will run GNU/Linux, although they will be somewhat slow and probably not good for even general flash-filled browsing nowadays.


Mac OS X is free, in the sense that it's bundled with every new Apple Mac computer. But it's not freely available.

Search for "hackintosh". There are people installing unsupported versions of the operating system.

  • hackintosh or OSX86 ;-) though the free part is debatable – Ivo Flipse Jul 24 '09 at 19:15
  • IMHO the terms "free" and "not free" don't apply to something you can't buy. – splattne Jul 24 '09 at 19:16
  • @splattne You've posted the same comment, or a variant of it, to three different answers. Where on earth did you get the idea that you cannot buy Mac OS X? It's on store shelves all over the place, and also available at virtually every online retailer. It's $129. – mmc Jul 24 '09 at 19:21
  • mmc: sorry. My fault. Apologies. I meant you can't buy a copy as operating system for a non-mac PC. – splattne Jul 24 '09 at 19:26
  • You can, but you aren't supposed to. – jtbandes Jul 24 '09 at 19:33

Interesting that nobody has mentioned, that GNUStep is largely compatible with Cocoa.
But it is more of interest to programmers, I guess.


Depending on your hardware age and how updated it was when it last had a drive, yes. Boot holding Command+Option+R.

This boots to internet recovery, which downloads an image that allows you to reinstall OS X.



You can always click on the headers to go to homepages for updates. Download links in this answer (no-hassle mode :P).

No, Hackintosh won't work. It needs Apple hardware, and is illegal.

There is no legally free version of OS X, but you can take a look at Darwin. (Didn't link to Hackintosh on purpose, SE and SU are not intended to spread piracy. I don't know if PS (Pirated Software) StackExchange is ever going to exist.)


OpenDarwin has long since been shutdown. It was a Darwin community intended to release Darwin ISO files. Click to find out if they are open again!


PureDarwin is a project meant to continue where OpenDarwin left. It's latest version, PureDarwin Xmas (booting process fixed), still in development (?), is available as a VMWare virtual machine disk (PureDarwin 9). Their website also offers a "nano" version (PureDarwin Nano) as both an ISO file and a VMWare virtual machine. They also link to an old Darwin 8 ISO file stored on apple's Darwin website (actually, they link to the source browser).


Apple used to store compressed ISO files of Darwin till version 8.01 (linked from PureDarwin's site).

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