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Need macOS Sierra for ancient iMac  



I have an iMac  (A1312, mid-2011) that I am wanting to sell, except it won't boot up.  When I retired it several years ago, it went to serve as a weight to hold down a section of my carpeting.  Now that I am de-cluttering in anticipation of selling my place and moving, I am trying to rehabilitate it with a working macOS to see if it will boot up (and I can see what I have left on it).  I have researched making a bootable thumb drive with a macOS, only I can't find a copy of the macOS Sierra to DOWNLOAD.  Apple at its support site only has Sierra Combo files that install updates.  Can someone point me to macOS Sierra to make a bootable drive from?

11 Answers

This system came with Snow Leopard 10.6.6, so it does not have network recorvery.


You could try this link to get El Capitan



If you have another Mac and get it to download El Capitan, then use Diskmaker X to turn that into a bootable USB thunbdrive installer or just a bootable external USB disk installer.


If AND ONLY IF you cannot get another Mac to get you El Capitan, then you may need to resort to getting a Snow Leopard installation DVD, and apply the updates so that you can download and install El Capitan on this Mac

Snow Leopard DVD
Snow Leopard 10.6.8 Combo Update v1.1
App Store update



datafornothinandbitsforfree:  Hope this gets to you. In a nutshell, and using my current iMac, the App Store tells me I have Mojave and it is up to date, two items I already knew. So it appears the next action will be to buy the Snow Leopard 10.6 CD, wait for delivery, and use it.  I have checked the box my older iMac came in, no CD (refurbished, no CD?).  I saw a post here when I was searching, I need to try and confirm before I buy the CD that it is SL 10.6.6 as SL 10.6.3 won't install on a mid-2011 iMac.  The lady who discoverd this fact was advised to send it (SL 10.6.3) back to Apple and get a SL 10.6.6

Again, THANKS (and if you have other ideas send them)


Your Mac supports macOS High Sierra, which you can download directly from Apple in Step 4 on this page. Also, by the way, various 2010 and 2011 Macs did support Internet Recovery.


Ben:   THAMKS..........but when I get to the High Sierra page in the App Store the first time, it told me that the app was too old for my (current) iMac, do I still want to download it?  I said yes and it started to download (to the downloads folder. When the download was just about complete, stated the app was too old for my current iMac which I used, and then said I was running Mojave and it was up to date.  When I tried again to "get", in fact, many times, it got to that I was running Mojave and it was up to date.


On my Mojave Mac, when I click the link to download High Sierra, I'm directed to the Mac App Store, which then opens the Software Update pane of System Preferences. This verifies my intent to download macOS 10.13.6. After the download is complete, I too get the message that the version is too old for my Mac (presented by the installer trying to open after successful download).

Software Update generally downloads to the Applications folder, not to Downloads. Are you sure yours was going to Downloads? Did you look in Applications?


Ben:     Oops, THANK YOU big time.  Yes it was in my Applications folder, I was lured into the thinking it was in Downloads due to the fact (or impression I made) it was a standard Safari download.  I am currently moving it to a zip drive which I will plug into my mid-2011 iMac probably tomorrow morning.  I am tired of racing this problem around and around, which may account for not looking first, or second, in my Applications folder - as all .app files go.  I appreciate you patiently guiding me back onto the road. 


Ben:   I wouldn't be able to get to sleep thinking I was SO close.  But alas I copied "Install macOS High" to a thumb drive which I plugged into one of my mid-2011 USB ports, started up the machine, and nothing.  I get the white screen with an Apple logo, the progress bar has no movement at all.  Now I really will go get some rest.  Thanks


You cannot simply copy the installer to a drive and expect the drive to behave as a startup disk. You have to use a utility like DiskMaker X to extract the appropriate content from the installer, place it in the appropriate places on the drive, and also bless the drive so that it’s bootable.

Dave and John last mentioned DiskMaker X in Episode 770.


Ben, and others:  Still not out of the woods yet.  I got the correct version of Diskmaker, applied it to a fresh copy of the download of high sierra from Apple, and created what is supposed to be a bootable thumb drive for my ailing mid-2011 iMac.But I couldn't figure out how to have my iMac boot from the thumb drive - so what I fell back to was restarting the iMac and holding down Control + R and pick the option for reinstall macOS (after I once again ran DiskUtility FirstAid on the iMac internal drive.  Eventually, the macOS was installed (somewhere I saw "Sierra") and I took out the thumb drive and restarted the iMac.  It shows the start-up pane, progress goes all the way from left to right (visually shows "complete") and then sits there with the white start-up screen and no more.  How do I boot from the bootable thumb drive?  All of the articles I have been able to find get me to the bootable thumb drive - but then end with "Wala!"  -  done.  I am trying to save the contents of the hard drive as there were some handy files on it that I would like to recover..  Like taxes, etc. With this where it stands, perhaps this is why I bought a new iMac to replace my mid-2011 model.  Hmmmm


You boot holding the "Option" key (sometimes called "Alt")

More specifically, you hold Option at startup and reach the Startup Manager, which shows available volumes to boot from. You select the one you want and press Return (or double-click).


Ben & datafornothinandbitsforfree:  THANKS for all of the help.  I tried Control + R and opted for install macOS, restarted and the progress slide went all the way to the right and then just stayed there, So I restarted with the thumb drive which had High Sierra on it.  I know now that it started with the thumb drive as it asked which disk to use.  Again, I restarted and the progress slide went all the way to the right and then stayed that way. So I am thinking that if I want the data off of that disk the next move will be to pull the disk and take it to Circuit City or Best Buy and then have the data pulled off and put it on a CD.  I thought of getting the data off myself but I don't believe I have the cables necessary. If that seems the next step I will start a new conversation.  I considered the Genius Bar, though that physically doesn't exist anymore, Apple pretty well hid the appointment process.  Again, I appreciate the help - I will create a bootable drive for my current Mojave macOS!


One other option, since you now have a new iMac, is to connect the two by Thunderbolt and put the old iMac in Target Disk Mode. Since all you're trying to do is get the data off the old Mac, putting a working operating system on it isn't actually necessary.

If you can manage to get an appointment at Apple, they should be able to provide the cables/adapters if you don't have or can't borrow from someone.

This post was modified 1 year ago by Ben Rosenthal