Downgrading From OS X Mavericks to Mountain Lion

Apple.com/osx

Apple released OS X Mavericks in October 2013, the tenth major release of “The world’s most advanced operating system”. Hours after the release, I quickly upgraded the OS on my primary system, a late-2012 27″ iMac.

OS X 10.9 introduced several new features but, as expected, it also introduced several major bugs and removed features without good reason. After being frustrated with Mavericks, as many have, I decided to downgrade to 10.8.5 (OS X Mountain Lion).

A brief and condensed list of bugs and issues I found in OS X Mavericks:

  • There are a few incompatible applications that users were accustomed to using in Mountain Lion which no longer functioned, or caused some instability. RoaringApps.com is a trustworthy crowdsourced website for checking OS compatibility.
  • You lose control of scrolling with a Magic Trackpad, at random times through the day. A full system restart is required. Many users reported this on the Apple Support forum, and it’s still not resolved.
  • I love the new Multi-monitor features advertised in Mavericks and this was one of the reasons I upgraded so quickly. My main workstation is composed of 3 displays so it’s extremely important Apple handles this with care. Once again, they failed.
  • Shared network drives, screen sharing with other Macs on your network, AirDrop? Forget it. Not going to work if you’re using Mountain Lion on any of your other networked Macs. Theoretically it will … but implementation was subpar and obviously rushed.

I left Mountain Lion installed on a small 150GB partition before upgrading to Mavericks. The idea was that I could launch Mountain Lion at any time, just in case I didn’t find the new OS to work for my needs. Unfortunately, that caused more trouble than it was worth. With only 6GB left on the Mountain Lion partition, it quickly filled up and I needed more space. I tried deleting the Mavericks partition and allocating the free space to Mountain Lion, but it’s not that easy. (even while running Disk Utility from an external drive). Long story short, I ended up formatting the entire SSD (including the Mountain Lion recovery partition, yikes!)

Of course I kept a backup of all my data, thanks to Apple’s Time Machine (Which I no longer recommend using, by the way). This was not the concern. The next real challenge was finding, and installing, Mountain Lion. Why does Apple make this so complicated? And why do these bugs even exist? Short answer – OS X developers at Apple don’t support or think in the mind of the minority; most users would never notice the bugs and complications in Mavericks that we geeks (ahem, power users) do.

A persistent banner ad seen in the Mac App Store. Apple is encouraging all users to upgrade to Mavericks as soon as possible.

A persistent banner ad seen in the Mac App Store. Apple is encouraging all users to upgrade to Mavericks as soon as possible.

Rushing to download and install Mavericks back in October, I copied the installer onto the same SD card that Mountain Lion was on, replacing and deleting 10.8 forever. Installing via SD card was out of the question.  :-(

No problem, I can just download Mountain Lion from the App Store like I did last year? Wrong again – it’s not longer available in the Mac App Store and shows an error when attempting to download. At this point, I’m quite frustrated.

After a vast amount of searching, I found a clean copy of Mountain Lion on a popular torrent website. 1.5 hours and 4.5 gigabytes later, I inspected the installer package to notice it was completely mangled so I don’t recommend trying this. I ended up purchasing an Apple Mac Developer account, solely for the purpose of downloading an old OS. Apple provides many past versions of OS X and iOS to developers who want to test their app for previous generation products.

Mountain Lion Installer screenLo and behold, Mountain Lion is actually available from the Official Apple Store (store.apple.com) and I wouldn’t have had to spend that $105 for a developer account. Only major downfall is that it can take up to three days before you receive the operating system. It’s not exactly clear whether it arrives on a DVD, or as a digital download similar to the developer account.

At the end of the day, I was able to finally download Mountain Lion from the Developer centre, and install it on my iMac. Whew!

To save yourself the future trouble, follow these easy tips:

  • When you’re ready to use a new version of OS X, choose the upgrade feature, or do a completely fresh install. Don’t partition a drive hoping to dual-boot.
  • Keep a copy of all new versions of OS X that you have to download, on an SD card, or similar device. This is especially important if you have slow internet speeds, and no access to a developer account.
    • It’s also interesting to note: Apple gives you, as a developer, ONE key to redeem the OS in the Mac App Store. If you give this key away, or use it on a different account, you’ll have no chance of ever downloading that OS on your main account, unless you buy a new developer account.
  • Keep weekly backups of your data, so you can upgrade / downgrade at any given moment.

In conclusion, you’re going to be better off sticking with Mountain Lion until some of the major bugs in Mavericks are resolved. Considering Apple’s past … this could be months after the initial release of 10.9.0.

Steve Jobs‘ attention to detail has gone missing at Apple and it’s something I truly admired about them. I’m losing faith in the future of my favourite company, Apple Inc.

Leave a comment letting me know your experiences with OS X Mavericks and when you think the right time to upgrade is.

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  • Rasjeet

    i will probably never upgrade now

  • Carmen Shields

    Still considering upgrading merely for compatibility reasons; nevertheless, I can wait considering how buggy Mavericks is looking to be.

  • Zack Trunzo

    Great article Eric! Nice to see you blogging again. We should catch up on Skype some time man!

    • http://techzany.com/ TechZany

      Thanks Zack! Agreed

  • Alma Miranda

    I bought a Mac Mini late 2012 with Mavericks on it. This OS is slow as molasses. I had to repurchase Photoshop and Windows Office for Mac because my old versions would not work. Ok, I can get that. But, Safari crashing constantly, loosing features I loved, not been able to reopen tabs in a new sessions, not respecting my Preferences, sounds to me like the work of amateurs. And don’t get me started on Mail. It will not keep count of emails, I cannot save images anymore. I have to copy them and send them to myself. I have gone from Tiger through all OS varieties and I had never been so disappointed. I thought Yosemite would solve all this, so I became a beta tester. Lo and behold Yosemite icons and flatness is almost a carbon copy of Win 8!! Microsoft must be laughing really hard. As soon as I installed Yosemite, I had connection problems. Had several crashes including in the app that submits data to Apple. Apple is not respecting their customer and is not listening to them. I miss Snow Leopard. I contacted Apple and they said I can downgrade my Mac Mini after they checked my serial number. Let’s hope they are right.