DevOps: Installing macOS 13.0 Ventura and downloading/installing older available macOS versions

Apple likes to publish a new Mac operating system every year, including beta versions and incremental builds, and there can sometimes be many of those released throughout the year, like we’ve seen in 2022. On October 24 of this year, Apple graced us with macOS Ventura 13.0. Last year, 2021, the company gave us macOS 12.0 Monterey. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just get a list of available macOS versions, select the one you want, have that macOS installer app download to your /Applications folder, and then you can run that installer whenever you’re ready? You can and I’ll show you how. Here’s what you see after you download the installer for macOS 13.0 Ventura (installer highlighted in green):

More specifically, I’ll tell you how to install Apple’s new and first alpha version of its desktop operating system software, macOS Ventura 13.0, from a Mac that is most likely still on macOS Monterey — especially if you keep up with the Apple world. I’ll also tell you how to download installers for approximately every public macOS build number within the last two years.

In today’s tutorial, we’ll be using the dreaded command line, but don’t worry. All that pretty user interface can just make code more buggy, and Apple always seems to have problems with getting new macOS versions downloaded and/or installed. Today, we’ll be cutting out some fluff and talking (almost) directly to macOS using a Terminal command called softwareupdate. It’s very reliable. I know everything I show you here today works on Monterey and Ventura and I know the command goes all the way back to macOS El Capitan 10.11. If you’re using softwareupdate on an older macOS version, just do a man softwareupdate at the command line and study the help. Here we go…

We’ll be using the command line (Terminal)

I’m assuming that readers are familiar with, which allows people like you and me to execute commands and run utilities directly through the operating system “shell.” If you’re not, please look at one of the many, many great Terminal tutorials available on the web. You’ll figure it out in no time.

Before you do anything like upgrade your Mac’s operating system version, you should know what operating system version you’re currently running. It takes me more time to use my Mac’s user interface to find macOS details. I can get my macOS details much faster by entering this short Terminal command:

Note that the output from the shell command, sw_vers, is shown immediately after the command. This is the format I’ll use when displaying events in Terminal.

If I go to Apple > About This Mac, I have to click into the macOS version number to make the build number appear, and it’s just awkward, like so:

Finding out what macOS installers are available from Apple

Suppose I want to find out if I can 1) upgrade my current Monterey partition to Ventura or 2) install an older version of macOS, namely macOS Big Sur 11.6.6, on another partition from Ventura? To find out what macOS installers are currently available from Apple, enter the following command in Terminal:

Notice that I highlighted two lines of output from the softwareupdate command I just ran? These are the two installers I was looking for. Let’s find out how to download them, where they download to, and how to run the downloaded installers.


Downloading a macOS installer from Apple

First, let’s download the installer app for macOS Ventura 13.0 (22A380) from Monterey. The installer was listed as available in the last Terminal code snippet I just showed you. When using this tool in the future, you always want to make sure that you’re downloading the installer with the right build number. I won’t go into details today but, trust me, I’ve verified that we want macOS build 22A380 to install the one and only publicly-released alpha build of Ventura. Let’s start downloading the installer app:

This commands requires you to enter the Mac’s administrator password, and it’ll prompt you for that password:

After talking with the Apple server for a few seconds, the command will tell you what it’s doing:

Once the softwareupdate command starts downloading the installer app to your /Applications folder, it shows you progress in the command line:

IMPORTANT: Even though softwareupdate says it’s “Installing,” it’s NOT installing an operating system. It is only downloading a macOS installer app that has to be specifically run to install anything.

When the softwareupdate command finishes downloading the installer app to your /Applications folder, it tells you everything went well in the command line:

Use Finder to look in the /Applications folder and you’ll see that the macOS Ventura 13.0 installer app is waiting for you to use.

When you’re ready to install or upgrade to Ventura, grab a Finder window, go to the /Applications folder, and run Install macOS The normal Apple installer will run for Ventura:

Downloading other macOS installers

Remember that I also wanted to download macOS Big Sur 11.6.6 (20G624). Let’s do that on Ventura. I’m dealing with a service ticket wherein a specific app always crashes when certain features are used in Big Sur 11.6.6. I’ve got a partition ready. I just need the installer so I can recreate my customer’s environment. As you’ll see, the process for getting a Big Sur 11.6.6 installer app is the same as it was for getting the Ventura installer app. I can download as many macOS installers as I want.

I look up the macOS version I need, then download its installer app if available…

… Then I look in /Applications a find my installer app. I can run this anytime I want:


A great reason to use the softwareupdate command in Terminal is, obviously, that you can upgrade to Ventura using a safe and reliable tool. Another great reason to use softwareupdate is to always have access to as many of Apple’s older macOS versions as possible.

I have customers whose commitment to quality is par excellence. They’re willing to reproduce bug’s in their software that are specific to a particular macOS build, like macOS Big Sur 11.6.6. All’s they need is to look through their list of installers and run the one found, targeting some freshly-formatted partition. One customer I have has installers going back to macOS 10.6. Another keeps active macOS partitions installed and ready to be booted.

You may just find yourself one day with a piece of software that stopped being supported after a certain macOS build was forgotten by Apple’s memory, but you REALLY like the way your software worked. You can now get that app version back up and running.

You’ll have to do some regular book-keeping and check for and download macOS installer builds as they come and go. Apple is always on the move and you’ll only have a certain window of time to download and archive those macOS installers if you want good version coverage. Check often, download, and make backups.

I hope you enjoyed today’s session. Check back soon as this site is soon to be a hub of activity. We’ll be publishing more tutorials — but we’ll be adding videos and a new line of books that you can purchase to make you into the best of the best Apple developers.


Author: Andrew Jaffee

Avid and well-published author, software engineer, designer, and developer, now specializing in iOS mobile app development in Objective-C and Swift, but with a strong background in C#, C++, .NET, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, jQuery, SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, Agile, Test Driven Development, Git, Continuous Integration, Responsive Web Design, blah, blah, blah ... Did I miss any fad-based catch phrases? My brain avatar was kindly provided by under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license.