Dec 18

Apple used to have a fantastic application called OSX Server (now called MacOS Server) which allowed you to run a full server from any OSX computer. A server can  allow you share files, run your own email or web server, remotely connect in to your office etc.  OSX server was particularly powerful running on a Mac Mini. With OSX Mojave 10.14 Apple killed off OSX server, but it is still possible to download an older version from Apple that still works. You need need to purchase OSX server on a newer Mac running Catalina, then go to an older Mac signed in using the same Apple ID and grab the older version of Server from the Purchase history.

Here’s how.

You will need access to two Macs to do this.

Firstly you will need a Mac running an older version of OS X. This is the Mac you will run OSX server on. I used El Capitan but any version prior to Mojave will work.

If you try to ‘purchase’ OSX server on this older OS it will say that MacOS Server is not compatible with the older OS. The only way to purchase Server is to be running Catalina. (Note, according to the comment below this now needs to be Big Sur, Updated Feb 2021). So you may need access to a mac running OSX Big Sur to make the actual OSX Server purchase. 

Once you have purchased Server you can then download the older version of Server to your older OSX. 

1. Purchase a new version of MacOS server on a Mac running Catalina.

On the Catalina OS X computer, login to the App Store and purchase a new version of OS X Server. You don’t need to download it. You can cancel as soon as it starts to download. 

2. Download the older version of Server on the Mac running an older version of OS X.

Open up the App Store on whichever Mac you are attempting to install macOS Server on. (The Mac with the older OS). Make sure you are logged into the same iTunes account you used to purchase macOS Server. In the

Go to your ‘Purchase History’. This can be done by either going to the Finder/Menu bar and clicking “Store” then “View my Account” or by clicking on your account name in the bottom left corner of the App Store window.

Look for the macOS Server app in your Purchase History and click DOWNLOAD. Make sure to download straight from your purchase history. Clicking on the app and attempting to install from its product page will not work. MacOS Server will now appear and you can download an older version that works with your older OS.

You should now have a working version of OSX server that includes all the features like VPN, FTP, Mail server and everything else that Apple removed from the Mojave version of OSX server.

There are lots of good comments below – worth a read.

Related Apple Support links:

What’s changed with Server 5.7.1

How to get an older version of OSX:

49 Responses to “How to get an old version of MacOS server”

  1. Klaus says:

    Very helpful. Thank you!

  2. Marty says:

    Thanks so much for this article! I wish Apple would make this known to their users. Cheers :)

  3. Phil says:

    Does not work with Server app 5.6.3 and Mojave 10.14.5 – says “This version is no longer supported on this version of macOS.”

  4. DFAIT says:

    I believe macOS Server 5.6.1 is the last version that supports Calendar and Contacts services – can someone confirm this?

    Can someone also confirm that no Security or other updates to macOS 10.13.6 will make Server 5.6.1 incompatible?


  5. root says:

    I’ve upgraded Server from 5.5beta to 5.6.3. I don’t use them but it seems that OS Server 5.6.3 supports Calendar and Contact Services which are in the list of menu bar.

  6. Spencer says:

    Thanks for the sharing. When I follow the advice and login to my iTune account, I cannot find a way to see all the apps which I have purchased and can be downloaded. Only apps for iPhone and iPad…. Any further advice will be grateful. Thx in advance.

  7. This method does not work anymore! I already tried, after buying and even downloading on my mojave computer, but on two different computers, it says it doesn’t offer the older version anymore, it just says it is incompatible. Please suggest an alternative method. thanks

    • Wayne says:

      Just to be clear, you need to download the older version of OSX server onto an older version of OS X, it won’t run on Mojave.

    • Ultimeter says:

      I couldn’t get it to work either. Says I need 10.15 to complete the purchase although I already purchased it on my Catalina Mac. Doesn’t give me an option to download an older version. Hoping to get this old 2006 MacPro working in my small office as a document server. Bummer

      • micah says:

        you might want to try linux instead, there are nice graphical interfaces available today. the old 2006 mac pro is very power hungry but will work. installing linux requires some special tweaks on these old machines because of the non-standard EFI apple set up in them, but luckily lots of poeple have done this so the work’s already there. – download any of those and install normally, or modify your preferred NAS distro to run on it instead, like XigmaNAS or OpenMediaVault.

        good luck

    • Derek says:

      Just downloaded Server 5.2 (for 10.11.6) today as I am upgrading my XServe from 10.9.5.

  8. james says:

    Really needed this. Well done!

  9. Steven Sheung says:

    This method does not work any more. When you show up as Mac Mojave, it only said you have to be !0.15 to download. That is it.

  10. Henry S. Kim says:

    Actually, this method DOES work as of 1/15/2020, you just have to change everywhere above that it says Mojave, to Catalina. In other words, find a machine that has Catalina, log into the Mac App Store, buy macOS Server (version 5.9 as of 1/15/2020). Now that your account has a purchased copy of macOS Server, go back to your High Sierra machine and go to the Mac App Store on that machine, log in using the same account you used on the Catalina machine to buy macOS Server 5.9, and search for macOS Server. The buy button will say “INSTALL” (because the Mac App Store acknowledges that you bought it using your account), and click on the INSTALL button. You’ll see a message that says macOS Server is not compatible with your current OS (High Sierra) and then it will say that it will download the most recent version that’s compatible with your OS. It will download macOS Server 5.6.3 to your High Sierra Applications folder and name the app Server. Done! And no, you cannot move this app to a Mojave or Catalina machine. That won’t work. So if you want to use macOS Server 5.6.3, you can’t go any higher than High Sierra. Incidentally, I used an old white MacBook (unibody model MacBook7,1) to install Catalina to do this. Even though it (and many other old machines) don’t officially install Catalina, it’s trivially simple using the unsupported installer found by googling “catalina unsupported” and using the first search result.

    • Saúl Ruiz says:

      Hello Henry. If I have Catalina and buy MacOS Server there in AppStore ¿Could I then go to my MacOS Mojave old MacBook Pro and download there a proper version for Mojave?

  11. Peter Rowat says:

    I have Mojave on an iMac, and the App store does not show a Server!
    So Apple has taken it off the Store
    Is there any other way to get a Server that runs Mail?
    Any help apprecited

  12. Peter says:

    It would be great if someone might explain what functionality remains possible interacting with the older server OS and Macs with the current OS (Catalina)

  13. Peter says:

    Before deciding to pursue this, know:

  14. tony shipton says:

    Still works!

  15. WB huffer says:

    Does anyone know how I can get the Mac server version for 10.7 Lion. I have an old MacPro 1,1 I want to use as a server. Cheers.

  16. Not working on el cap and mojave says:

    this article is outdated. apple says the current server version requires OSX 10.15 to download, which is catalina. I’m unable to download the current server version using Mojave or El Capitan.

  17. FHU Beatris says:

    Very good post. I’m facing some of these issues as well..

  18. GCPDetective says:

    Just wanted to post this here for anyone having issues. If AFTER purchasing macOS Server on the App Store you still get a message saying that it is incompatible with your version of macOS, try this:

    1. Open up the App Store on whichever Mac you are attempting to install macOS Server on. Make sure you are logged into the same account you used to purchase macOS Server.

    2. Go to your purchase history. In Mojave this can be done by either going to the Finder/Menu bar and clicking “Store” then “View my Account” or by clicking on your account name in the bottom left corner of the App Store window.

    3. Look for the macOS Server app and click on the DOWNLOAD button. Make sure to download straight from your purchase listing as clicking on the app and attempting to install from its product page will most likely not work.

    Hope this helps.

    • Gustaf says:

      For me, it worked from Product page as well, but you need to throw your old Server application away in order to get an Install button (and not an Update button). When clicking Install it warns you that the download will not be the most current version but the most current compatible with your current OS X (exactly as you want it)

      • ad says:

        This worked for me after adding a Metal-compatible video card to our Mac Pro and updating it from 10.13 to 10.14. I was stuck until I deleted the server app (App Store only gave the message that the current version of Server only worked with 10.15). Once I deleted the existing version of Server, it allowed me to download the latest compatible version.

  19. Johan says:

    I purchased the server app prior to the announcement of 5.7 so perhaps this is a bit off topic.

    I had been running 5.6.3 successfully on HighSierra and wanted to install 5.6.3 on another machine. I therefore renamed the server app (in order not to overwrite it) but then I could no longer download it from app store, only update it. Although I had 5.6.3 installed (but renamed), the app store wanted to “update” it to 5.1.

    Looks like HighSierra without any Server app installed is needed to download from the app store. Does anyone know how to download the app installer only? Downloading MacOS installer without launching is possible.

    • Gustaf says:

      I had 5.2 and also got only Update, and it was not possible to download except if I threw away the old
      But when I started it, it used my old settings at least (=migrated)

  20. A George says:

    Still working. Great tutorial. Thanks.
    Folks need to realize that they need to purchase OSX server on the newer Mac, then need to go to the older Mac and make sure they are signed in using the same Apple ID. It will already be in the list of purchases and when you choose Install, it will install the correct version of the server app.

  21. moof says:

    My Macmini has two drives, one with Catalina and one with High Sierra – both fresh installs.
    I bought and downloaded but not installed the latest version of Server on the Catalina HD
    I then booted in HS. When booting in High Sierra, I can’t mount the Catalina drive which has the new format, so the new version of Server was not present.
    After logging into Appstore I found it would not let me download the old version of Server. The link said “Open” and clicking it had no effect at all.
    Interestingly, every other purchased App invited me to “Install”. Somehow the Appstore knew the Macmini had just downloaded the new Server.
    I then grabbed my MacBook Pro with HS installed, opened Appstore and under “Purchased” it invited me to download and install the old Server version. After it had loaded into the Applications folder I could then copy the uninstalled 5.6.3 version to the HS drive on the Mini, and also parked a copy on the NAS for safe keeping. It installed on HS no problem.

  22. Junia says:

    Reading your post (Thank you Wayne!) I finally could upgrade my Lion Server to El Capitan Server and to Sierra Server (Mac OS version 5.3.1).
    From App Store I bought an actual Mac OS Server through a Mac running Catalina. The download started but I stop it as oriented here.
    On my MacMini (midi 2010 & two 500GB HDs), I wiped one of the disks and installed Mac OX El Capitan. Connected to iTunes Store (Apple previous online store by the time I got that MacMini Server) and then to the App Store also with the same Apple ID used to buy Lion Server. Within “Purchases” got the actual Mac OS Server selected, received an alert message that an older version was needed to run with that El Capitan OX system and bingo. It downloaded a 5.2 version of Mac OX Server which I did not install.

    After that, I have updated the other disk to Mac OS Sierra, visited the App Store and got that new purchase of Mac OS Server and bingo again. That Mac OS Servers knows and delivers what your system is running and download it correctly.

  23. Sassy Lou says:

    You can get a version of Server 5.6.3 here. (App and .zip File)
    At some point I will take it down.

  24. Risto says:

    I manage to install the Server App 5.6.3 to my High Sierra 10.13.6 Parallels virtual machine but it will only crash when trying to run it for the first time. Errors: Exception Type: EXC_CRASH (Code Signature Invalid) and Exception Note: EXC_CORPSE_NOTIFY. I don’t see an option to download the app/installer. Is it possible to run macOS Server App in a virtual machine in the first place? I have Big Sur in my iMac but wish to run the mail server service for simple mail backup (to keep some emails always available to iPhone & iPad at home, not in a cloud service like Google, iCloud).. or is there another easy and economical way to host a mail server for backup purposes (which would not be used for sending or receiving mail at all)?

    • Sassy Lou says:

      You cannot run Server 5.6.3 after Sierra/High Sierra. It wont work on Mojave, Catalina or BIg Sur.

    • Sassy Lou says:

      If you want to downgrade to High Sierra..the installer wont work unless you use Terminal to restore your computers date.

      Also, Server on High Sierra removed the FTP/FILE Sharing services after Yosemite. Yosemite would be your last chance saloon server of services.

  25. Denhor says:

    Of course it was obvious later, but it took me a while to see in No. 1 step, “…purchase a new version of OSX Mojave,” should have been “… purchase a new version of MacOS Server,” just like in the pic below. Just in case there are still some like me who didn’t get it at the start. :-)

  26. Denhor says:

    I did download the older version Server but I got this error:
    “This version of Server does not support upgrading the Server data on this volume. To upgrade your Server data, you will need to install an older version of Server and OS X.”

    I have High Sierra in this machine. :-(

  27. flying canoe says:

    Thanks everyone, this method still works with Big Sur. You must delete the old version from the Applications folder on the Mac you want to use on. This will generate a message from the system saying that all server services will be stopped but the data will be left intact. Then the correct version will download correctly.

    first I upgraded our Mac Pro 5,1 file server (which has a 16TB external SAS array connected to it) from 10.11 to 10.13. Then installed Big Sur on a spare Mac mini, logged into the same apple ID as originally purchased the, then downloaded current ver of just in case. then deleted 10.11 version from MacPro svr, then went to purchases in App store account and re downloaded it. Then when i launched the it configured itself with the data from previous.

    The important thing for us is that the OD worked fine. the missing services that we previously used (DHCP DNS) are now being provided from our UTM/Firewall. we didn’t use anything else like calendars so all good.

    hth someone and thanks to all

  28. JoeBotGennyHead says:

    Flying canoe is right as of Feb 2nd 2021 this is a valid workaround. Sticking it to the lazy condescending worthless local apple care in my town who suggested I just spend 600 plus dollars on a newer mini. They literally said nothing could be done at all. Outrageous!

  29. Ian says:

    Not working on Catalina any more (but). I started with El Capitan, upgraded to High Sierra expecting to be able to download the long ago bought Server app. Each time it says I need a later OS version to download it. The App Store doesn’t give any message about offering an older version. As I am currently on Catalina 10.15.7, it is only saying it now requires 10.16.

    But … (as the “Purchased” link has disappeared from the main view, it’s now under the account)
    Clicking on the account name icon in the App Store, then under Purchased I click the macOS Server download icon (without first clicking macOS Server). Only this way does it offer me the version compatible with Catalina (that I am on). (I shoulda done this when I was still on High Sierra!)

    • Joel says:

      Thank Ian! Your suggestion to click the download link WITHOUT clicking into the macOS Server app icon was the key for me.

    • Bob says:

      Dear sir, your solution worked as a charm!
      I was struggling to install this app on my recently updated Catalina MacMini.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to share that fix.

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