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Download Full MacOS Installers from Command Line Terminal

How to download full macOS Installer applications from Terminal

Mac users can download full complete MacOS installers directly from the command line. This is an incredibly useful feature particularly if you want to build USB boot drive installers, you manage multiple Macs, or you simply want to have full access to a complete installer application of MacOS for any other purpose.

With this particular trick, you can download complete “Install MacOS” application packages directly from the Terminal application, and it works to get full installers of macOS Monterey, macOS Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, and High Sierra too.

This particular –fetch-full-installer flag for the command line softwareupdate tool is only available in MacOS Catalina 10.15 and later versions of MacOS, so if you’re trying to use this from Mojave or earlier it will not be available and you’d have to rely on other methods to download full macOS installers instead.

How to Download Full MacOS Installer from Mac Command Line

  1. Launch the Terminal application as usual, then use the following command syntax, replacing “**.**.*” with the installer version you wish to download:
  2. softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version **.**.*

  3. Hit return to start downloading the full installer application of that version of MacOS

Remember to replace **.**.* with the version you want to download, for example to download the full macOS Catalina installer the syntax would be:

softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version 10.15

The downloaded installer application of MacOS will appear in the /Applications directory of MacOS, just as if you had downloaded the installer from the Mac App Store or Software Update control panel.

Listing Available macOS Installers

From Terminal, issuing the following command will list out available macOS Installers for the Mac:

softwareupdate --list-full-installers

This may return something like:

Finding available software
Software Update found the following full installers:
* Title: macOS Monterey, Version: 12.0.1, Size: 12128428704K
* Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6.1, Size: 12428472512K
* Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6, Size: 12428553042K
* Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.5.2, Size: 12440916552K

Note that if you’re running an M1 Mac and issuing this command, the available software installers reported will not include versions that do not support M1 hardware.

Downloading Full macOS Big Sur 11.6,1 Installer Application

Want to download macOS Big Sur 11.6.1 as a complete installer application? Here would be the syntax for that:

softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version 11.6.1

Downloading Full MacOS Mojave 10.14.6 Installer Application

For another example, to download the full installer of MacOS Mojave 10.14.6 (the last version of Mojave, absent any later security updates) then the syntax would be as follows:

softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version 10.14.6

Downloading Full MacOS Catalina 10.15.3 Installer Application

To download the full installer of MacOS Catalina 10.15.3, then the syntax would be as follows:

softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version 10.15.3

Downloading Full MacOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Installer Application

To download the full installer of MacOS High Sierra 10.13.6, then the syntax would be as follows:

softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version 10.13.6

Presumably this feature will evolve over time to include future macOS system software versions to download too.

It does not appear that notably older versions of MacOS system software installers are available to download through this command, but if you find a way around that or have success, do let us know in the comments below.

The softwareupdate command line tool is quite powerful and we’ve discussed the utility various times before, as it can be used to do everything from hide MacOS Catalina updates, check for and install general MacOS and Mac OS X software updates from the command line, and more.

Note that you can also use third party tools to download full installer applications of MacOS, for example download a full Mojave installer with the dosdude tool, and High Sierra too. If you happen to be running macOS Mojave still, you can typically re-download MacOS Mojave directly from Mojave without any needed effort, however.

Were you able to download a complete MacOS installer application of Catalina or Mojave or another macOS system software release with this command line approach? Do you know of any other methods of obtaining full macOS installers? Share with us in the comments.