Downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina

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wklee Veteran Member • Posts: 9,786
Downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina

I was given a Mac mini (2014) with 4GB RAM and 500GB of storage. Cannot upgrade the RAM and storage as it's soldered on. A relative of mine without backing up first, upgraded Catalina to Big Sur and now finds it slow and wants to downgrade to Catalina.

I tried SuperDuper as I had it for years. SuperDuper 3.3.x seems very slow. Carbon Copy Cloner appears quicker. CCC finished the job in over 1 hour.

Doesn't SuperDuper work with Big Sur? I left the App running for at least 6 hours. After 6 hours It was still at the format disk stage. I used Disk Utility to format my external Hard Disk to APFS. Was ExFAT originally.

Both Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper are trial versions.

No direct downgrade to Catalina from Big Sur. I must reformat it first.

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OP wklee Veteran Member • Posts: 9,786
Internet Recovery
1

I found out about MacOS Internet Recovery. Shift + Opt + Cmd + R. I can go back to Factory Settings with this method..

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lightandaprayer Veteran Member • Posts: 4,743
Re: Internet Recovery

wklee wrote:

I found out about MacOS Internet Recovery. Shift + Opt + Cmd + R. I can go back to Factory Settings with this method..

Internet Recovery can also be slow. . .  Your Super Duper question should be posted on its user forum.  The developer will probably reply shortly.  There are some functional differences between SD! and CCC that may be involved.

kierenlon
kierenlon Contributing Member • Posts: 974
Re: Downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina

wklee wrote:

I was given a Mac mini (2014) with 4GB RAM and 500GB of storage. Cannot upgrade the RAM and storage as it's soldered on. A relative of mine without backing up first, upgraded Catalina to Big Sur and now finds it slow and wants to downgrade to Catalina.

I tried SuperDuper as I had it for years. SuperDuper 3.3.x seems very slow. Carbon Copy Cloner appears quicker. CCC finished the job in over 1 hour.

Doesn't SuperDuper work with Big Sur? I left the App running for at least 6 hours. After 6 hours It was still at the format disk stage. I used Disk Utility to format my external Hard Disk to APFS. Was ExFAT originally.

Both Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper are trial versions.

No direct downgrade to Catalina from Big Sur. I must reformat it first.

You can't downgrade - it's a re-install so make sure to back up your data.

Perhaps you should clearly define what "slow" is.   Is it slower transcoding 4K video? Is is slower loading websites?  Is it slower copying 2000 jpegs from USB disk to system disk?

If you clarify the problem,  the cause may not be the OS at all but something else.   An app that needs an update / reinstall?  A memory hog,  thermals, etc

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OP wklee Veteran Member • Posts: 9,786
Re: Downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina

The Mac seems to take a long time to start. There is maybe a 15 to 30 second lag to click on Macintosh HD or the dock. Downloads or Applications folder for example. Beach balls.

I have downloaded EtreCheck Pro. Will have run it to see what the scan reports.

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JPAlbert Senior Member • Posts: 1,099
Re: Downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina

OP:

Is the internal drive a platter-based hard drive or is it an SSD?

If it's a hard drive, forget about ever getting that thing to run very well. It's just too slow.
You need to add an SSD. (read on)

With 4gb of RAM, VM is going to be "hitting the drive" all the time, and if the drive is a platter-based 5400rpm drive, it's NEVER going to be fast.

You could improve the performance somewhat by upgrading to an SSD inside. The original HDD can "stay in place", and I believe the SSD can be added "on top of it" (actually, underneath, but you do the "adding" while the Mini is upside down with the bottom off).

There are kits out there with all the components (I think OWC sells them).

It will be considerably snappier afterwards, and you can improve it further by limiting the number of apps you have open at once, and the number of tabs in browsers, etc.

But there are limits it will ALWAYS "be pushing against" because of the 4gb of RAM.

If you don't want to add an internal SSD, you can plug in a USB3 EXTERNAL SSD, clone the contents of the internal onto it, and boot and run from the external drive. It won't be quite as fast as an internally-mounted SSD, but it will be much better than trying the run from an internal HDD.

Final thought: DON'T spend too much $$$ on it. 500gb drive will be enough. Any more money... is probably wasted.

There's a reason you were "given" this one...

OP wklee Veteran Member • Posts: 9,786
Re: Downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina

JPAlbert wrote:

OP:

Is the internal drive a platter-based hard drive or is it an SSD?

If it's a hard drive, forget about ever getting that thing to run very well. It's just too slow.
You need to add an SSD. (read on)

With 4gb of RAM, VM is going to be "hitting the drive" all the time, and if the drive is a platter-based 5400rpm drive, it's NEVER going to be fast.

You could improve the performance somewhat by upgrading to an SSD inside. The original HDD can "stay in place", and I believe the SSD can be added "on top of it" (actually, underneath, but you do the "adding" while the Mini is upside down with the bottom off).

There are kits out there with all the components (I think OWC sells them).

It will be considerably snappier afterwards, and you can improve it further by limiting the number of apps you have open at once, and the number of tabs in browsers, etc.

But there are limits it will ALWAYS "be pushing against" because of the 4gb of RAM.

If you don't want to add an internal SSD, you can plug in a USB3 EXTERNAL SSD, clone the contents of the internal onto it, and boot and run from the external drive. It won't be quite as fast as an internally-mounted SSD, but it will be much better than trying the run from an internal HDD.

Final thought: DON'T spend too much $$$ on it. 500gb drive will be enough. Any more money... is probably wasted.

There's a reason you were "given" this one...

I ran EtreCheck. It is a 5400rpm Hard Disk and the drive is failing. Also, Gatekeeper is off.
Thank you.

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Never buy version 1.0 of anything.
Don't it always seem to go
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Till it's gone
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lightandaprayer Veteran Member • Posts: 4,743
Re: Downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina

wklee wrote:

I ran EtreCheck. It is a 5400rpm Hard Disk and the drive is failing. Also, Gatekeeper is off.
Thank you.

I ran my 2012 Mac Mini for over 3 years using an external Samsung T3 (850EVO) SSD. The thing became a little speed demon compared to the stock HDD. Now my wife uses the T3 for her Time Machine backup.  According to Drive Dx the SSD still has around 3/4 of its useful life left.

These days I would opt for the SanDisk Supreme V2 SSD, which I favor over the Samsung T5/T7 drives for various reasons. 256GB was plenty of space for me and that makes the cost around $80.

Of course, you can also install an internal drive if you feel up to it. . . If you have a use for the Mini, $80 is a minimal investment IMO.

OP wklee Veteran Member • Posts: 9,786
Re: Downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina

lightandaprayer wrote:

wklee wrote:

I ran EtreCheck. It is a 5400rpm Hard Disk and the drive is failing. Also, Gatekeeper is off.
Thank you.

I ran my 2012 Mac Mini for over 3 years using an external Samsung T3 (850EVO) SSD. The thing became a little speed demon compared to the stock HDD. Now my wife uses the T3 for her Time Machine backup. According to Drive Dx the SSD still has around 3/4 of its useful life left.

These days I would opt for the SanDisk Supreme V2 SSD, which I favor over the Samsung T5/T7 drives for various reasons. 256GB was plenty of space for me and that makes the cost around $80.

Of course, you can also install an internal drive if you feel up to it. . . If you have a use for the Mini, $80 is a minimal investment IMO.

Thanks. I currently use a WD Black Game Drive P10 2TB Hard Disk to boot externally from the Mac Mini. Costs about $100. Singapore price is about $140. It's OK. It seems like the local shops charge a bit more.

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Never buy version 1.0 of anything.
Don't it always seem to go
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Till it's gone
They paved paradise
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OP wklee Veteran Member • Posts: 9,786
SuperDuper! 3.5 Beta

lightandaprayer wrote:

wklee wrote:

I found out about MacOS Internet Recovery. Shift + Opt + Cmd + R. I can go back to Factory Settings with this method..

Internet Recovery can also be slow. . . Your Super Duper question should be posted on its user forum. The developer will probably reply shortly. There are some functional differences between SD! and CCC that may be involved.

Dave from Shirt Pocket emailed back to suggest trying SuperDuper 3.5 Beta. I'll try that out. Thank you.

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Never buy version 1.0 of anything.
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi

kierenlon
kierenlon Contributing Member • Posts: 974
Re: Downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina

wklee wrote:

The Mac seems to take a long time to start. There is maybe a 15 to 30 second lag to click on Macintosh HD or the dock. Downloads or Applications folder for example. Beach balls.

I have downloaded EtreCheck Pro. Will have run it to see what the scan reports.

Good posts by the rest of the forum members.   Symptoms definitely don't sound like an OS version problem.    
It's always good to define the problem as clearly as possibly so you can ensure you are solving for the right thing.   In this case, it seems to be hard disk,  so downgrading would have lead to disappointment. 
If you decide to change the internal disk,  ifixit dot com has guides & tool advice.  As noted, you can boot externally in the short term.

Good luck.  Glad you got to the root of it and reported back - it may help someone else with a similar issue.    The worst thing when looking for a solution online is for the OP to raise a problem (that you also have) then post back with "resolved" with no explanation of what they did to resolve it

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lightandaprayer Veteran Member • Posts: 4,743
Re: Downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina

wklee wrote:

lightandaprayer wrote:

wklee wrote:

I ran EtreCheck. It is a 5400rpm Hard Disk and the drive is failing. Also, Gatekeeper is off.
Thank you.

I ran my 2012 Mac Mini for over 3 years using an external Samsung T3 (850EVO) SSD. The thing became a little speed demon compared to the stock HDD. Now my wife uses the T3 for her Time Machine backup. According to Drive Dx the SSD still has around 3/4 of its useful life left.

These days I would opt for the SanDisk Supreme V2 SSD, which I favor over the Samsung T5/T7 drives for various reasons. 256GB was plenty of space for me and that makes the cost around $80.

Of course, you can also install an internal drive if you feel up to it. . . If you have a use for the Mini, $80 is a minimal investment IMO.

Thanks. I currently use a WD Black Game Drive P10 2TB Hard Disk to boot externally from the Mac Mini. Costs about $100. Singapore price is about $140. It's OK. It seems like the local shops charge a bit more.

I see that the WD is HDD. . . Which you no doubt know is much slower than SSD. How much? Well. . . Prior to upgrading my 2012 Mac Mini, booting from the internal HDD averaged 4 minutes. After switching to the Samsung T3, the slowest boot time was 30 seconds.

My wife's 2011 13" MBP had the same before and after numbers when I installed an 850EVO. I figure that the SSDs provided us at least 3 more years of useful life and probably more. If her SSD had not died, she would still be using the MBP at least until the new M1x models are released, which is what I was waiting for before deciding which portable Mac to buy.

Personally, I could have easily waited 2 more years to get a new Mac Mini M1 vs. the 2018 Intel. Now I need to decide whether to keep it or upgrade when the new Mini comes out.

I assume that the WD drive is somewhat faster, being a "gamer" drive and all. If it is fast enough for your needs, more power to you. My impression is that the 2014 Mini is a backup Mac for you, so speed may not be an issue. I'm not into encouraging someone to upgrade if they are happy with where they are; it's certainly happened to me in the past!

OP wklee Veteran Member • Posts: 9,786
Re: Downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina

lightandaprayer wrote:

wklee wrote:

lightandaprayer wrote:

wklee wrote:

I ran EtreCheck. It is a 5400rpm Hard Disk and the drive is failing. Also, Gatekeeper is off.
Thank you.

I ran my 2012 Mac Mini for over 3 years using an external Samsung T3 (850EVO) SSD. The thing became a little speed demon compared to the stock HDD. Now my wife uses the T3 for her Time Machine backup. According to Drive Dx the SSD still has around 3/4 of its useful life left.

These days I would opt for the SanDisk Supreme V2 SSD, which I favor over the Samsung T5/T7 drives for various reasons. 256GB was plenty of space for me and that makes the cost around $80.

Of course, you can also install an internal drive if you feel up to it. . . If you have a use for the Mini, $80 is a minimal investment IMO.

Thanks. I currently use a WD Black Game Drive P10 2TB Hard Disk to boot externally from the Mac Mini. Costs about $100. Singapore price is about $140. It's OK. It seems like the local shops charge a bit more.

I see that the WD is HDD. . . Which you no doubt know is much slower than SSD. How much? Well. . . Prior to upgrading my 2012 Mac Mini, booting from the internal HDD averaged 4 minutes. After switching to the Samsung T3, the slowest boot time was 30 seconds.

My wife's 2011 13" MBP had the same before and after numbers when I installed an 850EVO. I figure that the SSDs provided us at least 3 more years of useful life and probably more. If her SSD had not died, she would still be using the MBP at least until the new M1x models are released, which is what I was waiting for before deciding which portable Mac to buy.

Personally, I could have easily waited 2 more years to get a new Mac Mini M1 vs. the 2018 Intel. Now I need to decide whether to keep it or upgrade when the new Mini comes out.

I assume that the WD drive is somewhat faster, being a "gamer" drive and all. If it is fast enough for your needs, more power to you. My impression is that the 2014 Mini is a backup Mac for you, so speed may not be an issue. I'm not into encouraging someone to upgrade if they are happy with where they are; it's certainly happened to me in the past!

My relative wants to wait for a new Apple Silicon Mac mini with M1X CPU. I can play with the current Mini until he wants it back. There is no rush.

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OP wklee Veteran Member • Posts: 9,786
Stuck With Big Sur

it seems I could be stuck with Big Sur. My attempts with Internet Recovery has failed.

Reformatted the Hard Disk to HFS+ but now I am back to APFS and Big Sur.

I get a error message that the install '(MacOS Catalina) failed.

https://www.macworld.co.uk/how-to/recovery-mode-internet-3636668/

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Never buy version 1.0 of anything.
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi

Phillip Forsten Senior Member • Posts: 1,253
Re: Stuck With Big Sur

wklee wrote:

it seems I could be stuck with Big Sur. My attempts with Internet Recovery has failed.

Reformatted the Hard Disk to HFS+ but now I am back to APFS and Big Sur.

I get a error message that the install '(MacOS Catalina) failed.

https://www.macworld.co.uk/how-to/recovery-mode-internet-3636668/

Perhaps you have a faulty drive in the Mac mini. I would try multiple times at least before giving up. I've used Internet Recovery numerous times and it was flawless. The Macs were returned back to the OS version they came with when they were new.

OP wklee Veteran Member • Posts: 9,786
Internet Recovery

Phillip Forsten wrote:

wklee wrote:

it seems I could be stuck with Big Sur. My attempts with Internet Recovery has failed.

Reformatted the Hard Disk to HFS+ but now I am back to APFS and Big Sur.

I get a error message that the install '(MacOS Catalina) failed.

https://www.macworld.co.uk/how-to/recovery-mode-internet-3636668/

Perhaps you have a faulty drive in the Mac mini. I would try multiple times at least before giving up. I've used Internet Recovery numerous times and it was flawless. The Macs were returned back to the OS version they came with when they were new.

I have tried multiple times. There are three Internet Recovery shortcut keys. Cmd + R, Shift + Opt + Cmd + R and Opt + Cmd + R. Opt + Cmd + R could recover the Mac back to the latest MacOS version.

I should have mentioned El Capitan instead of Catalina. I could not go back to El Capitan, which shipped with the Mac mini.

"You can choose from:

  • Command + R Will install the latest version installed on your Mac - won’t upgrade you to the latest version.
  • Option/Alt + Command + R Will upgrade you to the latest macOS compatible with your Mac. Note: If you aren’t running Sierra 10.12.4 of later, this will install the version that came with your Mac; if your Mac has a T2 chip then Option/Alt + Command + R will install the latest macOS on your Mac.
  • Shift + Option/Alt + Command R (if you are running Sierra 10.12.4 of later) will install the version of macOS that came with your Mac, or the one closest to it that is still available.

"

I am not a Terminal user so I haven't tried to create a Flash drive.

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kierenlon
kierenlon Contributing Member • Posts: 974
Re: Stuck With Big Sur

HFS+ is best for hard disks (HDD)

The new APFS is designed to work best on SSD and may even be detrimental on a HDD

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Incheon New Member • Posts: 24
Re: Downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina

I have used SuperDuper 3.3.1 now for many years, and never had a problem.

It is almost impossible to change back to a previous OS with Apple. Maybe you should go back to the first OS when this Mac was sold to you. Then you could upgrade to newer versions and end up with the Catalina.

Your HDD is slow, and it depends also on your WiFi bit/sec connections, suggest you change to LAN. Go SSD, you will be surprised how much different their speed compares.

I use a Mac Pro with 1000 GB SSD, (128  GB RAM) and many  data and photos (mostly RAW files}. My update takes about 1, 45 hrs. If you get 500 GB SSD you should be about half my time. I also use a Mac Air with 256 GB SSD, and SuperDuper takes 45 min. Some data and photos only.

Hope this helps some how.

Werner

Phillip Forsten Senior Member • Posts: 1,253
Re: Downgrading from Big Sur to Catalina

Incheon wrote:

I have used SuperDuper 3.3.1 now for many years, and never had a problem.

It is almost impossible to change back to a previous OS with Apple.

It’s very easy to go back to a previous version of the Mac OS using Time Machine.

Nick5
Nick5 Senior Member • Posts: 1,455
Re: Stuck With Big Sur

kierenlon wrote:

HFS+ is best for hard disks (HDD)

The new APFS is designed to work best on SSD and may even be detrimental on a HDD

Since Mojave your OS Extended (Journaled) internal HDD on iMac 2017, 2019 Fusion Drive has converted to APFS from OS Extended Journaled. Also setting up new Time Machine external HDDLaCie Rugged as OS Extended Journaled and I have seven , will apply APFS automatically with Big Sur. When you set it up it says you applied OS Extended Journaled. Next time open your TM drive under INFO and you shall see APFS.

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