Here’s how to update macOS and all of your Mac’s apps.
Outdated software can be extremely problematic at times, as it can be buggy and pose security risks to your system. As a result, it’s critical to keep all of your Mac’s software up to date.
But how can you be certain that your machine is always up to date? There is no one-size-fits-all maintenance solution, so let’s take a look at how Mac and software updates work.
Software Updates for macOS
Apple releases periodic operating system updates that include many important changes and should be applied as soon as possible. These updates are released regularly to address security flaws that may leave your Mac vulnerable to attack. Simultaneously, they improve overall system stability and occasionally add new features.
For example, Apple’s macOS Monterey 12.1 update brought SharePlay to the Mac, a much-anticipated feature first revealed at WWDC 2021.
Apple also releases updates for specific hardware components, such as your MacBook trackpad, or changes to the recovery partition. Because these are all tailored to your specific hardware, your Mac will not download anything you do not require.
How to Install the Most Recent MacOS Version
The method for updating your Mac is determined by the version of macOS you are currently using. Updates were previously performed via the Mac App Store; however, beginning with macOS Mojave, Apple introduced a new method of updating macOS via System Preferences. Both methods are discussed further below.
Note: Before installing any updates, we recommend creating a Time Machine backup in case something goes wrong.
System Preferences can be updated (macOS Mojave or later)
If you are running macOS Monterey or later, you can update your Mac through the System Preferences Software Update section. This will ensure that both your operating system and all default software are up to date.
Here’s how to go about it:
- On your Mac, go to System Preferences. You can do this by selecting System Preferences from the top menu bar after clicking the Apple logo.
- Select Software Update.
- Your Mac will search for all available system updates. If there are any, click Update Now to download and install them. By clicking More info, you can view the details of each update and choose which ones to install.
- Check the box next to Automatically keep my Mac up to date if you want to enable automatic updates on your Mac.
When the Software Update page indicates that your Mac is up to date, this means that macOS and all of the apps it installs by default are up to date. Safari, Messages, Mail, Music, Photos, FaceTime, and Calendar are among the apps available. Updates for all other apps you downloaded from the App Store are available in the App Store’s Updates section.
You can also use the same method to upgrade your Mac to the next major version of macOS.
Using the Mac App Store to Update macOS (macOS High Sierra and earlier)
If your Mac is running a previous version of macOS, you won’t see the Software Update option in System Preferences. Updates are instead available through the Mac App Store.
Launch the Mac App Store using Spotlight or by double-clicking it in your Applications folder, then select the Updates tab and scroll to the top of the list.
Apple’s updates will always take precedence over everything else. They are frequently grouped, and you can click More to view each pending update or install them individually. After clicking Install, the update will be downloaded and installed.
Mac App Software Updates
You can update your macOS version using the methods described above. Apps must also be kept up to date. To update software installed through the Mac App Store, simply launch the store and select Updates from the left-hand pane. Because automatic updates are disabled by default, you must update manually using this method.
To enable automatic updates for apps downloaded from the Mac App Store, select App Store > Preferences from the top menu and check the box next to Automatic Updates.
If you installed software other than the Mac App Store, you must update it by launching it and checking for available updates. This option is usually accessible by selecting Check for Updates from the application’s name at the top of the screen.
Most apps will notify you when an update is available, and many, like Google’s Chrome browser, will install new versions automatically. Some older software may even require you to manually download the most recent update.
Third-party apps that promise to update other software for you should be avoided, as this is a common front for malware installation.
Delaying Major Upgrades
There are legitimate reasons to postpone major upgrades, and as long as you have the most recent security updates installed for your current version of macOS, you’ll only be missing out on new features. The main reason for postponing an upgrade is software compatibility.
If you use software that you simply cannot live without, make sure it is compatible with the next version of macOS before installing it. We suggest contacting the developer or testing on a spare Mac if you have one.
Every year, Apple releases a major update, and each year, apps cease to function until their developers can patch them. Although this is becoming increasingly rare, it still occurs. Be wise and plan.
About the macOS Public Beta Program
Apple’s public beta program has been in place for a few years, allowing users to test software updates before they are released to the general public. You can enroll in the program by visiting Apple’s Beta Software Program website. Sign in with your Apple ID, then download the public beta access utility to enroll your Mac, then go to System Preferences and look in the Software Update section.
Although Apple’s public betas are far more stable than the early versions distributed to developers, beta software is still incomplete. As a result, you should avoid running beta software on a Mac that you rely on for work, school, or other important daily tasks.
It is risky to install beta operating system updates if you do not regularly back up your Mac, using Time Machine or otherwise. If something goes wrong, you may wake up with a black screen and a non-responsive Mac. You may even need to reinstall the operating system from the recovery partition, in which case you will lose anything you haven’t backed up.
Malware Risks Hidden in Updates
In March 2016, the Mac torrent client Transmission was infected with malware, specifically ransomware. In August of the same year, the app was infected with new malware. The included malware was primarily distributed by including it in a software update.
Transmission acted quickly on both occasions, but blindly trusting the installer had far-reaching consequences for many users.
The main issue is that you won’t know if the app you’re about to update is compromised until it’s too late. It’s a rare occurrence, and even more so when it occurs twice, but it’s never impossible. This is yet another compelling reason to regularly back up your system.
Apple carefully examines Mac App Store updates. As a result, these should not pose a significant threat. Software downloaded from the store is also sandboxed, which is a safeguard put in place to protect your system from unauthorized changes.
If in doubt, we recommend waiting at least a week before installing any new updates. Then, check the news about that software to see how the update is doing.
Keep Your Mac Up to Date
We can’t emphasize this enough: make sure your Mac is running the most recent version of the operating system or third-party apps. This will allow you to use all of the latest features while also avoiding any security flaws. The only reason to delay an update is for software compatibility, which should only be for a short period.
Why am I unable to update macOS on my Mac?
There could be several reasons why you are unable to update your Mac. The most common reason, however, is a lack of storage space. Before installing the new update files, your Mac must have enough free space to download them.
Maintain 15-20GB of free storage space on your Mac for installing updates. If you need assistance clearing free space on your Mac, consult this guide.
What is the latest version of macOS?
At the time of writing, the most recent Mac software update is macOS Ventura 13.0.1. However, because Apple releases new point updates on a regular basis to improve efficiency and patch software bugs, the exact numbers are likely to change fairly frequently.
Is it too late to update my Mac?
If you are unable to update your Mac despite having plenty of free space, your Mac may be too old for this version of macOS. To avoid performance issues when the outdated hardware can’t keep up with the software, Apple gradually stops releasing macOS updates for its oldest computers.
It’s best to check Apple’s website to see which Mac models are compatible with the most recent version of macOS.
Should I update my Mac?
In general, it’s best to keep your Mac up to date with the latest software updates. This not only grants you access to the most recent features, but it also protects your Mac from software bugs and security breaches.
However, if you rely on specific software for your job, you should only update your Mac if you know the software will still be compatible. After major macOS updates, it can take several months for all industry-standard software to work reliably on that update.