Mac Tutorials

How to Update Your Mac: A Step-By-Step Comprehensive Guide

Keeping your Mac up-to-date is pivotal for optimal performance and security. Updates to your macOS not only bring exciting new features, but can also improve power efficiency and shield it from unpleasant software bugs. Alongside the operating system, staying current with application updates ensures a smooth and seamless user experience.


Though managing updates can be a difficult task, fear not, as we've streamlined this process for you. Below, we'll walk you through the solutions on how to update macOS automatically and how to back up Mac files, ensuring none of your important data is lost while you update macOS.


Before we start


Regular system and application updates on your MacBook are crucial for enhanced security, performance, and access to the latest software features. MacKeeper’s Update Tracker simplifies this process by automating updates. With it, you can say goodbye to manual updates and the risk of missing it to be done in time.


Use MacKeeper’s Update Tracker to keep your apps and system up to date:

  1. Download MacKeeper and launch the app on your Mac.
  2. Navigate the side menu to the Update Tracker feature.
  3. Click Scan for Updates to allow MacKeeper to check your software is up-to-date.
  4. On the left, choose the apps found by ticking the boxes and confirming to Update.

Importance of keeping your Mac updated

Deciding to regularly update Mac software is more than just a routine task, as it's crucial for maintaining device efficiency and security. System updates, whether for macOS or to update Mac apps, contain vital enhancements to ensure your laptop or computer operates optimally.


In contrast, ignoring necessary or regular updates can expose your Mac to vulnerabilities and hinder its performance. That’s why keeping apps and macOS current is essential for a smoother and more secure user experience.

Overview of the update process

Ready to learn how to update Mac to the latest version? If so, you’ll first need to understand how the update process works. macOS updates typically encompass multiple stages, including checking for available updates, selecting the preferred update method, and then actioning the update installation itself. Both pre- and post-updating steps need to be considered before updating Mac to the latest OS, and we’ll get you through each of them in the next sections.

Preparing for an update

Before you update Mac, it's important to get ready for it to ensure a smooth and secure process.

Backing up your data

Creating a backup of your hard drive can help reduce the risk of potential data loss during the update process. Not only that, it never hurts to have duplicate copies of all your important files. Backing up your data on Mac can be a very simple process, made easier should you decide to use Time Machine to help you.

Using Time Machine for comprehensive backups

Time Machine can simplify the backup process on your Mac. In just a few simple steps, you can ensure all your important files are securely backed up, providing a safety net during updates or unexpected data loss.


Here’s how you can use Time Machine for comprehensive backups:

  1. Connect an external drive compatible with Time Machine.
  2. Open System Settings > General > Time Machine.
  3. Click Select Backup Disk and choose the connected drive.
  4. Time Machine will automatically start backing up your Mac.
To prepare for an update, using Time Machine or comprehensive backups, you'll first need to connect a suitable external drive. Then you'll need to open System Settings, go to General and then you'll be able to select Time Machine.
Step 1. With an external drive connected, open the Time Machine
You can now click on the Add Backup Disk button to toggle which external device connected to your Mac, you'd like Time Machine to copy your files to.
Step 2. Click Select Backup Disk

Optimizing your system

Ensuring your system is optimized before an update can significantly enhance the update process. One effective step is to close all unnecessary applications and save any ongoing work before processing to update macOS.

Closing applications and saving documents

Closing applications frees up system resources and prevents potential conflicts during the update. Additionally, saving documents safeguards against any unexpected data loss or unsaved changes, ensuring a smooth transition through the update process.


Here’s how to close unnecessary applications:

  1. Right-click on any open applications and select Quit.
  2. Or use the keyboard shortcut Command + Q to close the application immediately.
Optimizing Your System is important especially before you update your macOS to the latest version. After backing up your data you should Quit out of all open apps.
Step 1. Right-click on open apps and select Quit
To continue optimizing your Mac system before a macOS update, you can also Quit apps quickly by using the keyboard shortcut Command+ Q.
Step 2. Shortcut Command+Q with an open App, automatically quits

Here’s how to ensure you save all ongoing work:

  1. In each application, locate the File menu and select Save or use the keyboard shortcut (Command + S).
  2. For applications with auto-save functionality (common in many modern applications like Google Docs), ensure that the auto-save feature is activated.
To ensure all your work is saved before quitting apps to optimist your system pre-macOS update - you can go to FIie and select Save in your documents. Alternatively, the shortcut Command + S works the same.
Step 1. Go to File and select Save or use the keyboard shortcut Command + S
If you work in files that are online like those in the Google Suite, you'll want to check the Auto-Save feature is enabled to ensure all your work is backed up ad saved before updating your macOS version.
Step 2. Ensure the Auto-Save function is activated

Mac update and system performance optimization

Each update Mac addresses new features to the operating system, as well as fixes potential vulnerabilities, thus contributing to a more efficient and secure Mac experience.


Mac updates take up storage space on your device. Hence, preparing your device for performance optimization ensures a smoother process, reducing potential hurdles during the update process.

Updating macOS—Checking for macOS updates

Regularly checking for macOS updates is essential to ensure your system remains up-to-date with the latest improvements and security patches. This can be done by checking for any pending Software Updates via System Settings. Here, your Mac will check for any available updates and automatically install any available updates.

Initiating the update process and entering the administrator password

Checking for macOS in your System Settings is the first step in initiating the update process on your Mac. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Click on the Apple menu, then select System Settings.
  2. Select General > Software Update.
  3. Click on Check for Updates to allow your Mac to scan for available updates.
  4. If updates are available, the system may prompt you to enter the administrator password to proceed with the installation.
To be able to update your Mac to the latest version, you'll need to check for any pending macOS Updates. This can be done by opening System Settings, and going to General. From here you'll see the Software Update tab.
Step 1. Go to System Settings > General > Software Update
Click on the Software Update option and allow your device to scan for any outstanding updates. You can also turn Automatic Update On or Off to allow your device to keep on top of updates for you automatically.
Step 2. Allow Mac to Check for updates
If your Mac has found any pending updates, after backing up your important files and quitting all unnecessary apps you can initiate the update by entering your Admin Username and Password. Then your update will start right away.
Step 3. Enter the admin password to begin the process

Updating installed apps

Ensuring you update Mac apps is crucial for optimal performance. It can be a tiresome task to regularly check all of your installed apps are up-to-date, and it’s a good idea to consider batch updating them simultaneously.

Updating all apps simultaneously

Here’s how to allow for all apps to update simultaneously via the App Store:

  1. Launch the App Store on your Mac.
  2. Navigate to the Updates tab.
  3. Click Update All to install available updates for all your installed applications.
 If you want to update all your installed apps at once to help boost Mac optimization, then you can go into the App Store to manage all your updates at once by opening the Updates Tab.
Step 1. Open the App Store and go to the Updates tab
Once you have selected the Updates Tab within the App Store, you will then see an Update All button that you can press to manage all your installed App updates at once.
Step 2. Click Update All to install all available updates

Automatic updates

Automatic system updates offer a convenient way to keep all your Mac's software current and up to date without any manual effort required. This ensures enhanced security and performance effortlessly.

Enabling automatic updates

Automatic updates for your Mac system ensure that your laptop stays current with the latest software enhancements and security fixes without manual oversight.


To enable automatic updates, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Apple menu in the top-left corner of your screen and select System Settings.
  2. Within System Settings, click on General > Software Update.
  3. Check that the box next to Automatic Updates is turned on to enable automatic system updates for macOS.

Benefits of automatic updates—Understanding the convenience and advantages

Automatic updates provide not just convenience but a host of advantages. Here are some of the benefits of enabling automatic updates on Mac:

  1. Enhanced security: Swift delivery of all essential patches to fortify your Mac against any cyber or software vulnerabilities.
  2. Effortless management: Automated process, which means saving your time typically spent on manual checks and installations.
  3. Improved performance: Integration of the latest features and optimizations for a seamless and efficient Mac experience.

Troubleshooting updates

When encountering issues with updates, navigating through troubleshooting steps can alleviate many common problems. Understanding compatibility, resolving software conflicts, and optimizing your Mac post-update all play pivotal roles in ensuring a smooth update experience.


Let us guide you through the following troubleshooting measures:

Dealing with update errors

Encountering update errors can be frustrating. If update errors persist, follow these tips to help you identify the source of the error:

  • Ensure you have a stable internet connection, as it’s common for errors to stem from connectivity issues.
  • Restarting your device can resolve minor glitches that might be hindering the update process.
  • Insufficient storage space can impede updates. You may need to clear unnecessary files or apps to free up space.
  • If an error code accompanies the update failure, searching for specific error code information online can provide insights into potential solutions.

Common macOS update issues and solutions

As one of Mac users, you can commonly encounter various issues when you update macOS. These issues can range from installation failures to system glitches after a macOS update. Understanding these issues and their solutions is crucial for a seamless update experience.


Here are three solutions for macOS update issues post-update:

  1. If an update fails to install, restart your Mac and attempt the installation again. Ensure a stable internet connection and sufficient free space on your device.
  2. If your Mac exhibits instability after an update, try resetting the NVRAM. To do this, restart your Mac and hold down Command + Option + P + R keys until you hear the startup sound for the second time.
  3. Some apps might face compatibility issues post-update. Check for available app updates in the App Store or visit the app developer's website for compatibility information and updates.
If you are experiencing issues after updating your macOS to the latest version. then one solution is to restart your Mac by clicking the Apple icon and then selecting Restart.
Step 1. Restart your Mac
Another solution to pos macOS update issues could be to both restart your Mac and reset your NVRAM. To reset your NVRAM upon starting up your Mac press and hold command + Option + P + R until you hear your Mac chime.
Step 2. Reset your NVRAM
Your post-macOS update issues may be caused by apps that have not been updated alongside the system update. To check if all apps have updates, open the App Store, go to Update and check is any are still pending. If so update them.
Step 3. Check for app updates in the App Store

Checking compatibility

Before you update a Mac, we recommend that you check the compatibility with the latest macOS version to make sure you update the latest Mac version onto a compatible device. Checking compatibility involves verifying if your Mac supports the latest updates, as well as checking your free disk space.


Below, we’ve included a guide on checking compatibility:

  1. Check system requirements and compatibility: Visit the official Apple website or the specific macOS update page to review the system requirements and compatibility information for the latest update. Check your Mac model is listed among the supported devices.
  2. Check available disk space: Verify that your Mac has sufficient storage space to accommodate the update. Go to System Settings > General > Storage.
  3. Backup your data: Before proceeding with any update, it's prudent to back up your important data. Use Time Machine or an external disk for your Mac backup location.
To check compatibility for the latest macOS update version, go to the official Apple website or a macOs update page for further details about features, compatibility and system requirements.
Step 1. Go to the Apple website or a macOS update page for details
You may also need to check your MacBook has enough disk space to ensure you do not run into issues later on when installing the latest version of macOS. Head to system settings >General >Storage to check your available disk space.
Step 2. Check you have enough disk space
It's highly advised that you always back up all your important files and data before proceeding with any big system or app updates. Using Time Machine is an advised method to keep a backup of all data just in case you do run into any macOS update issues.
Step 3. Back up your data using Time Machine

Resolving software compatibility issues

As a rule, software compatibility problems can arise after updating macOS. Resolving these issues involves ensuring that your essential applications are updated and compatible with the latest macOS version.


Here’s how to resolve software compatibility issues:

  1. Check app updates: Open the App Store and navigate to the Updates tab. Here, you can check for available updates for your essential applications, as updating apps to their latest versions often includes compatibility improvements for the current macOS version.
  2. Visit app developer websites: If there are persistent compatibility issues with specific apps, visit the respective app developer's website. Look for information or updates specifically addressing compatibility with the latest macOS version.
  3. Consider alternative software: In some cases, if essential apps aren’t updated or supported for the latest macOS, consider finding alternative software that is compatible with the current macOS version.

Optimizing your Mac after updates

​​Optimizing your Mac after updates is as important as making sure you’ve prepared your device post-updates by checking compatibility, available disk space, and creating backups of files. These actions can help your Mac get ready to install the latest macOS updates. However, the post-update optimization is equally important.


Here’s how you can optimize your Mac after updates:

  1. Click on Apple Icon and select Restart your Mac after an update to clear temporary caches and refresh system processes.
  2. Go to System Settings > General > Software Update to ensure your Mac has installed all available system updates.
  3. Go to System Settings > General > Login Items and remove items you don’t need at startup to prevent slowing your Mac’s boot down.
  4. Use third-party tools or manual methods to clear cache and temporary files, like MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup or manual cache clearing in browsers, to help free up space and optimize performance.
  5. Check your Mac's storage is adequate (ideally, around 15% of your total storage) for better system performance post-update.
o optimize your Mac after the latest macOS or app updates, we recommend you remove any unnecessary Login items upon start-up to help boost Mac's boot post-update.
Step 1. Remove unnecessary Login items to speed up Mac’s boot post-update
You can also optimize your Mac after updates by clearing all cache or junk files off your system, You can do this with manual deletion but a third party is more reliable. MacKeppers Safe Cleanup can scan for unnecessary cache and junk to remove safely from your system.
Step 2. Clean cache and junk files with third-party apps like MacKeeper

Tweaks and maintenance post-update for performance

Post-update, implementing specific tweaks and conducting maintenance tasks can significantly boost your Mac's performance. These actions involve adjusting settings and performing routine upkeep to ensure optimal functionality.


Here are the tweaks and maintenance tasks we recommend post-update to optimize Mac performance:

  1. In Finder, go to Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor to manage processes running in the background. It’ll show you which apps or processes consume significant CPU or memory resources.
  2. Minimize visual effects and animations by adjusting settings in System Settings > Accessibility > Display. Reducing these effects can enhance system responsiveness, especially on older Macs.
  3. Organize your desktop and avoid cluttering it with numerous files. Storing excessive items on the desktop can slow down system performance.
  4. In Finder, go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility to run First Aid on your disk. This process checks for and repairs disk errors, optimizing overall system performance.
  5. If you use or plan to update Mac Safari or other browsers, consider resetting their settings or clearing caches to improve browsing performance.
For tweaks and maintenance optimization post-update you can open Activity Monitor through Finder to help you identify and monitor apps using high CPU to improve device functionality after macOS update.
Step 1. Use Activity Monitor to manage apps using significant CPU or memory
For additional system tweaks and maintenance post-update, head to System Settings > Accessibility > Display. Here you can reduce visual effects to help enhance your Mac's responsiveness after updates.
Step 2. Minimize visual effects to enhance system responsiveness
Running First Aid with the help of Disk Utility is another maintenance tool that you can carry out to optimise your Mac after updating to the latest macOS version or updating all your installed apps.
Step 3. Run First Aid on your disk with Disk Utility
Another maintenance-related tweak that could be highly beneficial for your Mac post-update is to reset and clear the cache from Safari or your chosen browser.
Step 4. Rest or clear cache from your preferred browser

Understanding update cycles

Knowing how to update the Mac version correctly is equally important as understanding update cycles, as they both ensure a smooth update process.

Mac compatibility for updates

To enhance your understanding of update cycles, verifying Mac compatibility is crucial. Here’s how to check compatibility before initiating updates:

  1. Go to Apple's official website or support pages dedicated to macOS updates.
  2. Look for the list of supported devices for the specific macOS version you intend to update to.
  3. Confirm that your Mac model meets the outlined system requirements for the intended macOS update.

Common Mac update issues and solutions

To deepen your understanding of update cycles, familiarizing yourself with common Mac update issues and their resolutions is essential. Here's how to tackle them:

  • Identify update problems: Recognize common issues such as installation failures, system instability, or app compatibility problems post-update.
  • Troubleshooting steps: Restart your Mac, check for available disk space, reset NVRAM, and update or seek support for app compatibility issues.
  • Seek official support: Visit Apple's support forums or contact MacKeeper’s Premium Services within our app for further guidance on specific update problems.

Information about the most recent macOS version

Staying informed about the latest macOS version is vital, as it may have bug fixes and new patches to enhance how your device performs. Here's how to gather information about the most recent macOS version:

  1. Head to the Apple website for the most recent macOS version.
  2. Review the release notes or feature highlights to understand the improvements and additions in the latest macOS version.
  3. Look for compatibility information to check if your Mac supports the latest update.

Knowing when and how frequently to expect updates

Knowing the timing and frequency of macOS updates is essential for effective system management. To understand the frequency of macOS updates, consider the following:

  • Apple typically releases major macOS updates annually, introducing significant feature enhancements and improvements.
  • In between major updates, Apple frequently releases smaller updates addressing security vulnerabilities, bug fixes, and performance enhancements.

Note from our experts: 


You can check for yourself if your MacBook or computer has an update macOS. For this aim, go to System Settings > General > Software Updates. Apple also announces updates through push notifications that pop up on your device with the option to update Mac automatically.

To check for yourself if there are any available macOs updates, head to System Settings, General and then Software Updates. Allow your Mac to check for any available updates.

Besides, Apple also announces updates through push notifications that pop up on your device to assist you with how to install the latest macOS version automatically.

Importance of staying up-to-date and considerations before updating

Consider the following aspects before proceeding with updates, as they significantly impact the update process and overall system performance:

  • Security and performance enhancements: Updated macOS versions often contain vital security patches and performance improvements, safeguarding your system from potential threats and ensuring optimal functionality.
  • Data backup: Before initiating any update, create a comprehensive backup of your data. This precautionary step prevents data loss in case of unexpected issues during the update process.
  • App compatibility verification: Ensure that crucial applications are compatible with the latest macOS version. Check developers' websites or app compatibility databases to confirm compatibility status.
  • System requirements check: Review the system requirements for the new macOS version. Confirm that your Mac meets these specifications to prevent compatibility or performance issues post-update.
  • Available storage space: Ensure your Mac has adequate available storage space for the update. Clear unnecessary files to free up space and prevent installation errors due to insufficient storage.
  • Stable internet connection: A reliable and consistent internet connection is crucial for downloading and installing updates seamlessly. Maintain a stable connection throughout the update process for uninterrupted installation.
FAQs about macOS update
1. Why can't I update macOS on my Mac?

There are several reasons you might be unable to update your Mac. However, in our experience, the most common reason is a lack of storage space. Your Mac needs to have enough free space to download the new update files before it can install them. However, we advise you to always back up on external hard drive your important files and data first.

Aim to keep 15–20GB of free storage on your Mac for installing updates. Check out this guide if you need help clearing free space on your Mac.

2. What is the latest version of macOS?

At the time of updating our guide, Apple’s latest software version for the Mac is macOS Sonoma 14.1.2. However, Apple regularly releases new patch updates to improve efficiency and patch software bugs, so the exact numbers are likely to change pretty regularly.

3. Is my Mac too old to update?

If you can’t update your Mac, despite having plenty of free space to do so, your Mac may be too old for this version of macOS. Over time, Apple stops releasing macOS updates for its oldest computers to avoid performance issues. Resulting in outdated hardware that can no longer keep up with the software.


It’s best to check on Apple’s website to find out which models of Mac are compatible with the latest version of macOS.

4. Should I Update My Mac?

Our team of experts strongly recommends you keep your Mac running with the latest software updates. Not only does this get you access to the newest features, but it also means your Mac is protected against software bugs or security breaches.


That said, if you’re dependent on certain software for your work, you should only update your Mac if you know that software will still be compatible. Once again, we advise you to always back up Mac laptop files that you rely on first as a precaution. After big macOS updates, it often takes a couple of months before every industry-standard software works reliably on that update.


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