Can I update my macOS to Big Sur?

macOS Big Sur is the latest major release of Apple’s operating system for Mac computers. It brings a redesigned user interface, new built-in apps, performance improvements and enhanced privacy features. If you have a compatible Mac, you may be wondering whether you should update to Big Sur or stay on your current macOS version. Here are some quick answers to common questions about updating to Big Sur:

Is my Mac compatible with Big Sur?
Big Sur requires a Mac introduced in late 2013 or later. Some older Macs from 2012-2013 can run Big Sur but have limited functionality. Check Apple’s compatibility list.

What are the new features in Big Sur?
Key new features include a redesigned interface with a more spacious look, widgets on the home screen, new built-in apps like Maps and Messages, faster performance, and improved privacy controls.

Is updating to Big Sur safe and stable?
For most users, Big Sur is stable and safe to install. However, as with any major OS update, there may be bugs and app incompatibility issues initially. Check app developer sites for compatibility info.

Will updating break any of my apps or documents?
Most apps and files will function fine after updating. But some older apps may need updates from developers to work properly. Check developers’ websites to see if your essential apps are Big Sur compatible.

Should I update to Big Sur now or wait?
If your Mac and apps are compatible and you want the new features, it’s fine to update now. But waiting a few weeks allows developers time to update their apps for Big Sur and for any major bugs to be fixed.

Checking if Your Mac Can Run Big Sur

Big Sur requires a relatively modern Mac to run it properly. Here are the system requirements according to Apple:

– MacBook models from late 2013 or later
– MacBook Air models from late 2013 or later
– MacBook Pro models from late 2013 or later
– Mac mini models from late 2014 or later
– iMac models from late 2013 or later
– iMac Pro models (all)
– Mac Pro models from 2013 or later

Some older Macs from 2012 and early 2013 can run Big Sur but will have limited functionality. These include the MacBook Pro (mid 2012), MacBook Air (mid 2012), and Mac mini (late 2012).

Apple provides a detailed list that lets you look up your specific Mac model to see if it is compatible with Big Sur. Check the list at Apple Support by entering your Mac’s model identifier or serial number.

If your Mac is not compatible, you will need to remain on your current macOS version or consider upgrading your hardware to run Big Sur.

Checking Compatibility of Essential Apps

Before updating, it’s also a good idea to check if your essential apps and programs are compatible with Big Sur. Most major apps will work fine, but some developers are still working on updates for full compatibility.

Here are some ways to check app compatibility:

– Look for information on the developer’s website, under support or downloads sections. They may list which OS versions are supported.

– Search the app name and “Big Sur” to find recent news on its compatibility.

– Check user forums and communities related to the app for reports on how well it works on Big Sur.

– Try downloading the latest version of the app and see if the developer mentions Big Sur support.

– Contact the app developer directly through email or support channels to ask if the app is Big Sur compatible.

Testing a small selection of your important apps can help determine if the ecosystem you rely on will work smoothly after updating to Big Sur.

Preparing Your Mac for the Big Sur Update

Here are some steps to take in preparation for updating to Big Sur:

1. Backup Your Mac

– Using Time Machine, create a full backup of your Mac in case any problems occur during the OS update. You can then restore from this backup if needed.

– Alternatively, manually backup important files and folders to an external hard drive or cloud storage.

2. Make Sure You Have Enough Disk Space

– Big Sur requires up to 15GB or more of available storage space for the installation process and system files.

– To check your free space, go to About This Mac > Storage in the Apple menu. If you’re low, delete unused files and apps to make room.

3. Update Apps to Latest Compatible Versions

– Check the App Store for any app updates available and install them, as the newest versions are most likely to be Big Sur compatible.

– For apps you installed manually, go to each developer’s website and download the latest Big Sur-ready update.

4. Disable Anti-Virus and Security Software

– Anti-virus software can sometimes interfere with OS installs. Disable it temporarily during the Big Sur update.

– Exceptions are security tools made specifically by Apple or your Mac manufacturer, which are safe to leave enabled.

5. Restart Your Mac Before Updating

– Restarting cleans out system memory, closes all apps, and prepares the Mac for a smooth update process.

6. Connect Your Mac to a Power Source

– Connect your MacBook to A/C power to ensure the battery doesn’t run out during the lengthy install process, which could corrupt the files.

How to Download and Install the Big Sur Update

Once you’ve checked compatibility, backed up your system, and taken the other preparatory steps, you’re ready to update to Big Sur. Here’s how:

1. Download the Big Sur Installer

– On your Mac, open the App Store app. Any available updates will appear, including macOS Big Sur.

– Click the Update or Download button next to Big Sur. This will download the full installer file. The download size is around 12GB.

2. Run the Big Sur Installer

– Once downloaded, the Big Sur installer will automatically open. Click Continue and follow the onscreen prompts to begin installation.

– The installer will explain the upgrade steps. Click Upgrade Now when ready to proceed. This will initiate the upgrade process.

3. Wait for Installation to Complete

– Your Mac will restart and show the Big Sur upgrade progress screen. Wait while files are copied and configured.

– The entire process usually takes 20-30 minutes but can take over an hour on an older Mac or slow connection. Just let it run.

– When finished, your Mac will boot up into Big Sur for the first time. Follow any onscreen instructions to complete the upgrade.

– You may need to log back into some apps or settings after the update completes.

New Features and Changes in Big Sur

Big Sur introduces some major revamps and new capabilities to the Mac user experience. Here are some of the most significant changes:

A Redesigned Interface

– The entire look and feel of the interface has been updated with more space, a neat translucence effect, and rounder window corners.

– Menu bars and toolbars are more compact. Sidebars have a new colorful aesthetic. Everything looks sleek and modern.

Widgets on the Home Screen

– Just like on iPhone and iPad, you can now have widgets on your home screen displaying data like weather, calendar, news, and more.

– Widgets come in various sizes and let you view information at a glance without opening apps.

App Library for Organization

– The new App Library automatically organizes all your apps into categories like Productivity, Games, and Recently Added to reduce clutter.

Updated Default Apps

– Safari, Mail, Messages and other built-in Apple apps have been redesigned with new features and interfaces.

– Maps adds cycling directions and indoor maps for airports and malls. Messages gains pinned conversations.

Greater Privacy Protection

– Apps now need your permission before accessing folders like Documents or Downloads to protect your files.

– You can give a rough location rather than your precise location when granting app location access.

– A recording indicator appears on the menu bar when apps access your microphone.

New Quicktranslate Feature

– You can highlight text in any app and instantly translate it into another language inline, without leaving the app.

– Support for translating text in photos is also coming soon to Big Sur.

Faster Performance

– Optimizations like faster wake from sleep improve general performance and responsiveness.

– Apps launch faster and have smaller download sizes due to app thinning and on-demand resources.

macOS Version Release Date Major New Features
Big Sur 11.0 November 2020 Redesigned interface, widgets, App Library, privacy enhancements
Catalina 10.15 October 2019 Split iTunes into Music/Podcasts/TV, Sidecar turns iPad into second screen
Mojave 10.14 September 2018 Dark Mode, Desktop Stacks, redesigned App Store, News and Stocks apps

Potential Issues Updating to Big Sur

Although most users have a seamless upgrade experience, upgrading an operating system as major as Big Sur can occasionally cause problems. Here are some potential issues to be aware of:

App Compatibility Problems

Some apps, especially older or less actively maintained ones, may exhibit problems after upgrading to Big Sur, such as:

– Crashing or failing to open
– Interface layout problems
– Features not working properly
– Unexplained bugs or glitches

Check your important apps after updating to see if they still work correctly. You may need to wait for app updates from developers.

Driver Compatibility Issues

Drivers for some older external devices or peripherals may also have compatibility problems with Big Sur. This can lead to connectivity issues with the device or cause it be unusable until an updated driver is available.

Installation Problems

Although rare, occasionally the upgrade process itself can fail or become stuck. If this happens, you may need to restart and try installing again, or revert to your previous macOS system and wait for a future Big Sur patch.

Minor Bugs and Glitches

New operating systems often have minor bugs and UI glitches that get reported in the early days after release. Most are fixed quickly in subsequent updates. Check sites like MacRumors for reported bugs before updating.

Performance Issues on Older Macs

Big Sur may run slower than previous macOS versions on some older Macs that just meet the system requirements. This can lead to a sluggish overall experience. Check Mac forums for performance reports on your specific model.

Should You Update to Big Sur Now or Later?

So when should you actually make the jump to Big Sur? Here are some things to consider:

Updating Now

Updating soon after Big Sur’s release makes sense if:

– You want immediate access to all the new features
– Your essential apps and devices are confirmed compatible
– You have time to troubleshoot any issues that arise
– You have a newer Mac that can easily run Big Sur

Waiting to Update

Reasons to potentially wait a few weeks or months before updating include:

– Your apps need time to release Big Sur compatibility updates
– You want time for early bugs and glitches to get ironed out
– You have an older Mac and are concerned about performance issues
– You are in the middle of important work and can’t risk potential problems

Many popular third-party apps release Big Sur compatibility updates within the first few weeks after release, so waiting at least a few weeks can let you update with fewer potential app issues.

Some users with older Macs may want to wait a few months to see if any subsequent Big Sur updates improve performance on these systems before updating.

How to Update to Big Sur

When you’re ready to update, the process is simple:

1. Back up your Mac using Time Machine or another method.

2. Make sure you have at least 15GB of available storage space.

3. Connect your Mac to a power source so the battery doesn’t run out during install.

4. Go to the App Store on your Mac and click the Update button next to Big Sur.

5. Follow the prompts to download and install. The process will take 20-30+ minutes.

6. Your Mac will restart a few times during the process. Just let the installer run.

7. When done, you’ll boot into a fresh Big Sur install. Enjoy the new features!

8. Re-enable any security tools you disabled and be on the lookout for app issues.


Updating to each new macOS version is a tradeoff between getting new features and risking compatibility problems. For most users with modern Macs, upgrading to Big Sur is worthwhile for the interface refresh, new widgets, enhanced privacy protections, and other improvements. However, it’s smart to back up your system, check app compatibility, and be prepared for minor bugs that accompany any major OS release. Following the steps outlined in this guide will help ensure the smoothest possible upgrade experience.