Can macOS Big Sur be updated?

Yes, macOS Big Sur can be updated to newer versions of macOS as they become available. Apple generally supports updating to the latest macOS releases on Macs released in the last 5-7 years.

Background on macOS Big Sur

macOS Big Sur (version 11) was released by Apple in November 2020 as a major update to the previous version, macOS Catalina. Big Sur introduced a redesigned user interface, updates to key apps like Safari and Messages, and support for Apple’s new M1 chips on Macs.

Some of the key changes and new features introduced in macOS Big Sur include:

  • A redesigned interface with rounded corners, new colors and transparency effects
  • An updated Dock and Notification Center
  • Redesigned system apps like Photos, Messages, Maps, etc.
  • The new Control Center for quick access to system settings
  • Safari received a major update with improved performance, new privacy features, and a customizable start page
  • Better integration with Apple devices with the ability to use an iPad as a second display
  • Support for widget on the Home Screen like on iOS
  • Improved performance and efficiency with the M1 chip

Updating to New Versions of macOS

Apple generally provides updates to the current version of macOS for several years after initial release. This allows users to update to newer point releases that contain bug fixes, security patches, and minor new features.

For example, after the initial release of macOS Big Sur 11.0, Apple released several minor point updates:

  • macOS Big Sur 11.1 – November 2020
  • macOS Big Sur 11.2 – February 2021
  • macOS Big Sur 11.2.1 – March 2021
  • macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 – April 2021
  • macOS Big Sur 11.2.3 – May 2021
  • macOS Big Sur 11.4 – June 2021
  • macOS Big Sur 11.5 – July 2021
  • macOS Big Sur 11.5.1 – August 2021
  • macOS Big Sur 11.5.2 – October 2021
  • macOS Big Sur 11.6 – March 2022
  • macOS Big Sur 11.6.1 – May 2022
  • macOS Big Sur 11.6.2 – June 2022
  • macOS Big Sur 11.6.3 – July 2022
  • macOS Big Sur 11.6.4 – August 2022
  • macOS Big Sur 11.6.5 – October 2022

Users can update to these newer point releases by going to System Preferences > Software Update and installing any available updates. This allows you to stay up to date with the latest fixes and improvements to macOS Big Sur, even though it is no longer the current macOS version.

Updating to New Major Versions

In addition to point updates, Apple also releases new major versions of macOS on a yearly cadence. For example, macOS Monterey (version 12) was released in October 2021 as the successor to Big Sur.

In general, Apple supports being able to update to the latest 2-3 major macOS versions.

So Macs that are supported on macOS Big Sur can typically also be updated to newer major versions like Monterey and the upcoming macOS Ventura. However, some older Macs may not support newer macOS releases if they do not meet the system requirements.

To update to a new major release, you can access it through System Preferences > Software Update after it is released to the public. Updating to a new major version will allow you to access all the latest features and updates.

Requirements for Updating macOS

Whether your Mac can be updated to the latest macOS releases depends on:

  • Mac model – In general, Macs from the last 5-7 years can support new macOS versions.
  • Hardware specs – Sufficient RAM, storage space, graphics capability required.
  • Apple support – Apple determines compatibility and supports updates on supported models.

Here are the general macOS version requirements for Macs in recent years:

Mac Model Year Oldest Supported macOS
2016 and later macOS Big Sur 11
2015 macOS Catalina 10.15
2014 macOS Mojave 10.14
2013 macOS High Sierra 10.13
2012 macOS Sierra 10.12
2011 OS X El Capitan 10.11
2010 OS X Yosemite 10.10

So a 2016 MacBook Pro, for example, should be able to update to at least macOS Big Sur. Some newer models may be able to update to even newer versions beyond what they originally shipped with.

It’s generally recommended to stay updated to the latest macOS version possible to ensure you get the latest features, security updates, and app compatibility. Using an outdated OS can result in vulnerability to bugs and malware.

Updating macOS Big Sur to Monterey

macOS Monterey (version 12) was released in October 2021 after Big Sur. It introduced updates like:

  • Universal Control – seamlessly control multiple Apple devices with one mouse/keyboard
  • Live Text and Visual Look Up
  • SharePlay in FaceTime
  • Focus mode to reduce distractions
  • Updates to Safari, Maps, and other apps

Most Macs that run Big Sur can update to Monterey, except for some older models from 2013-2015 that do not meet system requirements.

Here are the steps to update eligible Macs from macOS Big Sur to Monterey:

  1. Ensure your Mac meets Monterey system requirements – sufficient OS version, RAM, storage space, etc.
  2. Back up your Mac data using Time Machine.
  3. Ensure apps are compatible and up to date for Monterey.
  4. Go to System Preferences > Software Update and click “Upgrade Now” when Monterey update appears.
  5. Follow the prompts to download and install Monterey – this may take some time.
  6. Monterey will install as a separate volume – you can choose to merge it with existing data.
  7. Once installation is complete, your Mac will run on macOS Monterey!

Updating ensures you get all the latest features and security enhancements in Monterey. It’s recommended to update soon after a new macOS version is released.

Updating from macOS Big Sur to Ventura

The upcoming version after Monterey is macOS Ventura, currently in beta and slated for release in October 2022.

macOS Ventura includes new features like:

  • Stage Manager – organize apps and windows in a single glance
  • Handoff between devices – seamlessly switch tasks between Mac, iPad, and iPhone
  • Updates to Mail, Safari, Spotlight and other apps
  • Ability to use an iPhone as a webcam for Mac

When Ventura is officially released, eligible Macs running Big Sur can update to it the same way as any macOS release – through System Preferences > Software Update.

The update process and requirements will be similar to updating from Big Sur to Monterey. Back up your data, ensure hardware and app compatibility, then download and install Ventura when available.

Updating to Ventura will get you all the latest features and optimizations on your Mac. Do keep in mind the hardware requirements before updating.

Tips for Updating macOS

Here are some useful tips when it comes to updating the macOS:

  • Check hardware and app compatibility before updating to avoid issues.
  • Back up important data using Time Machine before any major update.
  • Ensure sufficient storage space for the update download and installation files.
  • Update apps to latest compatible versions for the new OS.
  • Use Software Update to download and install the latest macOS version.
  • Restart your computer to complete the installation after macOS updates.
  • Review new features and changes introduced in each macOS release.

Following these best practices will help ensure a smooth update experience.

Potential Issues When Updating macOS

While the macOS update process is designed to be seamless, there are some potential issues to be aware of:

  • Older hardware may not meet system requirements for new OS versions.
  • Insufficient storage space can prevent completing the update.
  • Incompatible apps may not work properly or crash after updating.
  • Critical data could be lost if not properly backed up beforehand.
  • Large updates can take time to download and install.
  • Bugs or issues in a new macOS release may affect workflows.
  • Incomplete updates can lead to crashes or boot problems.

So it’s important to carefully prepare for macOS updates, back up data, check compatibility, and install in a timely manner when you are ready to update. Pay attention to Apple’s release notes about any known issues.

Have a backup plan in case an update causes problems – you may need to reinstall the previous macOS version as a last resort if the new version is too problematic.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about updating macOS Big Sur:

Is updating macOS necessary?

Updating macOS is important to get the latest features, security protections, app compatibility, and performance optimizations. Running outdated OS versions often poses security risks and may prevent installing new apps.

Will apps keep working after updating?

Most apps should remain compatible after a macOS update, but very old or unmaintained apps could potentially have issues. Check app developer sites to confirm compatibility before updating.

Can I revert to an older macOS after updating?

Downgrading to an older macOS version is not officially supported by Apple. It requires completely reformatting the Mac, so all data would be lost in this process.

What happens if the update fails or bricks the device?

In rare cases, a botched macOS update can render a Mac unusable. This may require an SMC/NVRAM reset, safe mode reinstallation of the OS, or service from Apple Support if under warranty.

How can I speed up the macOS update process?

The update can be sped up by closing all other apps during installation, connecting to a fast wired network, and avoiding using the Mac during the update process.

Is it better to do a clean install or standard update?

The standard update works for most people. A clean OS install may help some who are experiencing major system issues, but requires backing up and reinstalling all data.


In summary, macOS Big Sur can be updated to newer Apple releases like Monterey and Ventura in order to get the latest features and security protections. Updating requires meeting system requirements, backing up data, installing through Software Update, and following Apple’s guidance. Minor issues may occur, but overall the update process is designed to be seamless for most Mac users. Keeping your Mac up to date is key to get the best performance and take full advantage of all macOS has to offer.