If your Mac is unable to install a software update, there are a few troubleshooting steps you can take to resolve the issue. The most common reasons for Mac update failures are insufficient storage space, network connectivity problems, issues with the Mac App Store, damaged software files, or incompatible applications. With some time and patience, you can usually get your Mac update working again.
Quick Fixes to Try First
Before diving into more complex troubleshooting, here are some quick and easy things to try if your Mac update is not working:
- Check your internet connection and network status.
- Restart your Mac and try the update again.
- Reset the Mac App Store app.
- Check for and install any pending updates for macOS itself.
- Free up storage space on your Mac if the update requires more room.
Often times, a simple restart, reconnection to the internet, or updating macOS can resolve a single stubborn update not working. If those basic steps do not work, move on to the more detailed troubleshooting steps below.
Step 1: Check Your Internet Connection
Software updates require an active internet connection to download and install. If you are trying to update your apps over WiFi, make sure you are connected to the network and can access the internet. Open a web browser or check for other network connectivity issues.
Problems like a poor WiFi signal, disabled Ethernet adapter, or network authentication errors can prevent software updates from working properly. If your network connection drops during the update, it may fail or get stuck. Restart your router/modem or try connecting your Mac directly to the modem with Ethernet.
How to Check Internet Connectivity on a Mac
Follow these steps to verify internet connectivity on a Mac:
- Click the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
- Click the Network icon.
- Select your primary network connection on the left side.
- Check that the status says Connected in the right pane.
- Click the gear icon and choose Diagnostics to run a network test.
If you see warnings or errors during the network diagnostics, that indicates a problem reaching the internet. Refer to Apple’s support guides for troubleshooting network and internet connectivity issues.
Step 2: Restart Your Mac
Before troubleshooting software update errors any further, try restarting your Mac. A basic reboot can clear out minor glitches, release any software locks, and restore normal network connectivity.
To restart a Mac:
- Click the Apple menu and choose Restart.
- Alternatively, hold down the power button until a dialog box appears. Select Restart.
- Allow your Mac to fully restart, then check if the software update works.
Restarting resets your entire operating system and hardware, giving them a fresh start. This can resolve many temporary issues that may be blocking updates from installing correctly. Make restarting your Mac the first step any time an update is not working.
Step 3: Reset the Mac App Store
Resetting the Mac App Store app itself can clear out bugs, glitches, and cached update data that may be causing problems. To reset the App Store, follow these steps:
- Open the App Store application.
- Click the Store menu and choose Reset App Store.
- A dialog will confirm resetting the App Store. Click Reset to proceed.
- The App Store app will restart. Try your update again after it reloads.
Resetting the Mac App Store resets its entire environment and may allow stalled updates to continue. It also refreshes the data and connections used to download updates from Apple’s servers.
Step 4: Update macOS Itself
Before updating apps or other software, make sure your macOS system itself is fully updated. Sometimes, having a pending Mac OS update can interfere with updating apps.
To update macOS:
- Open the App Store app.
- Click the Updates tab at the top.
- Install any macOS updates shown here.
- Restart your computer after updating macOS.
- Now try updating your apps again.
Keeping your Mac operating system completely up-to-date removes software compatibility issues that could block updates for apps and other software.
Step 5: Free Up Disk Space
Many Mac updates require significant free disk space to download and install. If your Mac’s storage is completely full, updates may fail or get stuck. Before updating, you should confirm you have at least 2-4 GB of available space.
To check free space on a Mac:
- Click the Apple menu and choose About This Mac.
- Click the Storage tab.
- Check the figure next to Available or Recommend amount of free space.
If storage space is low, you need to free up room for the update to work. Delete unused files, offload media to external drives, or remove unused apps.
How to Free Up Space on a Mac
Here are some ways to free up storage space on a Mac:
- Empty Trash – Empty trash cans and Downloads folders.
- Remove old system logs – Clear out logs in Utilities > Console.
- Delete unused apps – Uninstall apps you no longer need.
- Offload photos/videos – Move media files to an external drive.
- Store files in iCloud – Use Optimize Storage to keep less data on your Mac.
After freeing up space for the update, reboot your Mac and try downloading the update again.
Step 6: Check for Damaged or Conflicting Software
If an update starts downloading but fails to finish installing, the software files themselves may have become damaged or corrupted. Or, you may have another app or software conflict that is blocking completion of the update.
To troubleshoot software file issues:
- Try downloading the update again in case files were corrupted the first time.
- Scan for drive errors and permissions issues with First Aid in Disk Utility.
- Check for conflicting apps or software known to block updates.
- Back up your data and reinstall macOS as a last resort.
Repairing drive errors, allowing completed downloads, and removing problematic software can help resolve damaged or incompatible files blocking updates.
How to Reinstall macOS
If no other troubleshooting works, completely reinstalling macOS may be required. Back up your data first, then follow these steps:
- Restart your Mac into Recovery mode by holding Command + R on reboot.
- Select Reinstall macOS from the Utilities window.
- Follow the prompts to erase your drive and reinstall a fresh macOS.
- Restore your data after completing setup. Check for update issues again.
Reinstalling macOS gives you a clean slate in case of deep system problems blocking updates. Be sure to backup data first before wiping your drive.
Specific Update Troubleshooting Tips
Here are some additional tips for troubleshooting specific types of update failures on a Mac:
macOS Update Failures
- Quit all apps first – Close all open apps before installing macOS updates.
- Disable antivirus – Temporarily turn off third-party antivirus tools during updates.
- Disconnect peripherals – Detach any external devices or drivers that may interfere.
- Fix installation errors – Use macOS Utilities to repair update failures.
App Store App Updates
- Check credentials – Confirm your Apple ID account details are correct.
- Review purchase history – Make sure the app was actually purchased.
- Cancel stuck updates – Cancel and retry if an update hangs for a long time.
Safari Browser Updates
- Clear browser data – Reset Safari history and website data to refresh updates.
- Remove extensions – Disable any third-party extensions that may conflict.
- Reset Apple ID – Sign out and back in to your Apple ID linked to Safari.
Addressing any factors specific to the type of software being updated may reveal additional issues blocking updates.
When to Contact Apple Support
If you have tried all of the troubleshooting suggestions here, but your Mac update still does not work, it is time to contact Apple for further assistance. Apple provides technical support for updating issues through the following channels:
- Apple Support app – Request help directly through the preinstalled Support app on your Mac.
- Apple Support website – Visit https://support.apple.com to browse help articles or contact Apple Support.
- Genius Bar – Make an appointment or visit an Apple Store to get in-person technical help.
- Phone support – Call 1-800-APL-CARE (800-275-2273) to speak to Apple Support over the phone.
Apple Support can investigate your specific updating problem and may identify server-side issues, complex software conflicts, or other problems requiring advanced troubleshooting techniques.
Updating issues can often be frustrating, but are usually fixable with proper troubleshooting. Following the step-by-step guide above should help get your Mac software update working again in most cases. Restarting your computer, ensuring stable network connections, freeing up space, and repairing damaged files can all help resolve update failures. Contact Apple Support if you need assistance investigating more complex or persistent Mac update problems.