How to Upgrade Your Mac

Upgrade your Mac for Apple's latest software!
2 hours

Mac users are often intimidated by large upgrades, scared that they might lose data or end up dealing with installation errors that take up more time and energy than they anticipated, but the truth about upgrading is that it's actually relatively simple and easy. Even though upgrading your Mac can be intimidating, it's really about following the steps and waiting it out.

Yes, it takes some time to upgrade your Mac, but you aren't obligated to sit and stare at your Mac's progress during that time. Actually, it is better to go through the steps and let your Mac upgrade seamlessly on its own as it's designed to. In fact, most upgrade errors that occur are actually caused by user error, when users get impatient with the speeds of the upgrade process or try to use it while the upgrade is downloading and before the steps are complete.

Before upgrading, it is important to follow a few steps to simplify the process and avoid complications.

Before upgrading:

  1. Set aside the time to upgrade- As I mentioned above, expect to be near your computer, even if you are just in the other room watching television or cooking dinner. Don't try to upgrade when you only have an hour until work, or will not be near your computer to finish the job!
  2. Check your storage- Your Mac needs to have plenty of space to accommodate the upgrade. Before beginning, check your Mac's storage to make sure it has enough space. Generally, an upgrade is around 13 GB, but your Mac also needs space to do all that it does in a day. So, avoid upgrading unless you have at least 20 GB of free space on your Mac. If you don't, consider clearing up some space.
  3. Consider your internet and location- What you are about to do requires a flat surface that will not absorb heat and that is close to your router. Don't upgrade your Mac on your bed. Find a flat surface that will allow the needed ventilation. Also, If you are far from your router, move closer. If there is a fridge, microwave, and other possible causes of Wi-Fi interference, change your Mac's location, so that you are getting the best internet speeds possible. If able, I recommend using an Ethernet cord so that you have the fastest speeds possible instead of Wi-Fi, though if you have good Wi-Fi and are within the range needed with your internet plan, don't worry about connecting directly to the router!
  4. Back up your Mac- Make sure all your data is safe and sound, and follow along with me as I upgrade from MacOS Big Sur to MacOS Monterey. While date loss when upgrading isn't incredibly common, it can and does happen. So, backup your data. Don't skip this step before following along!
  5. Plug in your Mac- If you don't plug in your Mac, you won't be able to upgrade (depending on which MacOS you currently have). The software will otherwise automatically prompt you to plug in your Mac.

To make your life easier, you can also set up automatic updates.

Now, let's get started! Follow along with me as I upgrade from MacOS Big Sur to MacOS Monterey!

Note: Some of these steps may vary depending on the version of MacOS you have and are upgrading to.

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Open System Preferences

First things first, click the Apple logo and open System Preferences.

Click "Software Update"

Next, click "Software Update." Both updates and upgrades can be found in the same place!

Select "Upgrade Now"

The most recent available upgrade will appear. When it's done searching for upgrades, click "Upgrade Now."

Allow the Upgrade to Download

Remember, you are downloading new software, not updating the software you currently have. So, it takes time for your computer to download the new MacOS from Apple's servers.

There are many factors that determine download speeds, including your internet connection, anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours can be reasonably expected (my download took 58 minutes).

Either way, allow your Mac to do its job and complete the download. Walk away and avoid using your computer during this time.

Click "Continue"

Once the download has completed, you will see a pop-up that shows you the MacOS name and asks you to click "Continue." Click "Continue" to move to the next step.

Agree to the Terms and Conditions

Next, agree to Apple's terms and conditions.

Select Your Disk and "Continue"

Click your hard drive, which should be "Macintosh HD" unless you have renamed it, and click "Continue."

Enter Your User Password and Click "Unlock"

Depending on your Privacy and FileVault settings, you will be asked to enter your user password and/or Apple ID password. Sometimes, you may have to enter both. Enter the password, and click "Unlock."

Allow the Install to Complete

Now, simply allow your Mac to install the update.

This step may take up to 2 hours to complete. Again, this is another step where you can allow your Mac to complete the steps. Walk away, get a cup of coffee, and check on your Mac's progress a little later.

Restart Your Mac

You will then be prompted to update your Mac. Click "Restart," allow your Mac to reboot, and celebrate a successful MacOS upgrade!

Once your Mac reboots, you will be required to sign in and may be prompted to follow some additional steps. If you aren't, you are good to go enjoy the rest of your day! If you are prompted with additional steps, continue with this guide.

Follow the FileVault Prompts

Depending on the MacOS version you upgraded from and to, you may be asked to set up FileVault. Whether you set up FileVault or not is really up to you.

That decision should be based on how often other people have access to your Mac, what kind of private information is stored on your Mac, and how much security you believe you need. If you decide to turn on FileVault, check the box next to "Turn on FileVault disk encryption." If you do use FileVault, I strongly suggest clicking the second box that allows you to use your Apple ID to unlock your disk in the event that you forget your password for FileVault.

Either way, when you are done, click "Continue."

Follow the iCloud Prompts

Depending on the MacOS and your current iCloud settings, you may also be prompted to decide if you would like to store your files on iCloud. For those who have the iCloud storage, this is a good precaution for future data loss.

Once you've decided, click "Continue."

Sign in with Your Apple ID and Password

Lastly, you may be prompted to sign in with your Apple ID and password. Once you are done, allow iCloud to set up your account, and voilà!

Now, you have upgraded and set up your Mac to the most recent version of MacOS!

Change your Mac's appearance to light, dark, or auto.
1 minute

One of the great features of macOS Yosemite and later is Mac user's ability to change the default Light appearance of Macs to Dark Mode.