How to Update Your Mac and Keep Apps Up to Date
Updating your Mac regularly is not only good for its performance but also for your online safety. Apple and app developers fix security issues when they discover them—and they also introduce useful new features to macOS and your apps.
Every year, Apple provides Mac users with new and improved versions of macOS, the operating system that runs on their computers. These new versions come with no cost and include various enhancements and features. This article will show you how this process works and how you can set up your Mac to automatically update everything, from security fixes to apps, without interrupting your work or play.
How to Install macOS Updates
Every year, usually around October, Apple launches a new major version of macOS. In the meantime, they release smaller patches that fix bugs, improve security, and sometimes introduce new features and support for new products. These patches are called updates and numbered according to the major version they belong to. For example, 13.3 is the third major update to macOS 13.
When Apple releases updates for your Mac, they may include changes to the core operating system that runs your computer and the apps that come with it, such as Safari and Mail. These updates may also improve the performance of your hardware and peripherals by updating their firmware. You don’t have to worry about installing something incompatible with your Mac because Apple only offers you updates relevant to your specific model.
You must have macOS 13 Ventura or a newer version installed to update your Mac. You can check for updates by clicking System Settings > General > Software Update. This window will show you any updates that are available for your Mac. If your Mac is already up-to-date, you will see a message saying so.
Updating Older Versions of macOS
To update your Mac, go to System Preferences > Software Update. This will show you any available system updates. If you see “Update Now”, click it to begin the update process. Your Mac can still get security updates even if it is not running the latest macOS version. This applies to macOS 12 Monterrey and older versions.
Mac App Store is where you must go for operating system updates if you have macOS 10.13 or earlier. The System Preferences window won’t have a “Software Update” option in that case.
To check for updates, open the App Store app from the dock and select the “Updates” tab. Look for any updates that say “macOS 10.xx.x Update” (depending on your version) in the list of available updates.
To update a specific item, click the “Update” button next to it. To update all items at once, click the “Update All” button on the top of the screen. You might have to restart your Mac for the update to work.
How to Automatically Install Updates
Different kinds of updates can be automatically looked for, downloaded, and installed by your Mac.
If you have macOS 13 Ventura or newer, go to System Settings > Software Update and select the “i” icon next to the “Automatic Updates” option.
You can turn on or off different options that will appear, and most of them are clear and simple.
If you want your Mac to look for updates automatically and notify you when they are available, turn on “Check for updates”. Otherwise, you must come back to this menu and check for updates yourself.
If you turn on the option “Download new updates when available”, your system will automatically download any available updates and let you know when they’re ready to install. To install these updates, click on the notification or go to System Preferences > Software Update.
Your system can download updates by itself and notify you when they are ready to be installed if you enable the “Download new updates when available” option. To install these updates, click on the notification or visit System Preferences > Software Update.
Security Responses” tries to speed up the installation of critical security updates by delegating them to external sources. Depending on whether the update affects the core operating system or an app like Safari, your Mac or the app will need to restart. According to Apple, system files can include anything from new fonts to firmware updates for your power adapter.
To control automatic updates, go to System Preferences > Software Update and click the “Advanced” button if you have macOS 10.4 Mojave or later. If you have macOS 10.3 High Sierra or earlier, these options are under System Preferences > App Store.
Your Mac will stay safe and function properly if you let it update automatically. Otherwise, you must check for updates yourself and install them through Software Update. We advise you to keep Security Response updates on at least.
How to Upgrade macOS to the Next Major Version
Unlike regular patches that make minor changes, upgrading macOS means switching to a new major version. These upgrades are released once a year and bring more noticeable differences. To find out the most recent version of macOS, you can check Apple’s website.
Before upgrading your Mac to the latest macOS version, check that all your important software is compatible. Otherwise, you might need help if you want to downgrade later. Downgrading is difficult and may require you to erase your Mac and reinstall the old one. Alternatively, you can restore your Mac from a Time Machine backup, but only if you have one.
A backup is a smart precaution before you update your core operating system in case something goes wrong. You can use Time Machine and an extra hard drive to make a backup for free. Alternatively, you can use some other software to make a backup that you can boot from if you want.
Go to Software Update in your system settings to check for a new macOS version. Depending on your current version, you may find it under General or Software Update. Alternatively, you can look for the latest macOS in the Mac App Store.
To start downloading the new version of the software, press the “Upgrade Now” button. It may take some time to get the whole update, and your Mac will tell you when it’s ready to restart and install.
To pause the installer and continue later, open the “Install macOS [name]” app (where “name” is the latest release name). The upgrade process may take half an hour to several hours and will restart your device multiple times while applying the update.
Updating Your Mac App Store Apps
You can easily find, install, and update software for your Mac with the Mac App Store. Apple reviews and approves all App Store apps and ensures they run in a safe environment. This way, they can’t harm your Mac.
To open the App Store, click its icon on your dock, choose “App Store” from the Apple menu on your menu bar, or press Command+Spacebar and type “App Store” in the search box. Then, go to the “Updates” tab to see the available updates for your apps. You can update each app individually or click “Update All” to do them all at once.
To enable automatic updates for your Mac App Store apps, open the App Store and select “Settings” from the “App Store” menu in the top-left corner of the screen. Check that “Automatic Updates” is turned on.
Updating Apps Installed Outside of the Mac App Store
Some apps are not on the Mac App Store and need manual installation. These apps also have different ways of updating. For example, Chrome and Firefox can update themselves, while Adobe Creative Cloud uses a separate updater app that runs in the background.
Usually, apps will look for updates and let you know. You can make them check manually by going to the right menu bar option. This option may be in different places depending on the app you’re using, but you can find out the following:
- Go to the menu bar and select “App Name”. Then, click on “Check for Update”.
- Go to the menu bar and select “App Name”. Then, click on “About [App Name]” and choose “Check for Update”.
- Go to the menu bar and select “Help”. Then, click on “Check for Update”.
- Open the application and look for the update option. For example, you can click the menu icon in Firefox and go to Settings > General > Check for updates.
- Use a separate update application, like “Microsoft AutoUpdate”, for Microsoft Office on Mac.
To update an app that doesn’t have a self-update feature, you need to check its version first. Open the app, click on the app name at the top-left corner of the screen, and select “About [App Name].” Then you can manually update it if needed.
Go back to the app’s main page and look for any updates. If you find one, download it. Then move the updated app to your Applications folder and overwrite the old one. This might erase some of your data.
Apps that use .PKG installers can sometimes update themselves by running the installer over the existing app. For instance, ExpressVPN offers manual downloads of new versions that use .PKG installers to replace the old ones. The installer keeps the user data intact after the app is updated.
How to Update Mac System Tools and Drivers
Mac users usually don’t have to bother about drivers. Apple knows your hardware and gives you the newest updates for your specific setup. You might need other drivers and system tools only if they are from a different company.
You can write to NTFS-formatted drives if you use a product like Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon Software. This product installs a third-party kernel extension and an icon in System Preferences. You can find them at the bottom of the screen. This means you have a third-party driver installed.
Note: If you want to write to drives that use the NTFS format, you need a product like Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon Software. This product adds a third-party kernel extension and an icon in System Preferences. You can see them at the bottom of the screen. This shows that you have a third-party driver installed.
Look for the system settings or preferences tweak if you installed any system tools or third-party drivers. There should be an option to update them now or check for updates. You may need to enter your admin password to authorize any changes, then reboot your Mac to apply them.
How to Update Safari Extensions
You can find Safari Extensions in the Mac App Store. Just open the Mac App Store and go to Updates to update them. Then you can update each extension separately or click the “Update All” button.
Some Safari extensions are old and can make your Mac unsafe. You should turn off any old extensions that don’t have any updates. If an extension has not been updated for over a year, it is probably old. You can check the updated date for the extension on the Mac App Store page.
Update Your Software and Stay Safe
You should always install software updates to protect yourself from new security threats. If you use an outdated and unsupported app, you might want to look for a different one that won’t expose you to danger.
To keep your Mac secure and up-to-date, turn on automatic updates and back up your data regularly. You should also upgrade your computer to the newest version every year, but check that all your software will work with it before you do.