Updates vs Upgrades
You may receive a notification, or be asked by your IT team, to update the software on your Mac. Updates are important to make sure your computer remains stable and secure. Apple has made an interesting choice, however, to display macOS upgrades and software updates in the same window. Let's take a look at how they differ and how to trigger each one.
A software update is usually a patch that adds security to your Mac or fixes bugs. These can take a few forms:
- Point Update - An update from macOS 13.5 to 13.6 that changes the last digit of the version number. These encompass security updates, minor feature releases, and bug fixes.
- Rapid Security Response - A relatively new innovation from Apple, these are sometimes referred to as RSRs. These are released to address new security vulnerabilities discovered in the macOS environment. An RSR will append a version letter to your version of macOS - you would move from running macOS 13.2 to 13.2 (a).
- Non-OS updates - Apple may release updates to applications like Safari through the Software Update service - these updates will not change the version number of your operating system.
These updates tend not to add new features or make big changes to how your Mac looks and behaves - they are all about maintenance and security. Updates usually take about 10-20 minutes to run and require restarting your computer.
A macOS upgrade is a substantial change to your Mac and will have a unique name. Past upgrades have included Monterey (12) and Ventura (13)- the current OS is named Sonoma (14). macOS upgrades are characterized by the following:
- They change the name and major version of your Mac. For example, you may upgrade from macOS Big Sur 11.7 to macOS Monterey 12.6.2. Note that the name of the OS changed, as did the major version number (11 to 12).
- macOS upgrades require research and planning before implementation. Many business-critical applications may need to be updated or have new licenses purchased before they can work with a new OS.
- A macOS upgrade can take 1-2 hours to run.
How to Update or Upgrade
Let's talk about how to start a software update or macOS upgrade. Depending on your operating system, perform the following:
|macOS Monterey (12) or earlier||macOS Ventura (13) or later|
There are two sections to this window - on the top, you have the macOS Upgrade Banner, and below, you have "Other updates are available". To get started:
- macOS Upgrade: If your organization has thoroughly researched the new operating system and is upgrading all workstations, you'll use the Upgrade Now button inside the banner to begin.
- Software Update: If you have received a notification letting you know that a required update is available, click on the More Info button under the banner to bring up your list of updates:
Click Install Now to begin.
If you don't see an update currently available, but you know one should be, you can always press Command-R on your keyboard to refresh the Software Update window and check again. If symptoms persist, please check the Trouble Applying Updates section of this linked article.
Always contact us prior to running a macOS upgrade. (Incremental updates are typically fine to run on your own.)
If you have any questions, please contact us.