How to Fix an Update that Fails on a Mac

Introduction

Your Mac will do its best to keep up-to-date on its own. If it's a laptop, it will automatically check and update whenever it is plugged in to charge. If it is having problems, or you just want to double-check, this guide will walk you through how to do so, as well as some common things to try if problems arise.
Tools You'll Need:
  • Your Mac
  • Access to the internet
Apple icon

? What updates are you having problems with?

  1. Program Updates
  2. Updating to High Sierra

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Your Mac will do its best to keep up-to-date on its own. If it's a laptop, it will automatically check and update whenever it is plugged in to charge. If it is having problems, or you just want to double-check, this guide will walk you through how to do so, as well as some common things to try if problems arise.
Tools You'll Need:
  • Your Mac
  • Access to the internet
Apple icon

There are two areas to check for updates for your Mac, the System Software and the Apps installed from the App Store.

Update System Software

  1. Open the Apple menu, and select System Preferences.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with System Preferences highlighted.
  2. Select Software Update.
    Software Update Preferences
  3. Any updates to your System Software will be offered here.
    Software Update Preferences

Update App Store Apps

  1. Open the Apple menu, and select App Store.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with App Store highlighted.
  2. Select Updates on the left. Any updates available will be offered here.
    App Store with Updates highlighted.

NVRAM (nonvolatile random-access memory) is a cache of settings specific to your Mac. Resetting NVRAM is safe, however you will need to reset some of your minor customizations, such as volume, time zone, or screen resolution.

  1. Select the Apple Menu > Shut Down.
    macOS Mojave Apple menu with Shut Down highlighted.
  2. Wait for your computer to shut down, and turn off.
  3. Turn your Mac back on by pushing the Power button.
    Macbook power button highlighted on the keyboard.
  4. Immediately push and hold the option, command ⌘, P, and R keys on your keyboard.
    option keyPluscommand keyPlusP KeyPlusR Key
    • If your Mac plays a startup sound, release the keys after the second time it plays.
    • If there is no startup sound, release the keys after the second time the Apple logo disappears.
  1. Select Apple menu > About This Mac.
    macOS Mojave Apple menu with About This Mac highlighted.
  2. Select Storage.
    About This Mac with Storage highlighted
  3. Free space is the first number you see below the name of your hard drive.
    About This Mac Storage with available space highlighted

    Disk space needs will vary depending on how you use your computer. In general, if you have over 15 GB of free space, you should be fine for updates and upgrades.
    Only proceed if you have less than 15 GB of free space.

  4. Select Manage.
    About this Mac with Manage button highlighted
  5. Under Recommendations on the left, you'll see some very easy-to-use tools to help optimize and clean up your disk space, such as optimizing the files already stored in iCloud, removing items from iTunes you've already watched or listened to, emptying the Trash automatically, and reviewing the files stored on your Mac to delete unused or old ones.
    macOS recommendations

There are two areas to check for updates for your Mac, the System Software and the Apps installed from the App Store.

Update System Software

  1. Open the Apple menu, and select System Preferences.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with System Preferences highlighted.
  2. Select Software Update.
    Software Update Preferences
  3. Any updates to your System Software will be offered here.
    Software Update Preferences

Update App Store Apps

  1. Open the Apple menu, and select App Store.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with App Store highlighted.
  2. Select Updates on the left. Any updates available will be offered here.
    App Store with Updates highlighted.

Sometimes, the wireless signal is too weak, and a wired connection will provide better service.

Not every Mac has an Ethernet port. It's okay if you do not see one.

  1. Look on the side and back of your Mac, and see if there's a port that looks like this, it will have a <···> symbol next to it.
    ethernet port
  2. Acquire an Ethernet cable. It looks like the picture below.
    Ethernet cable
  3. Take one end of the cable and plug it into your router/modem's Ethernet port.
  4. Plug the other end of the cable into your device's Ethernet port.
  5. Your Mac will automatically switch to this connection.

There are two areas to check for updates for your Mac, the System Software and the Apps installed from the App Store.

Update System Software

  1. Open the Apple menu, and select System Preferences.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with System Preferences highlighted.
  2. Select Software Update.
    Software Update Preferences
  3. Any updates to your System Software will be offered here.
    Software Update Preferences

Update App Store Apps

  1. Open the Apple menu, and select App Store.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with App Store highlighted.
  2. Select Updates on the left. Any updates available will be offered here.
    App Store with Updates highlighted.
In general, if your Mac was made after late 2009, it should be compatible. We can confirm using the following steps:
  1. Choose Apple menu > About This Mac.
    apple menu with about this mac highlighted
  2. Check the OS version.
    about this mac dialog with macOS version and make and model highlighted
  3. Compare what it says here to the table below to make sure your Mac is compatible with macOS High Sierra:
    Mac Model OS Version
    • iMac models from late 2009 or later
    • MacBook models from late 2009 or later
    • MacBook Pro models from mid 2010 or later
    • MacBook Air models from late 2010 or later
    • Mac mini models from mid 2010 or later
    • Mac Pro models from mid 2010 or later
    • macOS Sierra
    • OS X El Capitan
    • OS X Yosemite
    • OS X Mavericks
    • OS X Mountain Lion
  1. Select Apple menu > About This Mac.
    macOS Mojave Apple menu with About This Mac highlighted.
  2. Select Storage.
    About This Mac with Storage highlighted
  3. Free space is the first number you see below the name of your hard drive.
    About This Mac Storage with available space highlighted

    Disk space needs will vary depending on how you use your computer. In general, if you have over 15 GB of free space, you should be fine for updates and upgrades.
    Only proceed if you have less than 15 GB of free space.

  4. Select Manage.
    About this Mac with Manage button highlighted
  5. Under Recommendations on the left, you'll see some very easy-to-use tools to help optimize and clean up your disk space, such as optimizing the files already stored in iCloud, removing items from iTunes you've already watched or listened to, emptying the Trash automatically, and reviewing the files stored on your Mac to delete unused or old ones.
    macOS recommendations

It is important that, from here on out, you have a recent backup copy of your computer's contents. While none of these steps should cause problems, they can. Having a backup in place provides peace of mind, should anything go wrong.

  1. Choose Apple menu and then App Store....
    macOS Apple Menu with App Store highlighted.
  2. Search the App Store for macOS High Sierra in the top-right corner.
    app store search bar
  3. Choose macOS High Sierra from the search list.
    high sierra upgrade item in app store
  4. Click the Download button on the High Sierra page. A file named Install macOS High Sierra downloads to your Applications folder.
    macOS High Sierra
  5. After download is complete, the installer opens automatically. Click Continue and follow the onscreen instructions.
    macOS High Sierra download page

You may be asked to sign in with an administrator name and password to install a helper tool, then click Add Helper to continue. This is usually the username and password you use to sign on to your Mac, or the one you created when you first setup your Mac.

NVRAM (nonvolatile random-access memory) is a cache of settings specific to your Mac. Resetting NVRAM is safe, however you will need to reset some of your minor customizations, such as volume, time zone, or screen resolution.

  1. Select the Apple Menu > Shut Down.
    macOS Mojave Apple menu with Shut Down highlighted.
  2. Wait for your computer to shut down, and turn off.
  3. Turn your Mac back on by pushing the Power button.
    Macbook power button highlighted on the keyboard.
  4. Immediately push and hold the option, command ⌘, P, and R keys on your keyboard.
    option keyPluscommand keyPlusP KeyPlusR Key
    • If your Mac plays a startup sound, release the keys after the second time it plays.
    • If there is no startup sound, release the keys after the second time the Apple logo disappears.
  1. Choose Apple menu and then App Store....
    macOS Apple Menu with App Store highlighted.
  2. Search the App Store for macOS High Sierra in the top-right corner.
    app store search bar
  3. Choose macOS High Sierra from the search list.
    high sierra upgrade item in app store
  4. Click the Download button on the High Sierra page. A file named Install macOS High Sierra downloads to your Applications folder.
    macOS High Sierra
  5. After download is complete, the installer opens automatically. Click Continue and follow the onscreen instructions.
    macOS High Sierra download page

You may be asked to sign in with an administrator name and password to install a helper tool, then click Add Helper to continue. This is usually the username and password you use to sign on to your Mac, or the one you created when you first setup your Mac.

  1. From the menu bar across the top of the screen, select the Apple menu (1), then select Restart... (2).
    Apple icon in the upper-left corner displaying a menu beneath with the restart option highlighted.
  2. Immediately press and hold the Shift key on your keyboard.
  3. Release the Shift key when you see the login window.

Sometimes, the wireless signal is too weak, and a wired connection will provide better service.

Not every Mac has an Ethernet port. It's okay if you do not see one.

  1. Look on the side and back of your Mac, and see if there's a port that looks like this, it will have a <···> symbol next to it.
    ethernet port
  2. Acquire an Ethernet cable. It looks like the picture below.
    Ethernet cable
  3. Take one end of the cable and plug it into your router/modem's Ethernet port.
  4. Plug the other end of the cable into your device's Ethernet port.
  5. Your Mac will automatically switch to this connection.
  1. Choose Apple menu and then App Store....
    macOS Apple Menu with App Store highlighted.
  2. Search the App Store for macOS High Sierra in the top-right corner.
    app store search bar
  3. Choose macOS High Sierra from the search list.
    high sierra upgrade item in app store
  4. Click the Download button on the High Sierra page. A file named Install macOS High Sierra downloads to your Applications folder.
    macOS High Sierra
  5. After download is complete, the installer opens automatically. Click Continue and follow the onscreen instructions.
    macOS High Sierra download page

You may be asked to sign in with an administrator name and password to install a helper tool, then click Add Helper to continue. This is usually the username and password you use to sign on to your Mac, or the one you created when you first setup your Mac.

We have a separate guide to walk you through backing up the files on your Mac.

Your Mac is not compatible with macOS High Sierra.

You may choose to continue using what you have, or contact Apple about upgrading to a new Mac.

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