How to upgrade to macOS Big Sur from Catalina and why the upgrade is different this year

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After months of waiting, macOS Big Sur is finally being released to MacBook and iMac users across the globe later today. Apple revealed the rollout news during its “One last thing” MacBook event earlier this week with the US firm expected to allow fans to install this software from 6pm tonight, November 12. There’s plenty to look forward to in macOS Big with it including a new look, improved messaging and an update to the Notifications panel. And if you fancy installing this software onto your MacBook or iMac today then you’ll need to follow these simple steps to get things up and running – especially if you’re running macOS Catalina as things have changed this time around.

Yes, until now, Apple has always dropped the latest version of its macOS operating system in the Mac App Store – with a glitzy new banner at the top of the app. If you’re running macOS 10.14 Mojave or earlier, that’s still the case. After the clock strikes 6pm, you’ll want to load-up the App Store to check for a shiny new advert for macOS 11 Big Sur. But if you upgraded to macOS 10.15 Catalina around this time last year, things have changed.

While you’ll still find the App Store installed on your device, this now only handles – surprise, surprise – apps. If you’re looking to update the operating system, you’ll need to head to System Preferences. And then click on the Software Update item within that panel. There’s a shortcut to this under the Apple menu, found under the company logo in the top left-hand corner of your screen too.

So, check what version of the operating system you’re running at the moment to find out which upgrade method you’ll need to use. To find that, head to the Apple menu in the top left-hand corner of your display and click About This Mac. Once that’s done, follow the steps below to make sure you’re computer is ready to upgrade.


One of the first things to make sure of is that your Mac is fully backed up to the cloud or an external hard drive. It’s highly unlikely anything will go wrong during the install but there’s always a chance of a glitch and backing things up means you won’t lose any precious files.


macOS is expected to be around 10GB in size so make sure your Wi-Fi is primed and ready. It’s a good idea to check nobody else in your home is trying to download huge files at the same time you are attempting to get your hands on Big Sur as this will slow things down.


The next-generation version of macOS should land in the App Store this evening, which can be accessed from the Apple menu (found under the Apple logo in the top left-hand corner of your screen). However, if your Mac is running a version of macOS Catalina (the update that dropped this time last year), you’ll need to head to the new Software Update menu within System Preferences to download Big Sur instead.


It can take a short while for the install to take place and your Mac will be out of action during this time so make sure you don’t have any important emails that need sending.

If you’re unsure whether your Mac is capable of running macOS 11 Big Sur (and not every machine that runs its predecessor, macOS Catalina, can be updated to the new version) check which Mac models are compatible with the macOS 11 Big Sur upgrade here.

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