macOS Updates Take Long Time (Reasons, Normal Update Times)

Checking your device regularly for software updates is advisable as these updates add features to your PC, fix software bugs and improve its power efficiency. While software update is critical, it is a nightmare for some macOS users, given their extended durations.

So, why do macOS updates take so long? Your macOS updates could take longer due to slow internet or an overload of the Apple Servers.  An overload on Apple servers will occur during peak hours resulting in slow updates. If you experience slowness and a list of problems pops up next to your software update, you should wait for some minutes before initiating another download as the problem could automatically fix itself. However, if the installation stops, it will be wise to restart your device and start afresh.

Most system updates are fast and aim at improving the device’s performance. However, the recent updates prove otherwise, and users must wait longer than usual, which can be frustrating if you want to use your device for urgent tasks.

macOS updates can take so long due to server issues that could cause the update to pause or fail. A network problem could also cause slowness. When this happens, and a list of problems populates next to your updates, you should wait for some minutes before attempting a software update. If the installation completely stops, restarting your device could resolve the issue.

Generally, any software update will go as fast as your internet speed, and if you have a slow connection, you will report longer than usual macOS update durations. If you suspect your connection, try restarting your router or modem.

Checking and updating your network settings can also resolve this slowness. If the slowness persists, check your third-party applications and antivirus as they could block your update and temporarily disable them.

Issues impacting update speed

Another impactful factor is the space in your hard disk drive or SSD. Ideally, you should have at least 20% free storage before installing an update. A smaller space will slow down your installation.

To ensure you have adequate space to install your update, navigate to your Mac Menu and click the Storage tab. While here, delete all unnecessary files, reboot your device then try installing your update. There should be an improvement in the update duration.

The age of your Mac PC will also dictate the update speed. If you are using an older and slower Mac, the update time may stretch to 45 minutes. However, this factor is not as impactful unless combined with other factors.

Your macOS update may also take longer in case of a failed installation, error message, and gateway time-out. While you can solve these problems by restarting your device, they could persist over time, and downloading your software update in Safe Mode is advisable.

Once you complete your download, install the new OS. You should note that this download may fail if your Mac is too old, and your internet connection is unstable.

Another fix to a macOS taking too long is to download your software directly from Apple’s website. A website version of the software comprises the necessary files for the update. It is advisable to download the software in the morning between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. when Apple’s server is not crowded.

How Long Do macOS Updates Take?

Upgrading your macOS version requires monitoring the download and installation as the process is not always smooth. The update can freeze or get stuck in a lull and knowing how long this process takes is necessary for proper planning.

macOS updates will take a few minutes to hours to complete. This duration will vary depending on your connection and update size. With proper preparation and a fast internet connection, your updates could even take 20 minutes.

Your macOS update will comprise pre- installation, macOS download, installation, and post-installation activities. The pre-installation step comprises the preparation before macOS download. This step could take around 30 minutes, depending on the state of your Mac. In the pre-installation stage, ensure you backup your data properly to avoid losing critical information.

Once set, you can proceed with the macOS download. The macOS software you download will depend on your current version. This step should take at least ten minutes to complete if connected to the fast internet.

You should note that the download speed will be low during peak hours; hence, it is advisable to take advantage of morning hours for faster installation. Also, if you are moving from an older to newer software, you should expect significant slowness.

Upon downloading your software from Apple’s servers, the installation will begin. This process can take about ten minutes or more, during which your Mac will reboot several times. This constant rebooting is normal, and your device will boot up once after the installation is complete.

After installation, proceed to put your device in its normal operational state by logging into your apps and services. You may also want to double-check your files and ensure the successful transfer into the new version.

Afterward, you should test your main apps and services to ensure they are fully functional. If you notice any issues, try downloading the latest app versions, and you should be good to go. You may also want to check for performance issues and bugs by troubleshooting your Mac.

Safe mode

Apart from the internet connection, Mac status, and Apple servers, your Mac updates could take longer due to freezing, requiring you to take corrective actions. If, after some minutes of observation, it is evident that your Mac update is not progressing, try installation in Safe Mode. 

Safe Mode offers a startup for your Mac with minimum components, removing the updates’ obstacles. To start up in Safe Mode, turn off your Mac by holding the power button, then boot. 

The simplest way to boot in Safe Mode is by holding the Shift button as you boot. This action will cause the Apple logo to pop on your screen with a loading bar. You can then run your update as you would normally up to the end.

Status page

Checking the system’s Status Page is also ideal in case of a stuck update. Any time Apple releases a new macOS version, an influx of people storm the website to download it, outing the servers under pressure.

You will see all Apple services and server dysfunctions by checking the Systems Status page. A green bubble indicates good functioning, while a red or yellow bubble indicates a server issue, and you may have to wait for the servers to normalize.

Where waiting is the only option, it can be frustrating as you can never be certain of the duration. This could mean minutes to hours for your Mac to resume the update installation. Fortunately, you can constantly check if the system is up through the Command + L buttons. This command will give you an estimate of the install time.

If the above command does not display the time, continue waiting for the servers to resume normal functioning. Such waiting makes online users complain about up to ten-hour waits in Mac forums. If this, is you, you can be patient and switch to other activities, hoping things get back to normal soon.

Refreshing installation

Refreshing your installation is another solution to a frozen software update. To do this, press the power button for about 30 seconds. Once your Mac is completely off, hold the power button again, and the update should resume.

You can check if the installation is on with the command +L. Still, you can try downloading a fresh copy of your macOS. This action will require booting into Recovery Mode. To do this, turn off your Mac normally, then power on and immediately press and hold the Command +R to enter recovery mode. Next, click the Wi-Fi symbol to ensure you are connected to a fast network. Select Reinstall macOS in the pop-up and follow onscreen instructions to complete your download.

Resetting NVRAM

If all the above fixes fail, you may need to reset your Non-Volatile Random-Access Memory (NVRAM). The NVRAM stores certain settings that your MacOS can access easily. These include the screen resolution, speaker volume, and kernel panic information. To reset the NVRAM, press and hold your Mac power button until it is off.

This action will also stop the fans, and the hard disc and the screen will go off. Next, turn on your Mac, and once you hear the startup sound, long press the Command +Option+P+R. Hold these keys until the startup sounds again, then release, and the NVRAM will reset. From here, the update should resume without hitches.

Mac updates taking hours

Ideally, your macOS updates should be smooth, taking several minutes. The process comprises checking for updates, downloading, installing, and restarting your Mac. After restarting, you should be able to enjoy the new features in the latest macOS. Unfortunately, some users complain that their updates take hours.

It is not normal for your Mac update to take hours unless under the influence of underlying factors. When this happens, check your internet connection, Mac storage, software conflict, and Apple servers, as these could significantly slow down the process.

As stated earlier, your internet connection is key to your macOS update. Hence, with a poor connection, you expect slowness, causing the update to take up to hours to complete. If you suspect your internet connection, restart your router or reset your network settings.  You can also try disabling your antivirus, as it could be blocking your software updates.

While your internet could be fully functional, there could be an outage on Apple’s servers. Hence, navigate the Apple System Status page and check the macOS software update option. A red dot will indicate a server problem that could slow down your updates.

Mac Storage issues affecting updates

Your Mac storage is another culprit to slow updates. This is especially with major updates as the update requires an initial download into your PC. Hence, the update may delay or fail completely if you do not have enough space. Where storage is the problem, free up your storage and retry the update. You can also use the iCloud backup or external memory for your important files.

Restarting your Mac can also restore the update speed to normal by fixing any bugs. To do this, navigate to your Apple Menu, click Restart, and then update your software. You can try booting your Mac in Safe Mode if the normal restart does not solve the issue. Safe Mode is more advanced than restart and will check your Mac system and clear the cache for junk files that could slow down the process.

Still, if the above steps do not improve the download speed, try deleting your install folder, as it could slow down the process. To do this,

  • open Terminal on your PC
  • enter the sudo rm -rf “/macOS Install Data command
  • press “Enter”

You will get an onscreen prompt to enter your admin password, after which you should restart your Mac and try installing the update.

Lastly, your software Update Preferences could be corrupted, slowing down the process. Resetting them through deleting a plist file should improve the update speed. To do this,

  • navigate the Terminal
  • enter the sudo rm /Library/Preferences/ command
  • press “Enter”

You can then restart your Mac, and the speed should improve.

Wrap Up

A macOS update is necessary for your Mac PC. Through these updates, Apple can solve problems in the previous versions, improving your device performance. Before installing an update, you should do prior preparation by freeing up your device storage, backing up your data, and ensuring your internet connection is stable.

The above set may make your update sluggish due to server issues and antivirus blockage. Downloading an update during peak hours or immediately after its release will result in lags as users crowd Apple servers.

As the servers respond to the request, significant slowness will result. Also, your antivirus could be blocking the updates if it deems it a threat to your device. Hence, in case of slowness, restart your PC in the normal or Safe Mode, check the server status and your internet connection and in extreme cases, reset your NVRAM.

Bal Kang

Bal Kang is a technology expert based in the UK, with experience across a number of technology areas from phones, tablets, computers to gaming.

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