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How to download and install macOS 11 Big Sur

How to download the latest macOS update

macOS 11 Big Sur
(Image: © Apple)

Promising to be the biggest update to macOS in years, the macOS 11 Big Sur is bringing some pretty major improvements and exciting features to the operating system that powers the best Macs

First unveiled during Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference in June 2020, macOS 11 Big Sur features an overhauled interface - including an update to the curvature of the windows - to updated colors and new icon designs for the dock.

New system sounds will be introduced as well, as will new symbols in the various menus and sidebars to give a consistent look across different apps. Buttons and controls will have new interactivity, including appearing and disappearing from view  depending on when they are needed. 

Probably most important, it's built from its "core" to take advantage of and run pretty well on the new M1 chip, according to Craig Federighi, Apple's senior VP of Software Engineering.

This should give it a whole new degree of efficiency and performance than we saw with past macOS updates.

When will macOS 11 Big Sur be available to download?

The public release of macOS 11 Big Sur is available for download right now. You should receive a notification that a new update is available, but if you haven't seen it, you can check under System Preferences to initiate the download and installation.

Alternatively, you can access the update through the App store on your Mac, which will allow you to download and install the update. You can also go through Apple's website to get started with the update.

While the initial public release of Big Sur is a lot more stable than the public beta, that doesn't mean all the bugs have been worked out. 

While it shouldn't be as much of an issue as it was with the public beta, if you don’t want your Mac or Macbook crashing at random times while you’re working, we’d strongly recommend waiting for a few weeks after the initial release to be entirely certain that any bugs or issues have been fixed. 

iMac and MacBook

(Image credit: Apple)

Can your Mac run macOS 11 Big Sur?

Before you begin to download the macOS 11 Big Sur, you should make sure your Mac can run the software. 

These are the Macs that can install macOS 11 Big Sur as of now: 

  • 12-inch MacBook (2015 and later)
  • MacBook Air (2013 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (Late 2013 and later)
  • Mac mini (2014 and later)
  • iMac (2014 and later)
  • iMac Pro (all models)
  • Mac Pro (2013 and later)

macOS 11 Big Sur Developer Preview

(Image credit: Apple)

Back up your Mac before upgrading to macOS 11 Big Sur

Whenever you upgrade your operating system we highly recommend backing up the files on your Mac, so if anything goes wrong you can quickly restore your machine to its previous working order.

Before you download and install macOS 11 Big Sur, make sure your Mac is backed up. For information on how to do this, head over to our ultimate guide to backing up your Mac.

How to enroll in the Apple Developer Program

Once you've downloaded macOS 11 Big Sur, you might want to play with the more cutting edge developments in the OS that aren't available to the public yet. To do that, you need to be enrolled in the Apple Developer Program. 

If you’re not currently enrolled, then go to the Apple Developer Program enrollment webpage, which will show you everything you need to sign up.

You'll need an Apple ID, and provide your basic personal information. Click the 'Start Your Enrollment' to begin and then follow the instructions. Remember, you'll need to pay $100 (about £69, AU$140) to enroll.

macOS 11 Big Sur Developer Preview

(Image credit: Apple)