Friday, November 13, 2020

Waiting to Update to Big Sur

Howard Oakley:

Many experienced Mac users like to leave it a while before committing their main, production Mac to a new version of macOS. This article looks at some of the issues involved, with particular reference to Big Sur. If you still want to be an early adopter, then this article gives practical advice on what you should do to prepare for the upgrade.


As with Catalina, upgrading to Big Sur involves commitment. Should it prove a disaster, the road back isn’t quick or easy: you’d need to reformat your boot disk and install a fresh copy of the previous version of macOS. It’s also worth noting that, however alluring it might be that Big Sur can make Time Machine backups to APFS volumes, those are incompatible with previous versions of Time Machine, and converting old backups for use with Big Sur is also likely to be a one-way trip.

Dave Nanian:

It’s never a good idea to update to a just-released major OS version unless you have to. Nobody knows how reliable Big Sur is going to be for regular users. Let someone else find out before you take the jump.

On our end, SuperDuper! will not be compatible with Big Sur on day of release.

Rich Trouton:

Not yet ready for macOS Big Sur in your environment, but you’ve trained your folks to look at the Software Update preference pane to see if there’s available updates?


You can block it from appearing using the softwareupdate --ignore command, but for macOS Catalina, Mojave and High Sierra, that command now requires one of the following enrollments as a pre-requisite:

  • Apple Business Manager enrollment
  • Apple School Manager enrollment
  • Enrollment in a user-approved MDM


Update (2020-11-16): See also: Slashdot.

Dave Nanian:

As if it wasn’t bad enough, Big Sur’s Disk Utility makes it frustratingly hard to wipe a drive when people want to roll back from Big Sur to Catalina, Mojave, etc.

Do we really have to pay so little attention to these things? I know everything new is perfect, but really.

Native Instruments (via Hacker News):

Using a TRAKTOR KONTROL S4 MK3 on macOS 11 (Big Sur) can cause malfunction and potentially damage your controller! We are working together with Apple to find a solution to this problem.

The rare software problem that can cause a hardware problem.

Update (2020-11-17): macmule:

As forewarned in my prior post, here’s a post detailing methods to block tof macOS Big Sur.

In truth, the majority of this post will be rehashing items mentioned in previous post titled: Blocking macOS Catalina with Jamf Pro.

Update (2020-11-20): Adam Engst (forum):

Unfortunately, there’s no Apple-provided way to make that System Preferences badge go away, so it constantly reminds the user that an update is waiting. That’s problematic because it teaches users to ignore the badge, which could prevent them from installing a critical security update in the future. It’s also a visual distraction. The macOS interface shouldn’t be cluttered with information that the user has deemed unnecessary.


With macOS 11 Big Sur, Apple seems to have taken the upgrade nags a step further. In the Updates screen of the App Store app, most Mac users will be offered an update to GarageBand 10.4.1. However, if you haven’t yet upgraded to Big Sur, trying to update GarageBand will result in an admonishment that the update isn’t compatible with previous versions of macOS.


This is shoddy behavior on Apple’s part. That softwareupdate -ignore command should be given back to everyday users. The App Store app should reliably tell you when there are updates available for your Mac. Advertising an update that a Mac can’t install is at best unnecessary.

Update (2021-03-11): Adam Engst:

It’s a hard question to answer because everyone’s situation is different—I can’t know if you might rely on an app that doesn’t work perfectly in Big Sur. Worse, emotions often run high when it comes to macOS upgrades, with some people viewing “different” as “bad” on principle, and Big Sur’s visual redesign is quite different. So I won’t tell you that you should upgrade to Big Sur—if you choose not to, that’s entirely your prerogative. But I will say that I have upgraded with no real problems, and if you wish to upgrade, it’s generally safe to do so.


I will say that I think Big Sur has proven itself more solid than 10.15 Catalina. I never officially recommended an upgrade to Catalina because it never felt entirely baked, even after Apple announced Big Sur.


I don’t know if this is related to Big Sur, Apple’s update servers, or my Internet connection, but I’ve had trouble installing Big Sur updates. I must have tried to install macOS 11.2.3 at least 30 times between my 2020 iMac and M1-based MacBook Air, each attempt being met with a Download Failed dialog at varying points in the download process.

This has happened to me with nearly every Big Sur update and beta.

Update (2021-08-18): Jeff Johnson (tweet, Hacker News):

Ultimately, though, I couldn’t wait any longer, because I need to run the latest Xcode beta in order to develop Safari extensions for iOS, and the latest Xcode beta requires Big Sur, so I finally decided to update to Big Sur on Saturday. This was a disaster.


Some friends told me that they had experienced something similar before, but they were able to get the update to finish by forcing their Mac to power off, and then rebooting. So I did this, maybe 4 hours after I started the update. When I rebooted, the Mac showed the lock screen for FileVault, and I successfully unlocked it with my password. But then it immediately went back to the black install screen, with the progress bar once again stuck at exactly the same point as before!


A Mac with no admin account is not very usable. There are a bunch of things you can’t do, and many features didn’t work right. So the operating system was effectively hosed. At this point, I decided that there was nothing more I could do with the update. Yet going back to Mojave was not an option, because Xcode’s OS requirements still weighed on me. My only truly viable option was to erase the disk, do a “clean” install of Big Sur, and manually migrate my data from backup. This was tedious but seems to have been successful, and there was no getting stuck during the install.

Due to the annual release schedule, Monterey will be out before even the serious bugs have been fixed in Big Sur.


Update (2021-09-08): Howard Oakley:

As Apple prepares to release macOS 12 Monterey, if you’re still running Catalina, you might be tempted to remain one major release behind, and take this as the time to upgrade to Big Sur. If you do, I think you’re making a serious mistake: anyone ready to go beyond Mojave should now be preparing for Monterey, not Catalina or Big Sur. It’s a matter of balancing the costs and benefits.

Usually, running the last release of the last major version of macOS provides a relatively stable platform, disturbed only by the series of Security Updates, and spares you from wrestling with all the new bugs which come bundled with the new major version. I don’t think that’s the prospect in store for those using Big Sur over the coming year.

5 Comments RSS · Twitter

The Big Sur betas were really slow on my 2014 MBP 13"... does anybody here know if it's much better in the release version on 2014 era hardware...?

@Adrian: how fast is a brick? Lots of reports of BS bricking 2014 MBP 13's.

Well since I’m in that Late 2013 range Imma avoid “Brick Sur.”

I’m just going to pretend that Brick Sur is for Silicon only, if I ever have an interest in a glorified iPad then I’ll look into Brick Sur, otherwise I’m happy with what I have.

Let’s also remember that Apple exempts itself from network security tools in B.S, so that’s another dealbreaker that they will never fix.

TrustD constantly beaconing every 20 seconds on das Cat is obnoxious enough. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Mayson Lancaster

Re the GarageBand update: it’s even worse! The update is offered even on machines ineligible for updates to Big Sur.

@Mayson Apple is doing the same with ARD (Apple Remote Desktop). On my Mini it doesn’t show up (anymore), but on my 2013 MBP the new “point release” from Nov 17th shows up but ”requires Big Sur” if you attempt to update it.

This is reaching MSFT levels of pettiness for customers who are “hanging back” because of Apple’s shabby SQA and direction away from power users. Don’t get me started about them having to be yelled at in the press for the network bypass thing. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of that bad idea.

For these and other reasons, I’m just not “compelled to upgrade” to M1. There’s nothing new here for me, I don’t need a faster file server. Somehow Catalina on Intel is stable enough for me to get what I need done. And I have near zero trust in current_Apple to “secure my realm” let alone one machine without putting Tim Cook’s interests before mine (and my endusers).

I think I finally know how Windows XP admins and users felt, not so long ago.

Leave a Comment