Thursday, December 17, 2020

No More Downloadable macOS Updates

Normally, the delta and combo updaters are available for download here within a day of the macOS update becoming available via automatic software update. There was never an updater posted for macOS 11.0.1, but I didn’t think much of it because 11.0 wasn’t in wide circulation. But there are no updaters for macOS 11.1, either.

Mr. Macintosh:

Manual downloadable delta and combo updates for Big Sur are no longer available.

Howard Oakley:

If you feel that you “have a need for individual downloads for Big Sur delta/combo updaters”, please let Apple know. In the strongest possible terms, via Feedback, Apple Support and any other means available.

Unless a strong case is made for the reinstatement of standalone installer versions of Big Sur updates, it’s most likely that none will be provided for download – as has already happened with the 11.0.1 and 11.1 updates.

Otherwise, I guess the best solution is to download and keep a copy of each 12 GB full installer. You may be able to download it again later via the softwareupdate tool, but I’ve had mixed luck with that. Also:

Some digging has revealed that this password prompt is shown when the softwareupdate binary is called, and only on Apple Silicon devices.

Calling the softwareupdate binary is something which we Mac Admins have done for years, and it’s likely folks have workflows in place calling the softwareupdate binary which is then triggering this prompt.

So, what’s the fix? Short term, don’t call the softwareupdate binary on Apple Silicon devices and raise this issue with Apple.


Update (2020-12-24): Stephen Hackett:

These packages were also very useful while troubleshooting, and could often be used to fix software issues that didn’t require a full reinstall.

Tim Hardwick:

Apple hasn’t confirmed that it has ended update packages for macOS, but the current lack of standalone installers for Big Sur doesn’t look particularly good for users who rely on them.

That said, there is an alternative solution in the Sharing pane in System Preferences in the form of a Content Caching option, which enables one Mac to download updates and other Macs on the same network to download them directly from the local Mac.

Howard Oakley:

This doesn’t allow a client to install an update more than once. If something goes wrong and the first attempt to install that update causes problems, there’s no repeat button: if that Mac thinks the update has been applied, you can’t force your server to offer it again to that client.

Neither, it appears, is there any way of extracting a standalone installer from the updates cached locally.


Although the Content Caching Server is very useful for many users, and merits serious consideration by anyone with more than one Mac, it doesn’t address any of the use cases which have been put forward for the continuation of standalone software update installers.

Update (2021-02-08): Howard Oakley:

Just over month later, Apple released the update to 11.2. Not only are there still no standalone installers for that, and no explanation or (heaven forbid) apology, but Apple immediately removed the full 11.1 installer app, and still hasn’t provided standalone installer packages for the concomitant security updates to Mojave and Catalina. As things stand at the moment, even if you use sudo softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version 11.1 at the command line, Apple’s servers tell you it wasn’t found. Download the current version of 10.15.7 using the same mechanism, and you’ll be given the version from last November, without either Security Update 2020-001 or 2021-001 installed.


I’m very grateful to @rosyna for pointing out that, as Big Sur should retain a pre-update snapshot, users could now be able to use that to revert to the previous System snapshot in the event that an update goes wrong, as 11.2 has for SoftRAID users.

I thought that Apple had removed support for automatic snapshots.

5 Comments RSS · Twitter

If you have lots of machine on the same network, You can turn on Content Caching in the Preference. This will allow other machine to use the same download data without fetching tens of GB on the public internet for every machines.

Thanks for the tip! Where is Content Caching stored? I mean, in which folder?

I’m just a dumb user but since “Content Caching” is mentioned, I must tell my story which I probably should be embarrassed about:

I have two Macs (iMac still on 10.14.6 and an older MBP with 10.13.x), and for some reason I don’t remember I had turned on Content Caching on the iMac, perhaps half year ago—and immediately forgot about it again.

Then I began having persistent problems with downloading Software Updates on the iMac, always getting some error messages that said “no network connection” or something—while my machine was happily downloading other stuff.

I tried with Howard Oakley’s awesome Silent Knight.

I tried in the Terminal.

I copy/pasted the error msgs to a lot of people who are supposed to know more than I do … “have you tried turning your computer off and on again?” 😆 but also a few replies that made more sense to me who has been using Macs for 35 years … anyway, all the suggestions I got, I had already tried before … checked settings in cable modem & router, checked Firewalls and possible blockers … checked all Network Preferences … changed DNS servers from default to Googles, then to CloudFlare … all to no avail.

Then I finally thought of trying out with a macOS 10.14.Virtual Machine that I had forgotten about:
All software updates via System Preferences > Software Update went fine there.
So I compared Network settings: ALL WERE THE SAME.
Then I looked into System Preferences > Sharing, and yes, the only difference was the checkmark for “Content Caching” on the iMac.

Turned it OFF, and suddenly it all worked again on the iMac.

So … just as a warning: If you don’t know what you’re doing, better don’t do it 😅

[…] mode downloadable macOS installers? — MJ […]

I hate the Craig Federighi software era. Just hate it. So much about it is terrible and user-hostile.

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