How Can I Update Old Mac in 2022? A Complete Guide

Wondering about how to update an old Mac device? We’re here to help!

Unlike phones, desktop operating systems tend to last long. Phones generally stop working once there are no further software updates. Contrary to this, desktop operating systems continue to run for longer. This is valid for Mac.

It is essential to check for regular software updates on your Mac device. Not only do these add new features but also improve overall efficiency. Also, the installation of new updates may fix problematic software bugs.

Apple never disappoints its users when it comes to supporting older hardware, both for its desktops and cellphones. The average lifespan of support for Apple gadgets and devices is 5 years. During this time, all devices receive a software update to improve their performance and security.

However, after that period is over, Apple stops supporting those devices in favor of newer ones. A simple reason for this can be the incompetence of the aged hardware to support more recent and advanced programs. A common example would be the Mojave Apple that does not support more recent versions of macOS. But that’s a whole other topic.

We’ll be focusing on teaching you how to update old Mac devices in this guide.

update old mac

List of Models Supported by macOS Mojave According to Apple

  • MacBook Air (2012 and recent)
  • iMac (2012 and recent)
  • MacBook Pro (2012 and recent)
  • MacBook (2015 and recent)
  • Mac mini (2012 and recent)
  • iMac Pro (2017 model)
  • Mac Pro (Mid to Late 2010, 2012 and 2013)

List of Models Supported by MacOS Catalina According to Apple

  • iMac Pro (2017 model)
  • MacBook (2015 and recent)
  • Mac Pro (2013 and recent)
  • Mac mini (2012 and recent)
  • MacBook Air (2012 and recent)
  • MacBook Pro (2012 and recent)
  • iMac (2012 and recent)

List of Models Supported by MacOS Big Sur

  • iMac Pro
  • MacBook (2015 and recent)
  • iMac (2014 and recent)
  • Mac mini (2014 and recent)
  • MacBook Air (2013 and recent)
  • MacBook Pro (2013 and recent)
  • Mac Pro introduced in 2013 or later

This list contains all the Mac devices that various software support, so if yours isn’t on it, it can’t be updated to recent versions.

Does Apple Still Support Your Version of macOS?

macOS is self-updating and automatically installs any new software updates from Apple. However, if there are no automatic updates on your old Mac, you must first determine its compatibility. For this, you need to know the exact macOS version running on your device.

To find the current version, follow these steps.

  • First, tap the Apple symbol in the corner of your screen.
  • Now, click “About this Mac.”
  • A page will pop up showing the current macOS version running on your device.
  • The first line in the specifications will tell you the model of your Mac.

Updating Your Mac to the Newest macOS Versions

Checking the current version of macOS will help you determine whether your device is still supported by Apple or not. If Apple still supports your Mac, you can easily update it from the settings by following these steps.

  • Click “About this Mac.”
  • Click “Software Update” from the window.
  • Once a new update is detected, click “Update now.”

It will start downloading the latest macOS version for your device. If you want to download a specific version of macOS for your system, you can do it by simply typing “macOS <version>” on the Apple Store.

The installation will start automatically once the file is downloaded. Finish installing the software by clicking continue and going through the steps that show up.

It is recommended not to interfere with the installation process. Do not use the system, close the lid, or put the device in sleep mode during installation. This interference could lead to corrupted files entering your Mac’s system.

Why My Mac Won’t Update to Newer Versions of macOS

Some users may encounter unusual installation errors when trying to update old Macs. Some of the common problems may include:

  • Incompatible Mac
  • Insufficient storage space
  • The update was unable to download

Let’s discuss each of these problems in detail.

Incompatible Mac

Same as mentioned above, more recent macOS versions do not support old hardware up to an extent. In other words, you can’t expect to update old Macs that have become obsolete to newer macOS versions. It is, therefore, essential to check the compatibility of your device before updating. Ensure that the macOS version you’re trying to install (Mojave, Catalina, or Big Sur) supports your device.

Insufficient Storage Space

It is common for the software to not install due to insufficient storage space. In such cases, the update abruptly stops downloading, and only a limited number of installation files are stored on the system. This ultimately leads to an incomplete or problematic installation.

This issue can be fixed by following these simple steps.

  • Check your system and look for the installation file. You can search for it under the name of “Install macOS <version number>.” For example, it will be named “Install macOS 10.14” for Mojave. Similarly, it will be called “macOS 11.2” for Big Sur and “Install macOS 10.15” for Catalina.
  • Select this file and delete it.
  • Reboot the system.
  • Now, free up the space by deleting unnecessary files to make room for the required installation files.
  • Download the update again.
  • Finish installing it.

The system is designed for beginning the installation process once the download is completed automatically. However, if it does not start the installation, open the folder and double-click on the file. This will prompt the installation. Make sure not to close the lid or use the system during the whole process.

Update Couldn’t be Downloaded

Another problem that users face while downloading an update is error messages. In this case, a window pops up with a statement saying, “Installation of macOS could not continue. Installation requires downloading important content. That content can’t be downloaded at this time. Try again later.”

In other cases, the download progress bar may come to a halt, or the installation does not begin at all. The reason behind most of these problems is most likely a network error.

  • For a wireless connection, check the router first. Try switching it off and then on.
  • Make sure you have a stable internet connection to allow the uninterrupted download. Constant spikes in the network speed usually cause download failure.
  • Try using an Ethernet cable for a consistent speed.
  • Make sure the Apple Server is running by checking Apple’s system status.

Trying one of these would most probably fix your problem. However, if you are still facing the issue, there could be other reasons. For example, the update is being downloaded by several people simultaneously, which usually happens in the early release days. In this case, you should try downloading the update at non-peak hours for a smooth and steady software update.

Installing Newer Versions of macOS in Safe Mode

While installing a new version of macOS, you need to be careful as some applications or startups can interrupt the installation midway. This can lead the update into getting terminated or not running at all.

In order to ensure a smooth and uninterrupted procedure, it’s better to use Safe Mode to update old Mac devices. Just reboot your system and follow these steps:

  • Shut down your device.
  • Leave the device for 15 seconds at a minimum to ensure proper shutdown.
  • Turn the device back on.
  • Immediately press and hold the SHIFT button when your device turns on.
  • Let go of the Shift key when you see the Apple symbol.
  • Now, start the installation of your desired macOS version.

Do You Need to Update/Upgrade Your Mac?

Yes, you do. Your Mac requires system updates to improve performance, and they include fixes for security that protect your system from hackers and viruses. Plus, it adds new and exciting features and keeps the system’s performance stable.

In case your Mac device is not listed in the models mentioned above, it is recommended not to update it to advanced macOS versions such as Catalina or Mojave. Old hardware can face incompatibility issues with the latest versions and may not support the applications. For example, when Apple completely switched over to 64-bit apps in Catalina, support for 32-bit apps ended completely.

The last Mojave version that supports 32-bit apps is version 10.14, the closest advanced macOS that can run on old Macs.

Installing New macOS Versions on Unsupported Mac

Well, don’t be disappointed if you are an old Mac user. It is still possible to update old Mac devices to recent versions of macOS using some patches as a workaround method.

Just be prepared for any issues or performance drops you face with these updates. Most of the time, the user loses the data on the system while trying to install newer macOS versions on the old Mac. You should make a backup file for all your data before starting a new update.

How to Install macOS Mojave on Unsupported Mac

Installing macOS Mojave on an unsupported Mac needs you to follow the following steps.

  1. First, download the macOS Mojave Patch Tool compatible with your old Mac.
  2. Now take a 16 GB or higher USB drive and format it using Disk Utility. To do this, Open Spotlight by pressing Command + Spacebar. Then type “Disk Utility” and select it. Now, select the USB drive and click on the Erase tab. Now, give your drive a suitable name and Format the USB drive as “OS X Extended (Journaled).”
  3. Once the download for macOS Mojave is finished, click the file to open it. Now click Tools and select the Mojave installer application to begin the installation of files. If a message pops up saying that the Mojave Tool does not support your device, your Mac can’t be updated.
  4. Click on the Mojave icon in the Patch Tool window once the installer has finished downloading all the installation files. Select your USB drive. Click “Start Operation.”
  5. Then eject your USB drive and shut down your Mac. Then press the Power button. Once you see the startup screen, press the Option key on the keypad. The screen will show a series of drives. Select your USB drive.
  6. Now open the menu bar and select “Disk Utility.”
  7. Format your drive by clicking Erase and selecting “Mac OS Extended (Journaled).”
  8. In this step, you can begin the installation of the macOS. Start by selecting the folder where you want to install the newer version and click “Continue.”
  9. Once the installation is finished, reboot back to the installer drive, same as mentioned in step 5. Now click “macOS Post Install” in the side menu.
  10. A window will pop up on the screen. Select Mac’s model, and the program will automatically select the patches needed for your system.
  11. Now select the volume where you installed the macOS Mojave. Click “Patch,” and once it’s completed, click “Reboot.”

How to Install Catalina on an Unsupported Mac

  1. Download the macOS Catalina Patcher.
  2. Take an 8GB USB drive to store the installation files and plug it in the Mac.
  3. Press Command + Space to open the Spotlight and then type “Disk Utility.” Select it. Enter a suitable name for your disk drive and Format it as OS X Extended (Journaled). Click “Erase.”
  4. Once the macOS Catalina Patcher is downloaded, open the application. Click “Continue”.
  5. Click “Browse for a copy” and select the Catalina installer file. In case you don’t have a copy of the latest Catalina Installer, select “Download a Copy.”
  6. Once the installation file is downloaded, select it and click “Continue.”
  7. From the three options on the screen, select “Create a bootable installer.”
  8. Now, select your USB drive to create a bootable drive. Once the operation is completed. Shut down your Mac.
  9. Don’t remove the USB drive and wait for 15 seconds to ensure that the Mac is completely shut down. Press the Power button. When you start the startup screen, press the “Option” key on the keyboard and select your USB drive from several drives.
  10. Open “Disk Utility.”
  11. Click on the system drive and then format your USB drive by clicking “Erase.” Select “OS X Extended (Journaled),” Once the formatting is completed, close the Disk Utility window.
  12. After opening the macOS utility window, click “Reinstall macOS.”
  13. Wait for the installation process to finish. Once it’s done, repeat step 9 and select “macOS Post Install.” Click “Continue,” and the program will automatically select the necessary patches for your Mac.
  14. After successfully applying the patches, click “Force Cache Rebuild” and restart your Mac. After reboot, you will have a working macOS Catalina running on your unsupported Mac.

How to Install Big Sur on an Unsupported Mac

  1. Firstly, download the installation file for “macOS Big Sur.”
  2. Take a USB drive with 15 GB or more storage space and plug it in your Mac to store the installation file.
  3. Press Command + Spacebar to open the “Spotlight.” Type “Utility Disk” and open it.
  4. Click “Erase.”
  5. Name your USB drive “My Volume.” Now, Format your USB drive as “OS X Extended (Journaled).”
  6. Now, select “GUID Partition Map” and click “Erase.” Once the Utility Disk fully sets up the drive, click “Done.”
  7. Press Command + Spacebar and type “Terminal” to open the Terminal.
  8. Now copy the following to the Terminal: “ sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Big\ –volume /Volumes/MyVolume — /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Big\”.
  9. After clicking “Enter,” the Terminal would ask for a password. Type your login password and then press “Enter.”
  10. A message will pop on the screen to warn that the Terminal is about to delete the drive. Make sure you have a backup of all necessary files before proceeding from this point. Finally, to proceed with the installation, press “Y” and wait for the process to complete.
  11. Restart your Mac and hold down the Options key on the keyboard.
  12. Select your USB drive named “My Volume” in the Startup Manager, and you will enter into the Recovery Mode. Open “Disk Utility”
  13. Select System drive and click “Erase.” Format your USB drive and then close the Utility window.
  14. Click “Reinstall macOS” and then click “Continue.” Wait for it to complete and reboot the system. Once it is finished, you will have a working macOS Big Sur on your old Mac.


Here are answers to some common questions related to how you can update old Mac devices.

Can a Mac be too Old to Update?

No matter how old your Mac is, it is still possible to update a newer macOS version on it using a workaround patch. It allows you to install Mojave, Catalina, or even Big Sur to unsupported Macs.

What Can I Do with My Old iMac?

If your iMac is no longer functional and does not support newer updates, you can recycle it. Apple offers a recycling program through which they take your old iMac and recycle it. If your device still has some value, the company gives you a gift card.

How Do I Update My Mac When it Says No Update?

Open “About this Mac” and check the model of your Mac. See if it is compatible with the newer macOS versions. Click the Download OS section and select the macOS you intend to install on your old Mac.

How Much are Old iMacs Worth?

On average, old Macs can cost around $100. A 10-year old Mac is worth $50 to $500, depending on the device’s condition.

Final Thoughts

That guide was all about how to update old Mac devices. It is vital to update your old Macs to a newer macOS version to ensure stable performance. The updates will give you access to the latest features and protect the system against software bugs and hacks.

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