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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Major macOS updates can now download in the background

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

If you haven’t updated to macOS Sierra yet, you might find your installation will go more quickly than you might have anticipated. That’s because Apple has made a subtle change to the way major macOS updates are sent to eligible Macs.

For a while now, macOS has featured an option to download software updates in the background. You can find the settings in the App Store panel of the System Preferences app. If you have the “Download newly available updates in the background” box checked, your Mac will do just what it says—download updates automatically, so they’re ready to install immediately.

But up to now, that setting didn’t cover major system updates like macOS Sierra. Beginning today and rolling out over the next few weeks, the full update to macOS Sierra will be available for background downloading on Macs that are compatible with the macOS Sierra update.

What this means is that if your compatible Mac running 10.11.5 or 10.11.6 alerts you that the update to macOS Sierra is available, rather than being prompted to download the (somewhat large) macOS Sierra installer, the installer will immediately launch, because it was downloaded in the background before you were alerted.

If you don’t want to update to Sierra, you can delete the installer. If you’re running short on disk space, the system will automatically delete the installer if it needs to make room for your files. What Apple has basically done is add the installers for major macOS updates to all the other software updates that download in the background so you can install them immediately rather than waiting.

To turn this feature off, you can uncheck the option to download new updates in the App Store pane. If you’ve got plenty of bandwidth and no bandwidth caps, however, allowing the system to download your apps in advance of installation can be a time saver.

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