How to upgrade your Mac operating system

Updated: 06/30/2020 by Computer Hope
Upgrade to Catalina

Operating system upgrades bring increases in efficiency, new features, stronger security, and updates to included software utilities. The following page shows you how to upgrade your Apple Macintosh desktop or laptop computer to Catalina (10.15), the current version of macOS.

Check compatibility

Before installing Catalina, verify your Mac is eligible for the upgrade.

Verify the model of your Mac

The following Mac models can be upgraded to macOS Catalina.

  • Mac Pro - All models produced from mid-2013 and later.
  • MacBook Pro - All models produced from mid-2012 and later.
  • iMac - All models produced from late 2012 and later.
  • MacBook - All models produced from late-2015 and later.
  • MacBook Air - All models produced from late-2012 and later.
  • Mac mini - All models from mid-2012 or later.
Tip

If your Mac is not on this list, you cannot upgrade to Catalina. However, you still may be able to upgrade to El Capitan.

Back up your data

Time Machine icon

Although not required, we strongly recommend you back up your Mac before proceeding with an upgrade. If anything goes wrong, you can restore your Mac to its previous state.

Check your OS version

The following versions of OS X and macOS can be upgraded to macOS Catalina.

    OS name Version Release date
    OS X Lion* 10.7 July 20, 2011
    OS X Mountain Lion* 10.8 July 25, 2012
    OS X Mavericks 10.9 October 22, 2013
    OS X Yosemite 10.10 October 16, 2014
    OS X El Capitan 10.11 June 8, 2015
    macOS Sierra 10.12 June 13, 2016
    macOS High Sierra 10.13 June 5, 2017
    macOS Mojave 10.14 June 4, 2018

* If your Mac is running OS X Lion or Mountain Lion, you must upgrade to El Capitan before you can upgrade to Catalina.

If your Mac is running Mavericks or newer, you can proceed to upgrade to Catalina.

Upgrade to El Capitan, if necessary

If your Mac is running OS X Lion or Mountain Lion, follow these steps to upgrade to El Capitan.

  1. Download the El Capitan installer from Apple. The file size is 5.8 GB, so the download may take a while, depending on the speed of your Internet connection.
  2. Double-click the downloaded archive, InstallMacOSX.dmg, to view its contents.
  3. In the archive, double-click InstallMacOSX.pkg.
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to perform a compatibility check, and prepare for installation.
  5. When this process is complete, an installer application named Install OS X El Capitan is placed in your Applications folder. Double-click it to begin installation.
  6. During installation, your Mac may restart, or display a blank screen short time. Do not close the lid or power off your Mac until installation is complete.

Upgrade to Catalina

Catalina and App Store

After you've gone through the preparation steps, you need to download and install the latest version of macOS. The following steps show you how.

  1. In the menu bar, click the Apple menu icon icon to open the Apple menu.
  2. In the Apple menu, select App Store.

App Store selector

  1. In the App Store, on the left side of the window, select Updates.

Updates selector

  1. In the Updates window, locate the line that says Catalina.
  2. On the far right side, select Update.
  3. Catalina is downloaded and installed.
  4. During installation, your Mac may restart, or display a blank screen for a short time. Do not close the lid or power off your Mac until installation is complete.

Additional information