How to Fix the Most Common macOS Catalina Issues

Troubleshooting probems with Apple's latest operating system

Most of the time, Mac operating system upgrades go smoothly, but occasionally annoying problems that need fixing pop up. You may encounter some macOS Catalina issues either before or after upgrading to this version of the Apple operating system. Some possible problems include:

  • Download and installation problems with macOS Catalina.
  • Inability to log in to the computer after installing Catalina.
  • Problems with peripherals.
  • Problems running apps.
  • Trouble using a keyboard or mouse.

These issues have a variety of causes and solutions. Try these fixes to get your computer up and running smoothly with macOS Catalina.

To install macOS Catalina (10.15), a Mac needs to have Mac OS X Mavericks (10.9) or later.

How to Fix Common macOS Catalina Issues
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How to Fix macOS Catalina Issues During Download and Installation

If you're trying to upgrade to macOS Catalina and can't get the installer to download—or it won't run if you can download it—here are some fixes to try.

  1. Check to see if the Mac is compatible. If you get an error when downloading the macOS Catalina installer from the Mac App Store, one possible explanation is that the computer is either too old or lacks the hardware necessary to run the operating system. If you don't have a compatible Mac, you won't be able to make the update.

  2. Check the Apple Update server status. The macOS Software Update server may be down or crowded, although this problem usually happens a few days after a new release or update. If the status shows server troubles, try the download later.

  3. Check the available hard drive space. Depending on the version of OS X or macOS you currently use, there are different space requirements for the installer: 12.5 GB for OS X El Capitan (10.11) and higher, or 18.5 GB for OS X Yosemite (10.10) or OS X Mavericks (10.9). If you don't have enough space for the installer file, clear up drive space to make room.

  4. Run the macOS Catalina Installer app manually. Usually, the installation begins automatically when you download the file. If it doesn't, you can manually start it by opening the app your Mac downloaded. The logical place to look for the installer is in the Downloads folder, but if it isn't there, look in the Applications folder. Delete the installer if it won't run and redownload it.

  5. Restart the computer. If the computer hangs during the initial setup, force it to restart. Press and hold the Power button for a few seconds until the Mac shuts down and then press it again to restart.

  6. Use Disk Utility to troubleshoot the hard drive. To make sure the hard drive is OK, start the Mac in Recovery Mode by holding Command+R while it starts up. From this safe mode, you can run diagnostics, repair the hard drive, and reinstall macOS if necessary.

How to Fix macOS Catalina Login Issues

Once you install macOS Catalina, you may encounter some issues logging in. Here are a few fixes to try if you can't log in, or the computer logs you out of your account while you're using it.

  1. Turn off the Mac and turn it back on. Giving a computer a fresh start is the solution to several problems; that's why it reboots immediately after installing a new version of the operating system.

  2. Create a new admin account. One possibility is that the installation corrupted your primary administrator account. Creating a new one as a workaround might solve the problem.

  3. Reset your admin account using a Terminal prompt. To keep your admin account intact but still fix the problem, remove the file that caused the issue. Restart the computer while holding Command+S and type the following two commands into the terminal window, pressing Enter at the end of each line.

  • /sbin/mount -uw /
  • rm /var/db/.applesetupdone

Exit Terminal and log in to your account.

How to Fix macOS Catalina Issues With Peripherals

In some cases, you may have trouble using the mouse, keyboard, or features such as Bluetooth after you update macOS. You can fix many of these issues by removing preference files called plists.

The Library folder containing the Preferences folder with the plists may be hidden on your Mac. If it is, select Go in the Finder menu bar and Go to Folder. Type ~/Library and select Go.

  1. Restart the Mac. This basic step takes care of many problems, particularly related to the keyboard. If the Mac is a laptop, restart the Mac. When it gets to the Finder, close the MacBook. Wait a few seconds and then open it again.

  2. Delete the mouse plist. If your mouse doesn't work properly, go to the Library > Preferences folder and delete these two plist files related to the mouse before restarting the computer:

    • com.apple.AppleMultitouchMouse.plist 
    • com.apple.driver.AppleBluetoothMultitouch.mouse.plist 
  3. Remove the Bluetooth plist. This can correct a spotty Bluetooth connection. Go to Library > Preferences and remove the following file before restarting:

    • com.apple.Bluetooth.plist
  4. Remove the Finder plist. If the Finder crashes after installing macOS Catalina, remove its plist from the Preferences folder before restarting:

  • com.apple.finder.plist.

How to Fix macOS Catalina Issues With Applications

After you get Catalina up and running, you may have problems with the applications you installed. Some may not work at all, and others may not run as well as they did before. Here are some fixes you can try to get things working again.

  1. Check for updates. As Apple changes macOS versions, app developers sometimes make their own updates to keep them working. Open the App Store to see if a new version of the problem app is available. If so, download it.

  2. Check for compatibility. After you upgrade to Catalina, some older apps don't work anymore. The problem is that Catalina no longer supports 32-bit apps in favor of 64-bit ones.

    No fix is available for this problem unless the developers upgrade their apps to work in Catalina. If you lose the ability to use an app that you depend on, your only solutions are to find a suitable alternative app or downgrade to an earlier version of macOS.

  3. Delete the app plist. With apps such as Mail that are part of the operating system and with some third-party apps, you may see normal functions either not working or nonexistent. The app may not even open. Go to Library > Preferences and delete the plist file that matches the app. Look for the plist in this format:

    • com.developer_name.app_name.plist
  4. Troubleshoot Mail issues. Following an upgrade, you may have some Mail files that didn't transfer properly or encounter a host of other oddities with Mail. Apple Mail includes troubleshooting tools you can use to get your Inbox working again.