How to Update Your MacBook Air Laptop

Install the most current version of macOS

What to Know

  • Mojave and later: Select System Preferences > Software Update > Update Now.
  • High Sierra and earlier: Open the App Store, go to the Updates tab, and select Update.
  • Before installing an update, perform a backup of your system in case something goes awry.

The method for updating your MacBook Air varies with the version of macOS or OS X currently on the iPad. One method shown here applies to MacBook Air laptops with macOS Big Sur (11) through macOS Mojave (10.14); the other applies to macOS High Sierra (10.13) and earlier.

macOS Mojave and Later

When updating a Mac, everything typically goes smoothly, but it's a good idea to make a backup before you begin. After your data has been backed up, here's how to check for operating system updates:

Some users of older Macs have reported issues after upgrading to macOS Monterey and say it can create serious problems for iMac, Mac mini, and MacBook Pro. Check with Apple to be certain your device can upgrade to macOS Monterey before attempting the update.

  1. Select System Preferences from the Apple menu in the Finder or select its icon in the Dock.

    The System Preferences command under the Apple menu
  2. Select Software Update.

    Software Update in macOS System Preferences
  3. If your MacBook Air finds a new update, select Update Now.

    If your MacBook doesn't find a new update, a message appears that says, "Your Mac is up to date." If it finds a new update, selecting Update Now begins the update process.

    Searching for software update

    Depending on the size of the update, this can take a few minutes or up to an hour.

macOS High Sierra and Earlier

If you have macOS High Sierra (10.13) or an earlier operating system, such as OS X El Capitan (10.11) or Yosemite (10.10), you'll update your MacBook Air using a slightly different route.

  1. Open the App Store on your MacBook Air.

  2. In the menu bar at the top of the App Store window, select the Updates tab.

    High Sierra update
  3. If a software update is available, select Update.

Depending on the size of the update, this can take a few minutes to nearly an hour. When the update finishes, your MacBook Air restarts.

Making a Backup Before Updating

While a backup is rarely ever needed when updating a MacBook Air, it's still a good idea to make a backup in case something goes wrong during the update process. The easiest way is to use the Mac's built-in Time Machine app.

  1. Connect an external storage device to your MacBook, such as a Thunderbolt, USB, or FireWire hard drive.

  2. From the menu bar, select the Apple icon in the upper-left corner of the Mac screen.

  3. Select System Preferences.

  4. Select Time Machine > Select Backup Disk.

    Time Machine backup
  5. Select the external drive you're using and then select Encrypt backups.

  6. Select Use Disk.

This begins the backup process, which is regularly and automatically repeated in the future if you keep Time Machine linked to your storage device in the On position.

Can Your Mac Run the Latest Operating System?

If your laptop is on the old side, check its compatibility with the macOS version you want to download and install.

About My Mac

If you are upgrading to macOS Big Sur (11), your MacBook Air must have been introduced in 2013 or later and be running OS X El Capitan (10.11) or later.

Here's what you need if you plan to update to any of the following operating systems:

  • macOS Mojave or Catalina: MacBook Air from mid-2012 or newer, OS X Mavericks (10.9) or later
  • macOS Sierra or High Sierra: MacBook Air from late 2010 (or later), OS X Lion or later (Mountain Lion in the case of High Sierra)
  • OS X El Capitan: MacBook Air from late 2008 (or later), OS X Snow Leopard or later
  • OS X Yosemite: MacBook Air from late 2008 (or later), OS X Snow Leopard or later

Do the following to find out which operating system your MacBook Air has:

  1. Select About This Mac under the Apple menu.

    About This Mac
  2. The current version of macOS appears in the center of the next window.

    The macOS version in About This Mac
  3. Use this information to decide whether you can upgrade.

Apple occasionally issues updates for the MacBook Air's operating system to introduce new features, fix bugs, and improve security.

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