How to Update Your MacBook Air Laptop

Is a macOS update available for MacBook Air and how do you install it?

MacBook Air
Getty Images

The operating system on your MacBook Air gets updated from time to time to introduce new features and, maybe more importantly, fix bugs and improve security.

There are different ways to update your MacBook Air. We'll look at all the ways for you to get this done.

Before updating your MacBook Air, make sure to have a good backup in place. Most of the time you won't run into any problems, but you know how it is. The time something goes wrong is the time you don't have a good backup. See below for more information.

How to Update MacBook Air: macOS Mojave or Later

Searching for software update

macos Mojave introduced a new way to check for operating system updates. Here's how it's done now:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top-left corner of the Mac's screen (in the top menu bar)

  2. Select System Preferences

  3. Select Software Update

  4. If your MacBook Air finds a new update, click Update Now

If your MacBook doesn't find a new update, you'll see a message which reads, "Your Mac is up to date." However, if it does find a new update and you click Update Now, you'll begin the updating process.

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

How to Update MacBook Air: macOS High Sierra or Earlier

High Sierra update
Apple

If you're running macOS High Sierra or an earlier operating system (e.g. El Capitan or Yosemite), you'll have to update your MacBook Air using a slightly different route. Here it is:

  1. Open the App Store on your MacBook Air

  2. In the menubar at the top of the App Store window, click the Updates tab

  3. If a "Software Update" is available, click UPDATE

Once again, depending on the size of the update, this can take a few minutes to near an hour. Once the update has finished, your MacBook Air will restart, letting you get right back to work (or whatever else) again.

Make a Backup Before Updating

Time Machine backup
Apple

While a backup is very rarely ever needed when updating a MacBook Air, you still might want to make one, just in case something goes wrong during the update process.

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

  2. Click the Apple icon in the top-left corner of the Mac's screen (in the top menu bar)

  3. Select System Preferences

  4. Select Time Machine

  5. Click Select Backup Disk…

  6. Select the external drive you're using, then click Encrypt backups

  7. Click Use Disk

This will begin the backup process, which will be regularly and automatically repeated in the future if you keep the Time Machine linked to your storage device in the ON position.

Can Your Mac Run the Latest Operating System?

About My Mac

Lastly, one other thing you might like to do before updating is check the compatibility of your MacBook Air with the macOS version you want download and install. Once again, this isn't entirely necessary, but it can give you an idea of whether your Mac will be able to upgrade to that version or not.

For instance, if you're aiming to download macOS Mojave (the latest Apple software at the time of writing), Apple's website states that you'll need a mid-2012 MacBook Air (or later). It also notes that you can update directly to Mojave from any macOS stretching back to 2012's OS X Mountain Lion.

Likewise, here's what you'll need if you're planning to update to any of the following operating systems:

  • 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

You can do the following to find out which operating system your MacBook Air is running on:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top-left corner of the Mac's screen (in the top menu bar)

  2. Select About This Mac

  3. You'll see the version of the operating system displayed in the window that comes up