How to Upgrade to macOS Catalina

Here's how to update to Apple's latest operating system)

MacOS Catalina (10.15) introduces a variety of new features to the operating system of Apple's portable and desktop computers. It adds functionality to standard apps like Photos and Notes and does away with the long-lived iTunes in favor of separate programs for music, TV, and movies.

If you're ready to upgrade to Catalina, first see if your computer is capable of handling it. Then follow these instructions to take your Mac to the next step.

MacOS Catalina Compatibility

Not just any Mac can run Catalina, but most of the ones released in the past decade are compatible with this version of macOS. Here are the machines that can upgrade:

To check the model of your computer, click the Apple menu in the upper-left corner of any screen and select About This Mac.

  • MacBook Air/Pro: Mid-2012 and newer
  • Mac Mini: Late 2012 and newer
  • iMac: Late 2012 and newer
  • Mac Pro: Late 2013 and newer
  • MacBook: Early 2015 and newer
  • iMac Pro: 2017

Along with the hardware requirements, macOS Catalina has some other demands, too. Here's else you need to make the leap:

  • Mac OS X Mavericks (10.9) or later
  • 12.5 GB of disk space–if running OS X El Capitan (10.11) and up
  • Up to 18.5 GB of disk space–if running OS X Mavericks (10.9) or Yosemite (10.10)

How to Upgrade to macOS Catalina

Once you know you can upgrade macOS, follow these steps to download and install the new operating system.

  1. Back up your Mac. Before you do something major like updating an operating system, you should always create a safe copy of your data. Doing so will ensure that you don't lose anything important in case something goes wrong during the upgrade.

  2. Open the App Store by clicking its name under the Apple menu or its icon in the Dock.

    App Store under the Apple menu on a Mac
  3. Search for "macOS Catalina" in the search bar.

    Search bar in the macOS App Store
  4. Click the View button next to Catalina in the results.

    View button for macOS Catalina in the App Store
  5. Click Get.

    Get button on macOS Catalina's page in the App Store
  6. A window will appear asking if you're sure you want to download the upgrade. Click Download.

    Download button for macOS Catalina
  7. Your Mac will download the update file.

    Operating systems are very large, so the download could take quite a while. Basically, don't expect the download to finish as quickly as it took to read this article.

  8. Optionally, click the box next to Automatically keep my Mac up to date to have your computer download updates as they arrive in the App Store.

    Automatically keep my Mac up to date box in Software Update
  9. An app called Install macOS Catalina will open automatically. Click Continue to proceed.

    To install the update later, quit the program. You can find it again later in your Applications folder.

    Continue button in Install macOS Catalina
  10. Review the software license agreement and click Agree to accept it.

    Agree button on the macOS Catalina SLA
  11. Click Agree in the window that appears to confirm.

    The second Agree button for the macOS Catalina SLA
  12. Your Mac defaults to placing macOS Catalina on your startup drive. Click Install.

    You can install Catalina on any drive you've formatted as APFS.

    Install button in Install macOS Catalina app
  13. If you're installing Catalina on a laptop, and your computer isn't connected to a power source, a warning window will appear. Plug your computer in and click Continue.

    Plugging your laptop in will help avoid a power loss during the install, which could damage your computer.

    Continue button in Install macOS Catalina
  14. Authorize the program to make changes using your administrator password or Touch ID.

  15. Your computer will install Catalina.

    You can still use your computer during this process.

    The Install macOS Catalina app performing an upgrade
  16. To complete the upgrade, your Mac will have to restart. Wait for the countdown to end or click Restart.

    Save your work before the restart. Open programs may interrupt the process.

    Restart button in the Install macOS Catalina app
  17. When your computer restarts, follow the on-screen instructions to set up and start using Catalina.

As with the downloading of Catalina, installing the software can take some time. It's not uncommon for it to take 40–50 minutes.