How to upgrade to macOS 11 Big Sur

5 min read

macOS Big Sur 11 introduced in June 2020 is available as a beta. This means now is the time to get your hands on all of its great features. 

The recent macOS arrives with a revolutionary design change (many call it “macOS marries iOS”), a big Safari update, more Catalyst apps, and some substantial privacy enhancements. In this article, we’ll explain how to upgrade to Big Sur and make it work seamlessly on your Mac. This includes all the best options for installing macOS 11, based on your needs. 

Prepare your Mac for Big Sur upgrade 

We’ll start with your Mac. The fundamental question you should answer is “Can I install Big Sur on my MacBook?” Apple has shifted device compatibility a year or two, which means some of the older Macs are no longer compatible with macOS Big Sur — even those that can run macOS Catalina. Also, your Mac should have enough storage capacity to install the new operating system, and you should create a secure data backup before upgrading.

So here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get your Mac ready for the Big Sur upgrade. 

1. Check system requirements 

Would be a pity to go through the installation process only to find out you need to buy a new Mac for this. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen. Check out the list of Macs compatible with macOS 11: 

  • MacBook (2015 or later)

  • MacBook Air (2013 or later)

  • MacBook Pro (2013 or later)

  • Mac Pro (2013 or later)

  • Mac Mini (2014 or later)

  • iMac (2014 or later)

  • iMac Pro (2017 or later). 

Found yours? Great. Another thing to consider is the minimum macOS requirement — a macOS version that your Mac should be running before switching. For macOS 11 Big Sur, it’s macOS 10.10 or later. If you use an older version, your Mac might misbehave during the installation process. You can find more on Big Sur system requirements here

macOS Catalina about this Mac

2. Free up storage for macOS 11 installation

Here’s a weird thing about new macOS versions: They require a specific amount of storage space — but you never know the exact amount (at least not at the beta stage). From what we’ve seen in the recent releases, a clean installation requires around 12.5GB of storage space, and an upgrade takes 18.5GB. Hence you might assume 15-20GB is the amount that should be good for macOS 11. But you never really know.

CleanMyMac X is a great Mac utility that will make sure you comply with the requirements — even if you don’t know the exact amount of storage you should free up. It removes all the clutter from your Mac, including old caches, file leftovers, mail attachments, and more. In other words, it wins you maximum free storage you wouldn’t be able to free up manually. So it’s a great tool to own, whether you decide to upgrade to Big Sur or not. 

CleanMyMac X app

3. Backup your data 

Whether you install beta or wait for the official release, this is going to be a big event for your Mac. A fresh start. To make sure you don’t lose anything from your Mac’s previous life, create a backup. You can use Apple’s Time Machine for the job, or go with a more advanced tool like Get Backup Pro. Unlike Time Machine, it can create bootable backups — which means enhanced security — and has lots of handy features like scheduling and compressing backups. The choice of tools is up to you, but make sure you don’t miss this step.

Get Backup Pro app 

The steps described above are relevant for any macOS installations you might run in the future. So it’s a great idea to get CleanMyMac X and Get Backup Pro with the Setapp membership — it will cost you much less than buying individual app licenses. Once you’re all set, let’s get back to Big Sur and answer the question you came here for: “How do I update my Mac to macOS 11 in 2020?”

Here’s how to upgrade to Big Sur

If you’re a member of the Apple Developer Program, you can upgrade to Big Sur and start exploring the developer beta right away. The public beta is going to be free for everyone — but it never arrives before July. We’ve described the processes of installing both betas below. 

Download and install macOS 11 developer beta

  1. Back up your Mac with Get Backup Pro or Time Machine to make sure nothing gets lost in the shuffle

  2. Go to developer.apple.com

  3. Click Discover > macOS

  4. On the macOS page, click Download in the top right corner 

  5. Sign in to your Developer account and select Install Profile 

  6. Find and launch the installer in the Downloads folder

  7. Open the PKG file and agree to the terms of installation

  8. Verify account by entering your system password 

  9. Access the update via System Preferences and click Update to install the beta.

macOS 11 public beta

Download and install macOS 11 public beta

  1. Step one is always the same: Create a backup of your Mac with Get Backup Pro, Time Machine, or any other reliable backup app

  2. Go to Apple’s beta website and sign up 

  3. In the top right corner, click on Enroll Your Devices > macOS 

  4. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and select “Download the macOS Public Beta Access Utility” > Allow

  5. Navigate to your Downloads folder and double-click on utility.dmg 

  6. Launch the .pkg installer and follow the instructions

  7. Access and install the update via System Preferences > Software Update. 

macOS Big Sur release date

We asked Google about macOS Big Sur release date, and it answered with “2020,” which is true — but not super helpful. The thing is Apple announces new macOS releases every June, without specifying the exact dates. The developer beta of macOS 11 went out into the world right after the WWDC event, and the public one is scheduled for July. Based on previous experience, it’s reasonable to expect the Big Sur official release in September or October. The beta seems to be quite stable, though (and it’s safe to install betas on Mac with the Setapp apps like Get Backup Pro and CleanMyMac X). So if you can’t wait that long — try it out. 

Should I upgrade to Big Sur? 

If you’re wondering whether it’s even worth it, dive deeper into macOS Big Sur features. Figure out whether there’s anything that might make your Mac routine better. From what we’ve heard from Reddit users, Big Sur is pretty stable and safe. So you don’t have to worry about the new macOS “breaking your Mac.” Just make sure you use a backup to stay on the safe side. 

The bottom line is macOS 11 Big Sur is a lot. One of the most important improvements arrives with Safari — it’s faster, has a dedicated Privacy Report, a personalized start page, built-in translation, and other perks. The updated Messages gets the inline reply feature and new Memojis. Maps have curated Guides and new green routes on macOS Big Sur. 

Finally, the most obvious change is the redesign: Big Sur looks more like an iPad, with a new Control Center, refreshed toolbars, and full-height sidebars in apps. For more information, check out the infographic, and then decide whether the guide on how to upgrade to macOS 11 Big Sur makes sense for you. 

That’s about it on how to update to Big Sur. We hope you’ll have a great experience with the new macOS. If not, rolling back to an old version is pretty straightforward — so we say go for it. The new design looks totally worth it.

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