Here's How Long the macOS Big Sur Update Takes
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Here’s How Long the macOS Big Sur Update Takes



Apple’s macOS Big Sur update is a large upgrade and it could take quite a bit of time to install on your Mac.

macOS Big Sur is finally out of beta and the software is available to download right now if you own a compatible computer.

As expected, the software brings a long list of changes to the Mac including upgrades to Safari, Messages, Maps, Privacy, and a whole lot more.

If you’re moving your Mac from macOS Catalina to macOS Big Sur, you get the shortest list of changes and the “smallest” download size. The macOS Big Sur update is 12 GB for users currently running the latest version of macOS Catalina.

If you’re upgrading from an older version of macOS, your macOS Big Sur download could be a lot larger. The installation could also take a lot longer.

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While some of you might want to skip the macOS Big Sur download for the time being, most people should install the software right now or at some point in the near future.

If you decide to install macOS Big Sur on your Mac, you’ll want to set aside some time to get the upgrade properly installed on your computer.

Moving your device from one version of macOS to another can cause problems so you’ll want to monitor the download and installation.

We can’t tell you exactly how long the process will take because it will vary. That said, we can help you approximate how much time you should set aside should you choose to install the firmware on your device.

If you’ve prepared for the move, and you’re on a fast Wi-Fi connection, it could take around 40 minutes to complete.

Backup to Time Machine (Optional)5 - 1 Day
macOS Big Sur Download15 Minutes to 3 Hours
macOS Big Sur Installation20 Minutes to 50 Minutes
Total macOS Big Sur Update Time35 Minutes to Several Hours


Make sure you’re prepared before you start the macOS Big Sur download.

If you don’t know how to properly prepare for a macOS upgrade, take a look at our pre-installation guide. It’ll walk you through the most important steps to take before you initiate the process.

You might be able to get through these steps in 30 minutes, but it all depends on your skill level and the current state of your Mac.

If you haven’t backed up your data in awhile or you if you aren’t familiar with macOS Big Sur, the pre-installation process could take you a lot longer.

You don’t need to follow every single step in the guide, but at the very least you’ll want to make sure your Mac’s data is backed up properly.

macOS Big Sur Download

Once you’ve prepared, it’s time to start the download process.

Again, the exact size of your macOS Big Sur download will depend on your model and the version of macOS that it’s currently running.

If you’re on newer software like macOS Catalina, you’ll see the smallest download size. If you’re running an older version of macOS, your download could, again, be much larger.

If you’re on a fast Wi-Fi network, and you’re moving up from macOS Catalina, the download could finish up in as little as 15 minutes.

If your connection is slower, you’re downloading at peak hours, or if you’re jumping up from macOS Mojave, you might be looking at a much longer download process.

macOS Big Sur Installation

Once your device is done pulling macOS Big Sur from Apple’s servers, the installation process will begin.

If you’re moving up from macOS Catalina, your installation could take around 20 minutes to complete. It took just around that to install the software on a 2017 MacBook Pro.

Your Mac might reboot itself a couple of times during the installation process, but this is perfectly normal. Your device should boot up normally once the installation process completes.


After the installation finishes up, you might need to spend time logging into iCloud, signing into your device’s various apps and services, and/or setting up Apple Pay.

You also might want to spend some time checking your important data (photos, music, etc) to make sure it carried over properly to the new operating system.

After you do that, make sure you test your core applications and services to ensure they’re working normally. If you notice an issue with one or more of your apps, try downloading the latest version. Developers are rolling out macOS Big Sur support updates.

You’ll also want to poke around your Mac for bugs and performance issues. If you notice something take a look at our list of fixes for common macOS problems.

4 Reasons Not to Install macOS Big Sur & 11 Reasons You Should

Install macOS Big Sur for Better Security

Install macOS Big Sur for Better Security

If security is important to you, think about installing the macOS Big Sur update right away.

macOS Big Sur brings 50+ new security patches to your Mac. If you're interested in the exact nature of these improvements, you can read about them over on Apple's website.

In addition to those patches, macOS Big Sur comes with additional security and privacy upgrades including improvements to the App Store and Safari. 

In Safari, you can now tap the Privacy Report button to better understand how websites handle your privacy.

With macOS Big Sur on board you can now get information on the App Store that will help you understand the privacy practices of apps before you download them. 

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