Installing new versions of macOS on a Mac should be a pretty simple exercise. The Mac tells you there’s an update available via a pop up in Notification Centre – in some cases (depending on your settings) it’s even downloaded it already and just needs your go-ahead to install. However, sometimes when you click Go on an update things go a bit pear-shaped. In this tutorial we’ll look at what to do if your Mac stalls or freezes during an operating system software update, or if you see an error message indicating that there is a problem.
This is particularly pertinent right now with macOS Ventura arriving on October 24, 2022. When macOS Big Sur in November 2020 many people experienced difficulties downloading and installing the new software and there were also installation problems with the arrival of Monterey in October 2021.
In this article we look into what to do if you can’t download macOS Ventura, fixes for when macOS Ventura won’t install, and what you need to do if your Mac freezes in the middle of the update. We also run through the different error messages we have encountered when attempting to install an update to macOS and how we dealt with them.
So, if you’ve seen the warning: ‘The macOS installation couldn’t be completed’, or the message: ‘An Error Occurred While Installing the Selected Updates’ we’re here to help. Or if having managed to download Ventura you are confronted with the message: “There is not enough free space on the selected volume to upgrade the OS!”, we will provide guidance. You may also be confronted by messages such as ‘macOS could not be installed on your computer’, ‘gateway timed out’ or ‘bad gateway’, and ‘The network connection was lost’ we explain how we fixed these issues below.
We find that the same issues tend to affect Mac users downloading the new update every year, so we are basing our advice on the issues that have transpired with macOS updates over the years. Below you will fine details of the issues we have encountered with the macOS updates in 2020, 2021 and before, and it’s possible they will come up again. If specific issues with Ventura arise we will outline the problems and explain the best fixes below.
Read on for the most useful suggestions to work through in order to fix a problem with a macOS download.
Before you start reading through the below looking for your particular scenario, a few quick checks.
Can your Mac run Ventura? It’s possible that macOS is not able to be installed on your Mac because your Mac is too old: see which Macs can run Ventura.
Another reason why your Mac might not download or install the new update is if it isn’t healthy, so if you are encountering issues you might also want to run through our advice here: How to get your Mac ready for macOS Ventura.
Has your Mac really frozen? Before you conclude that your Mac has frozen during the installation, you need to be aware that Updating MacOS can take a Very.Long.Time!
macOS Ventura download errors: problems and fixes
There are a few reasons why the macOS download or installation process might not work or be interrupted. There are also a few possible reasons why download might be taking too long. We’ll run through the various problems you might encounter, the error messages you might see, and the best fixes below.
Problem: macOS download taking too long
If it happens to be a new version of the Mac operating system and you are attempting to download it just after release there could be problems due to so many people accessing the servers at the same time.
As a result the download of the software may be slow and, even if you do manage to download it, the installation may freeze as it tries to verify your details with Apple.
In 2020 our download of Big Sur threatened to take a whole day – a typical sign that too many people are attempting to access the servers.
As you will see from the screen shot below there was a problem with macOS Software Update on 12 November 2020. That issue was later resolved.
When the issue with Big Sur was live on 12 November 2020 Apple had the following text on the site indicating that there was a problem: “Users may not be able to download macOS Software Updates on Mac computers.”
Fix: Give it time
You may be confronted by what looks like a frozen update, but if you leave it for a few hours it could finally get to the end of its task. Sometimes it’s worth leaving the Mac overnight to finish the job it’s started. Sometimes updates can take 16 hours or more – especially on the days when Apple releases a new version of its Mac operating system.
Remember, the progress bar you see during installation is just a best guess at how long it will take. In our experience one minute it tells us there will be a two-hour wait, then 45 minutes, then an hour, before jumping down to 20 minutes. Sometimes things get slowed down because the Mac is taking a while to install one file behind the scenes and that’s thrown the whole update time prediction out the window.
The Mac might have been stuck on 20 minutes remaining for the past two hours, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not busy trying to install the software.
You can tell if your Mac is still installing macOS taking a look at the Log. Press Command + L. This brings up additional information and more details about the amount of time still remaining for the install. It may give you a better indication of what files are being installed and the amount of time left.
If it turns out that the installation hasn’t stalled be patient and wait for a few more hours.
One key thing to remember: Apple indicates how much time is apparently left for an installation… Don’t pay this any attention because it is NEVER ACCURATE!
Fix: Speed up the download
It’s not always Apple’s servers that are to blame though. Perhaps the issue is at your end. For example, maybe your WiFi connection is poor. We suggest that you try moving closer to the router.
You might find that things are quicker if you move from a Wi-Fi to a wired connection. If you have a Ethernet cable and the necessary adapter if your Mac only has a USB-C port, plug yourself directly into the hub. Your download will be much faster over a wired connection.
Another thing that you could try is to adjust Content Caching.
When the download threatened to take a long time we turned on Content Caching.
Go to System Preferences > Sharing.
Turning Content Caching.
Restarting the Mac.
Apparently Content Caching reduces bandwidth usage and speeds up installation on supported devices by storing software updates on the computer.
We made sure that the Cache Size was unlimited – click on Options. And we also made sure that the option selected beside Cache was All Content.
With these changes in place the download was complete in half an hour rather than the 10 hours initially anticipated.
Problem: Stalled macOS update
Generally, if there’s a problem with your software installation it will get stuck on the updating screen, showing an Apple logo with a status bar showing the progress as the software is loading. There may be what people refer to as a ‘spinning beach ball’.
Alternatively, you may see a white, grey or black screen. On many Macs the screen may be so dark that you might not even be able to tell if the Mac is turned on – move your ear close to the computer to see if you can hear it whirring away.
Fix: Give it time
If the Mac is still working (i.e. you can hear it whirring) you shouldn’t forcibly rebooting the Mac. If you interrupt the installation process you could potentially lose your data. It’s one reason why it’s recommended that you back up your Mac before you install new software.
Fix: Use Safe Mode
If waiting isn’t getting you anywhere you could try to download and install using Safe Mode.
How you access Safe Mode depends on whether your Mac is powered by Intel or an M1 or M2 series chip.
For Intel Macs: Press the power button and hold down the Shift key to start the Mac up in Safe Mode > Wait while the Apple logo appears, and then, when the login window appears release the Shift key > Once your Mac is running open the Mac App Store, locate the macOS update and download it while in Safe mode > before installing reboot your Mac.
For M1/M2 Macs: To access Safe Mode press and hold the power button until you see the startup options appear > Choose your startup disk > Press and hold Shift and click Continue in Safe Mode > Release the Shift key > open App Store, locate the macOS update and download it while in Safe mode > reboot your Mac before installing.
Another reason you may not be able to download a macOS update is if you don’t have enough free space on your Mac.
We always recommend that you don’t attempt to install an update to macOS if you have less than 20GB of space free. If you try to install without adequate space available your Mac may struggle with the installation – in fact macOS updates in the past few years have weighed in at just over 12GB, so you’ll need all the space you can get!
You’ll see below that even 20GB space wasn’t sufficient when it came to installing macOS Big Sur. We actually needed 35GB available when it came to doing the installation. So that’s more than 45GB free space required before you even start. If you have a 128GB Mac this can be a particularly challenging situation.
Fix: Make space
We offer advice on making more space on your Mac here: How to free space on a Mac. You could for example delete old emails and text messages, or locate old Time Machine backup files from your Mac and delete them.
One great way to free up space is to delete the images associated with the Messages you’ve received on your Mac. You can do this by clicking on the Apple Logo > About this Mac > Manage and then choosing Messages and deleting as many images and videos as you can.
If you’re having problems downloading a point update (not a complete new version) via Software Update or Mac App Store, you can use Apple’s website instead. You can find the latest macOS updates here. To find any software update on the site, just search for it.
Problem: macOS won’t install errors
Perhaps you managed to download Ventura (or any other macOS update) and then found that it wouldn’t install. This happened to many people when attempting to download Big Sur in November 2020. They saw an error message suggesting that ‘Installation failed: error occurred while installing the update’, we’ll run through that example before looking at some other error messages we have seen in the past.
Error: Upgrade runs out of space and fails
In some cases the macOS Big Sur installer wasn’t checking that there was sufficient space available before performing the installation. As a result some Mac users were finding that their Macs were unable to complete the installation before they ran out of space.
Prior to that update the best solution was to do a clean install of Big Sur, so that may be the case should the same thing happen with the Ventura update.
Error: “Installation failed error occurred while installing the update”
One of the biggest problems with Big Sur was that the installer would identify that there wasn’t enough space available before it ran.
Since the macOS Big Sur installation required around 48.5GB free space – that’s 35.5GB plus another 13GB for the installer itself – lack of space was quite a common problem among those with 128GB Macs – which is the problem we encountered.
With the Big Sur update, if you saw the error message: ‘Installation failed: error occured while installing the update’ you were not alone. There were multiple reports of people having difficulties downloading Big Sur. In fact, we experienced this exact problem with our attempt to download and install Big Sur.
Error: “There is not enough free space on the selected volume to upgrade the OS”
Even with the Big Sur Installer downloaded and on our Mac in 2020 we were unable to install it because it needed an additional 14GB of space in order to install on the Mac. That was in addition to the 12GB already being used by the installer. Since our Mac at the time only had 128GB space this was a challenge.
In 2020 when confronted with this problem we armed ourselves with CleanMyMac X to delete cached files and other superfluous data, and then blitzed the images and videos associated with our Messages. In the end we managed to get the extra 15GB we needed.
Fix: Do a clean install
Doing a clean install could be one way to get enough space for the installation because you would be wiping your Mac before you begin – of course that means you would need to back up your Mac first.
Error: “The update package has been deleted”
Another year and another macOS installation struggle! While attempting to download Catalina in 2019 we saw an error message indicating: “The update package has been deleted since being downloaded from the Apple Software Update server”.
Initially we assumed that this meant that Apple had withdrawn the software, but on further investigation it appeared that it related to issue was with our network.
Fix: Stop bandwidth battles
It seems that this time it was a case of there being too many Apple devices on our network causing too much competition for bandwidth. We stopped streaming radio, turned off other devices, and moved our Mac closer to the router. If we’d have had an Ethernet cable handy we’d have used that. Either way, it fixed the problem for us that time.
If your Mac appears to have frozen during the install, it’s worth listening to your Mac for signs of life – you may be able to hear whiring – and following the below advice.
Problem: Mac freezes during installation
If you’re positive that the Mac isn’t still working on updating your software then run through the following steps:
1. Shut down, wait a few seconds, then restart your Mac
Press and hold the power button to shut down and start your Mac back up.
2. Go to System Preferences > Software Update
Or, if you are on an older macOS version, go to the Mac App Store and open Updates.
You should find that the update/installation process carries on from where it left off.
3. Check the Log screen to see if files are being installed
When the progress bar appears, press Command + L again to check the Log screen and ensure files are being installed. If the Log screen shows that nothing is happening move on to the next step.
4. Try installing a Combo update
As we mentioned earlier, Apple hosts software on its website, so you can download it from there if you are having problems with the usual method.
There’s good reason to get your software from Apple’s website if you’re encountering problems: the version of the software available from Software Update or the Mac App Store will only include the files necessary to update your Mac.
If you go to Apple’s support website you can find a Combo updater which includes all the files required to update the macOS. This version of the update will replace all the system files and thereby ensure the update is complete.
5. Reset the NVRAM
If Safe Mode doesn’t work, restart the Mac and hold down Command, Option/Alt, P and R. This will reset the NVRAM. Wait until the computer restarts and wait to see if it starts updating.
As a final option you could restart the Mac in Recovery Mode (hold down Command + R at startup). There are a number of options to choose from here – you could recover your Mac from your last Time Machine backup, or perform a disk repair – but we recommend choosing the ‘Install new OS’ option. We have a separate tutorial on how to reinstall MacOS using Recovery Mode.
When it reinstalls macOS your Mac will replace all the Apple system files overwriting any problematic ones that may be contributing to this error – hopefully. This update won’t include the latest version of the software so after performing the update, check Software Update and apply the latest macOS update.
When you finally get the software up and running we advise that you run Disk Utility to correct any issues that might have caused the problem in the first place.
Past problems updating macOS
It is unfortunately the case that when Apple launches a new version of macOS some Mac users suffer from issues following the update, these issues tend to affect older Macs more than newer Macs.
It is usually the case that Apple will quickly address these issues via an update, so it may be necessary to wait for macOS 13.1 to arrive, but if that’s no good for you take a look below to see if your issue is being experienced by others and how they are tackling the problem.
Back in 2021 some Mac users found that Monterey bricked their Mac. This issue hit Intel-based models with a T1 and T2 chip, which drives the System Management Controller (SMC) and Touch ID sensors in some Intel Macs.
That problem was related to the firmware and the suggested fix was to restore the Mac’s firmware. However that wasn’t a simple fix because the rescue procedure for T2 Macs, as outlined in an Apple document here, required a second Intel Mac, from which the the damaged computer could be supplied with new firmware for the T2 processor via the Apple Configurator 2 app. It was even more complicated for T1 Macs and could have involved a trip to an Apple Store.
Memory management problem
With the arrival of Monterey came reports that a memory management bug was causing some Macs to run out of free memory. Users saw the warning: “Your system has run out of application memory.” The bug seemed to affect both new and old Macs, rather than being limited to just Apple Silicon or Intel machines.
Those who encountered that bug suggested that force-quitting applications or rebooting the Mac fixed it.
With macOS Monterey in 2021 there were reports of a problem with USB 3.0 ports – mainly affecting hubs, but also some USB peripherals did not work properly after the upgrade.
In this case the problem seemed to mostly affect computers that featured Apple’s M1 chip, but there were also reports of Intel Macs being affected.