macOS 12 Monterey is coming to Macs on Monday 25 October 2021 and we're excited! Apple's revealed details of lots of new features coming to Macs with the new update to the operating system and we can't wait to install it (read about what's coming in macOS Monterey). But before Monterey arrives there are a few things we recommend that you do before installing it.

It's not only for Monterey that you should prepare your Mac though, it's good practice to run these checks on your Mac whenever you are updating the operating system. We recommend that you follow the steps below to make sure your Mac is ready for a new operating system as it will minimise your risk of having problems either during or after the update.

How to prepare your Mac for an OS update

We recommend that you don't jump right in and install new software straight away - by which we mean as soon as Apple releases it. Regardless of how stringent Apple's test process is, there are inevitably issues with the initial downloads. And even if there are no issues often Apple's servers get overloaded as everyone rushes to update and that can really slow the process down. So we recommend you hold your horses and do some tidying up and preparation first.

However, there are a few things worth checking before you download a new version of the Mac operating system at any time. So before you start to update macOS on your Mac - at any time - we recommend that you run through the below first. You will be less likely to have problems following the update and you will thank us for it.

Here are the steps you should go through when updating your Mac to the latest version of macOS. We'll run through each step below (apart from the last two).

  1. Check for problems with the version of macOS you require.
  2. Check your Mac - and software - is supported.
  3. Make sure you have sufficient space on your Mac.
The installation file for the Big Sur beta was 10GB which was huge, but when Big Sur launched it turned out we needed even more space - in some cases people couldn't update unless they had around 40GB free!
  4. Make sure your Mac is healthy.
  5. Back up your Mac.
  6. Make sure you are logged into iCloud.
  7. Make sure you are on a trusted network.
  8. Update to the latest version of your current macOS version.
  9. Download the macOS installer you need.
  10. Install macOS on your Mac.

When it comes to actually downloading the installer and installing the macOS update recommend this story: How to update macOS: Update to Big Sur and Monterey.

If you do have problems updating you may find this useful: Why can't I update my Mac? Fixes if macOS installation fails.

Do I need to wipe my Mac?

Some Mac users may wonder if they should wipe their Mac before installing a major update to the operating system. Some people like to do a clean install as it can minimize issues with the update and give them a clean slate to work with. But there really isn't a good reason to wipe your Mac first unless you are already experiencing issues with your Mac that can't be fixed (see Step 4 below for advice on getting your Mac healthy).

If you do want to do a clean install though we have advice here: How to clean install macOS.

How to update macOS on your Mac

Step 1: Check for problems with the macOS version

Depending on which version of macOS you are running, you will either find the latest version of macOS via System Preferences > Software Upstate, or, in older versions of macOS, you will need to open the Mac App Store to find the version of macOS you require. But, before you start to download the software you need to check that you should install it.

It's wise to research the version of macOS you are after so that you can be sure there aren't reasons to avoid installing it. For example, there might be reports of people having issues installing it, or there might be bugs in the software. Apple is usually quick to fix vulnerabilities and problems in macOS updates, but they do slip through from time to time, so it's always worth checking that people aren't experiencing problems.

We have details of the latest version of macOS Monterey here. We also have a Complete list of Mac OS X & macOS versions.

macOS Monterey

Step 2: Make sure your Mac - and software - is supported

Related to the above, you should check that your Mac will actually run the version of macOS you want to install - and that you will actually be able to take advantage of the new features that appeal to you most.

While you won't be able to install a version of macOS that isn't supported by your Mac - it won't show up in Software Update or the Mac App Store - there are situations where the version of macOS will be available to you, but your Mac won't be able to enjoy all the new features on offer, or even worse, installing the update will mean you lose access to Mac features you rely on currently.

Apple limited Big Sur to relatively recent Macs and the same is true of Monterey. You can check whether your Mac is supported here: Can my Mac get Monterey? You should also take a look at Which Monterey features will work on my Mac?

Another thing to check for is software compatibility. Read: Which Apps don't work in Catalina and Big Sur and Which Apps work on an M1 Mac. Don't update your Mac only to then discover your version of Photoshop doesn't work anymore!

If your Mac's not supported that doesn't mean you can't run that version of macOS - doing so is just a little more complicated (and risky). Read: How to install macOS Big Sur on an old unsupported Mac.

Step 3: Make sure you have sufficient space

Apple suggests that you should have 20GB of free space on your Mac's drive before you install a new version of macOS - although you may not need that much.

We generally recommend that you always have 10% of the total space of your Mac free at all times as this does tend to avoid issues.

When it came to updating to Big Sur we found the space demands were greater than ever. Despite Big Sur apparently being 12.2GB our Mac demanded that we had 35GB of free space available before it would install. Read: Don't bother trying to update to Big Sur if you have a 128GB Mac.

If you lack the necessary space read this to get some tips on what to delete: How to free space on Mac, you may also find How to delete Mac Other storage and How to delete System storage on a Mac useful. How to delete Cache on a Mac is also worth a look.

When we needed to clear space for Big Sur in 2020 we used CleanMyMac X to delete files, which is one of our top choice in our round up of best Mac cleaner apps.

How to update macOS on your Mac: MacBook Air

Step 4: Make sure your Mac is healthy

You should also make sure that your Mac is completely healthy before installing a big update to the system.

Open Disk Utility (in /Applications/Utilities), select your startup drive from the list on the left, click the First Aid tab to the right, and then click Verify. If Disk Utility finds problems, you'll need to boot from a different volume to perform the actual repairs using the Repair Disk button.

Boot into recovery mode (by holding down Command+R at startup) and use Disk Utility from there to perform the recommended repairs.

You can also run the Apple Hardware Test (for Macs older than June 2013) or Apple Diagnostics (for Macs from June 2013 or later). Both tests check your Mac for other hardware issues, such as bad RAM.

Read more about using Disk Utility to fix a Mac

Step 5: Back up your Mac

Before you perform any big update to your Mac - and especially if you are installing a beta - you should back up your Mac and do some other housekeeping tasks, which we will address below.

Luckily, Apple makes it easy to back up your Mac using Time Machine, so there is no excuse not to create a Time Machine backup before installing a new version of macOS. We have this article about how to back up your Mac using Time Machine. We also have a guide running through how to back up a Mac.

Step 6: Log into iCloud

iCloud is heavily integrated into many Apple apps and system services. Make sure you're logged into iCloud before you start updating and things should go smoothly.

Step 7: Make sure you're on a trusted network

We advise that you make sure you are on a trusted network - so avoid downloading software in hotels and cafes or any public networks because you don't know what might lurk there.

If you're downloading and installing software we advise that you do so at home, at work, or at your place of education, not on a hotel or cafe network. You will probably find the download is much faster - and downloading at home or could mean you can plug your Mac into the network rather than rely on a wireless download speed (which could mean that the download takes a lot longer!)

To find out how to keep your Mac safe from security vulnerabilities read: How to stop your iPhone, iPad or Mac getting hacked and our Mac security tips.

Step 8: Update to the latest version of all your software

Before you upgrade to the new version of macOS, make sure you install the latest updates to the version of macOS that you're currently running. From time to time there will be software updates to improve stability, for example, and there is always a chance that you may have a problem updating to the new version of the Mac operating system if you hadn't pre-installed this essential update to the previous version, so do your housework first.

You should also make sure you have updated any third party apps too. Those updates may include changes that are required for upgrading to the latest macOS and if you don't run the updates they may not work properly once you have updated.

To update apps you've bought from the Mac App Store, launch the Mac App Store app and click the Updates button in the toolbar. Then click Update All, simply providing your Apple ID and password when prompted.

For apps that you purchased elsewhere, you'll need to manually install updates. You can check if there are updates available from the application's menu, in Microsoft Word, for example, it's a case of clicking on Help > Check for Updates.

As we mentioned above, it's important to check compatibility with your third-party apps before updating the macOS. That way you will be up and running immediately, rather than being frustrated by your favourite apps and add-ons not working.

If you want more help updating your apps on your Mac read this: How to update all your Mac apps.

Now you have done your homework you should be safe to install the version of macOS you require. Now read: How to update macOS: Update to Monterey and Monterey vs Big Sur, should you upgrade.