Thursday, May 13, 2021, 20:45 Tips & Reports

Why macOS Updates Are So Large & Take So Long

According to Apple, macOS 11 uses a new update mechanism – one which is meant to speed up the entire process. The most recent updates have hardly been evidence of this, however. Even the relatively minor 11.2.1 and 11.2.2 updates spanned several gigabytes, with downloads and installations taking more than half an hour in some cases.

Update To 11.2.2 Takes About 45 Minutes
The M1 version of 11.2.2, which fixed a bug in connection with USB-C docks, was about 3.1 GB. The Intel version was only 2.6 GB in comparison. The preparation process alone took around 15 minutes until the Mac was ready for use again, after which another 30 minutes passed. Earlier versions of macOS such as Catalina or Mojave finished updates even more quickly, although file sizes were normally much smaller.

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Three Reasons For The Large Update Size
According to The Eclectic Light Company, there are basically 3 reasons that the most recent updates to macOS were so large. Support for two processor architectures (M1 & Intel) contributed to the size of the update, but what was most responsible was the fact that every update comes with a new instance of the dynamic linker cache for the macOS system library. This encompasses 9 files and multiple gigabytes. In addition, the most recent updates also included firmware updates totalling 600 MB on their own – and for Macs with a T2 chip or M1 processor, these updates were even larger.

Apple Has Yet To Deliver On Promises
Thus far, Apple still has yet to deliver on its promise to provide faster updates with macOS Big Sur. Even more so, the current version of macOS often takes much more time to download small updates than macOS Mojave did for big ones. Other operating systems like Windows even provide common security and bug-fix updates which are downloaded and installed more quickly – partially due to being more compact. It remains to be seen whether or not Apple will improve in this respect.

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