Tiny More Info Link highlighted in software update

How to Update macOS Catalina and Not Upgrade to Big Sur

We all know that it’s important to “stay patched, so you stay secure.” But macOS is making that a bit harder these days. Apple really wants you to upgrade to macOS Big Sur, but if you’re not ready for that big jump, it may be hard to notice that you have macOS Catalina and Safari updates to apply.

macOS Big Sur is a huge change and it’s usually a good idea to let the bleeding edge folks work out the kinks. It’s also not a bad idea to wait for Apple to make at least its first update before jumping on the new hotness. You may have applications that are not yet macOS Big Sur-compatible so be cautious with a big upgrade like this. I’m not a proponent of waiting a long time to upgrade to the latest OS but caution, especially on such a big change, is definitely warranted. While you’re waiting for the OS to stabilize, you want to keep macOS Catalina up to date, but Apple makes it difficult to see just how to do that.

While you’re still on macOS Catalina, if you open System Preferences and select Software Update, you’ll see the icon for macOS Big Sur with an obvious “Upgrade Now” button. But we don’t want to upgrade to macOS Big Sur just yet.

01 Software Update macOS Big Sur
Software Update macOS Big Sur

When I took the screenshot for this post, I actually had updates to macOS Catalina and Safari waiting for me, but it sure wasn’t obvious they were there.

Under the icon for macOS Big Sur, there was some smaller text that said, “Other updates are available” and blue link text that said “More info…”

02 Software Update other updates More info
Other Updates are Available Under More Info

Click on that tiny More info link to reveal the updates you really need to apply. In my example, I had macOS Catalina 10.15.7 Supplemental Update waiting, and the notes below clearly say that this update “improves the security of macOS.” There was also a Safari update to 14.0.1 which had some speed enhancements but also security fixes, including the removal of support for Adobe Flash. You really want this update!

03 Software Update Catalina and Safari
Software Update Showing Catalina and Safari Security Updates

After you apply any Safari or macOS Catalina updates, the Software Update Preference Pane will still say “More info…” As shown below:

04 software Update after Catalina Safari Updates
Software Update after Catalina Safari Updates

But if you click the link now, it will take you to the Apple web page telling you about all the awesome features of macOS Big Sur. I presume this “More info…” link will change back to showing you security updates for macOS Catalina and Safari when new ones are available, so you’ll have to be vigilant and pay attention in looking for the updates.

05 macOS Big Sur Web Page from More info
macOS Big Sur Web Page Triggered by “More Info…” Link in System Preferences

I don’t like that Apple has made it so undiscoverable that security updates are awaiting us. I would really prefer that they had made two equally-obvious buttons, one to upgrade to macOS Big Sur and one to update macOS Catalina and Safari. They’re doing a disservice to the community by making it this hidden. As I said up front, I’m a big proponent of getting on a new OS when it’s practical to do so, but it is the user’s decision when to do it and shouldn’t be tricked into what could be a catastrophic upgrade.

Since you’re probably the family nerd if you’re reading or hearing this, please pass this post along to your friends and family so they stay patched so they stay secure.

2 thoughts on “How to Update macOS Catalina and Not Upgrade to Big Sur

  1. Joan Kraus - November 22, 2020

    I am on 10.13.6 High Sierra, and in system preferences, there is no software update. How do I do this?

  2. Allison Sheridan - November 22, 2020

    Joan – I actually can’t remember how software updates used to work. High Sierra is most likely within the last few months of its life. Traditionally Apple end-of-lifes operating systems that are 3 generations back, and with macOS Big Sur, that means High Sierra is on its way out.

    I would recommend you update to the highest level OS your Mac can support.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to top