Your next big Mac update is here. How to download and install MacOS Catalina

Everything you need to know about Apple’s new MacOS 10.15 before you install it on your Mac.

Clifford Colby Managing Editor
Clifford is a managing editor at CNET, where he leads How-To coverage. He spent a handful of years at Peachpit Press, editing books on everything from the first iPhone to Python. He also worked at a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWEEK and MacUser. Unrelated, he roots for the Oakland A's.
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Clifford Colby
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MacOS Catalina is here.

Screenshot Clifford Colby/CNET

Apple's been busy, rolling out the new iPhone 11 and 11 ProiPads, its new Apple Arcade gaming service, Apple Watch Series 5 smartwatches and Apple TV Plus. And now, not missing a step, it's released Catalina, the latest version of the MacOS. Read our in-depth review of MacOS Catalina before you decide whether to update or wait.

Watch this: MacOS Catalina: 5 best things

With CatalinaApple replaces the iTunes app with three separate apps: Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV. Perhaps just as useful, the revision lets Mac users run iPad apps they can download through the Mac App Store and use an iPad as a second screen, much in the way you might use a monitor. And with Catalina, Mac users can now check out Apple Arcade.

If you can't wait to get your hands on Apple's new Mac OS, here's how to download Catalina and install it.


Catalina will bring updated music and photos apps.

Screenshot Clifford Colby/CNET

Check you can run Catalina

First, before you get started, check that you can install the new OS. Catalina's hardware requirements remain the same as for MacOS Mojave, the current version of the OS, so if you can run Mojave, you can run Catalina. Here are the Macs that meet the requirements:

To check which Mac you have, from the Apple menu, choose About This Mac. The Overview tab displays which Mac you have.

Before you install Catalina...

Before you download and install the MacOS update, ensure the move to Catalina goes as smoothly as possible.

Make a backup. Before you download and install any big MacOS update, have a good, current backup of the contents of your Mac's drive, in case something goes south during the installation or afterward and you need to revert back. You can either use the Mac's built-in Time Machine backup utility or grab a Mac backup app like Carbon Copy Cloner.

Know your Apple ID. If you're a Mac user, you probably have an Apple ID. If not, get one, because you'll most likely need it during the Catalina setup process and logging into iCloud.

Check your free storage space. The download is big -- around 6.5GB -- and Apple said you should probably have about 20GB of free storage space to install Catalina.

Update your apps. With Catalina, Apple is turning off support for 32-bit apps. What that means is, if you have an older app you still use -- say, Microsoft Office 11 for Mac -- check that you have a 64-bit version of the app before you move to Catalina. If not, you'll either have to find a replacement or stick with your current MacOS so you can keep using the software.

Ready? Download and install

After you've completed your preparations, you're ready to download and install Catalina.

1. Head to the Mac App Store, and in the left sidebar tap Updates. If Catalina is available, you should see the new OS listed. You can also search for "Catalina" in the store if you don't see it. If that doesn't work, from the Apple menu, choose About This Mac and tap Software Update to see if it appears. If you still don't see it, Apple may be doing a staggered update, so be patient while it rolls out.

2. Tap the Update -- or Get -- button to download the update. 

3. Step through the installation prompts to complete the installation.

For more on Catalina, see our list of five favorite MacOS 10.15 things as well as all the games you can play in Apple Arcade.

Originally published earlier this summer. Updated with new information.