Why won't my iMac update?
March 26, 2020 7:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm having problems getting an OS update on my iMac and have no idea why.

This all started when I realized a new piece of software needed OS X 10.13 and I was like, "oh wait that's weird I'm still on 10.12.something." I know, you would think I would have noticed by now. I assumed automatic updates were on. Also I apologize in advance but the computer in question is turned off at the moment (house shuffling, COVID-19, work-from-home orders, and so on) so I can't answer specific questions about hardware. The iMac is from 2009 or 2010 and I did read on Apple's site that the hardware should have no issue running OS X 10.15.

I went to the App Store and searched for 'update' or 'os x' or 'Catalina' but it said "no updates available" so I went the brute force route and found the .dmg for the most recent version of 10.15 on Apple's site. When I downloaded it and ran it I got the message, paraphrased, "You can't install 10.15.2 from this version of the OS, you need a previous version of 10.15" so I said FINE and went to download the earliest version of 10.15 that I could find. When I ran that one it said "You can't install 10.15.1 from this version of the OS, you need at least 10.15." and it stopped there, no sub-version after the dot.

I thought this was odd so I tried 10.13 and got the same message of "You can't install 10.13.1 from this version of the OS, you need at least 10.13." and it stopped there, no sub-version after the dot.

I would strongly prefer to update my OS somehow without reinstalling everything. I do have a daily Time Machine backup of everything though so if God forbid I have to wipe and reinstall I can do that.

Questions:
1.) Do you know a way to fix this issue of it saying it can't update my OS from a disk image that I downloaded directly from Apple?
2.) If I have to wipe and reinstall, can I just move programs over from my Time Machine backup? I have some old software with long-lost product registration keys and if I can't just drag them over to the new clean install then I am losing them forever (as far as I know).
3.) If I have to wipe and reinstall, can I do that from my existing HD? Or do I need to dig out my optical drive and burn an install DVD? I haven't done anything like this in over a decade; I'm a bit behind the times here.

Any thoughts you have are welcome, and I'll be hooking everything back up in the next few days so I can try whatever you all come up with.
posted by komara to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
What model iMac is it? Could it be too old to run Catalina?
posted by Ampersand692 at 8:00 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]


The public .dmg files available on Apple's site are generally updaters designed to update the OS from one point release to another, not to install or upgrade to a major OS release.

Major versions are installed via a new application that's usually named something like "Install macOS Catalina" that's downloaded from the App Store - and until recently, major upgrades didn't happen via auto-updates, you had to go and download the new version manually.

You can download the macOS Catalina installer from the App Store here - and if it says your machine isn't compatible, you can download the Mojave updater or High Sierra updater. If you get a different error there, let us know.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 8:22 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]


The iMac is from 2009 or 2010 and I did read on Apple's site that the hardware should have no issue running OS X 10.15.
No Mac made in 2009 or 2010 is compatible with Catalina.
posted by kyten at 8:25 AM on March 26 [5 favorites]


kyten has the correct answer.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:59 AM on March 26 [3 favorites]


I EAT TAPAS has it. To upgrade one macOS version to another major macOS version (e.g. from 10.12 to 10.13 or 10.14 or 10.15 if your Mac supports it), you have to do this by downloading the installer from the App Store. In my experience Apple updates these installers with dot releases within a few days of those dot releases being available as updates (so, if your Mac is compatible with Mojave and you downloaded the installer in the App Store today, you'd get 10.15.4 and not just the original 10.15, saving you some updating after installation).
posted by fedward at 9:01 AM on March 26


If your Mac is eligible to upgrade, Software Update will tell you. I had to do some messing with the config to get my Mojave system to stop bugging me, and even then there's a phantom "1" badge on Software Update.

To upgrade one macOS version to another major macOS version (e.g. from 10.12 to 10.13 or 10.14 or 10.15 if your Mac supports it), you have to do this by downloading the installer from the App Store.

This is not true anymore. It happens via Software Update.
posted by neckro23 at 9:44 AM on March 26


My Macs are still running Mojave. Software Update suggests I install Catalina, but it still sends me to the App Store to "get" it (as the button is labeled).
posted by fedward at 9:50 AM on March 26


I'm sorry, I wrote in haste this morning. The iMac is from 2015. Found the receipt in my email: iMac21.5/2.7QC/2X4GB/1TB/IRISPRO

When I go to the App Store it does not list any software updates. When I go to the Apple icon, about this Mac, and click there for software update it takes me to the App Store but nothing ever loads.
posted by komara at 10:13 AM on March 26


Oh and I have had the phantom '1' badge in App Store for a while but couldn't make it reappear once I said "turn on automatic updates".
posted by komara at 10:14 AM on March 26


If you search the App Store for Catalina it should be the first result (or you could just use the links in I EAT TAPAS's comment or the one on Apple's support page). Do you maybe already have the installer in your Applications folder?
If you're using OS X El Capitan v10.11.5 or later and your App Store preferences or Software Update preferences are set to download new updates when available, macOS Catalina will download conveniently in the background, making it even easier to upgrade. A notification will inform you when macOS Catalina is ready to be installed. Click Install to get started, or dismiss the notification to install later. When you're ready to install, just open the file named Install macOS Catalina from your Applications folder.
Before we get too far, though, was there a specific reason you stayed on 10.12? Like a reliance on Adobe software or maybe some audio production tools that require you to stay pinned to a particular OS for compatibility and support? If you rely on any apps that are 32-bit only, you will lose them if you go to Catalina. I'd hate to send you straight to the latest and greatest, only to have it break something critical for you. You may find that an older major release is still going to be the one for you, even if that release is newer than the one you have. Maybe audit your apps first.
posted by fedward at 10:31 AM on March 26


komara, what happens when you click this direct link to the Catalina installer?
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 10:41 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]


Direct link for Mojave

Direct link for High Sierra

(in case you need one of them.)
posted by blob at 11:13 AM on March 26


I finally got myself a temporary desk set up (since my wife is using mine to work from home).

komara, what happens when you click this direct link to the Catalina installer?

That link was exactly what I needed. It opened the App Store and actually did load the Catalina page, and now it's downloaded and appears to be happily installing. Thank you so much for your help.
posted by komara at 9:55 AM on March 29


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