Why are macOS updates so large?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

MacOS updates are often quite large in size, and there are several reasons for this. One of the main factors contributing to the large size of these updates is the focus on reliability and stability. Apple aims to ensure that the updates they release are thoroughly tested and provide a seamless experience for users.

To achieve this level of reliability, Apple includes various improvements and bug fixes in each update. These updates may address issues that have been reported by users or discovered by Apple’s own testing processes. By incorporating these fixes, Apple aims to enhance the overall performance and stability of macOS.

Another reason for the large size of macOS updates is the inclusion of new features and functionalities. Apple constantly strives to introduce innovative features and improvements to enhance the user experience. These additions may require significant changes to the underlying system and various components, resulting in a larger update size.

Additionally, Apple’s approach to updating macOS has evolved over time. With the release of macOS Big Sur, Apple introduced a new system volume that allows macOS to boot from a sealed snapshot of the system. This change ensures that the operating system is more secure and reliable. However, it also means that macOS updates now need to include the entire system volume rather than just the modified files. This approach contributes to the larger update sizes.

Furthermore, Apple has made changes to the way macOS is updated. Previously, updates were incremental, meaning they only included the necessary changes. However, with the introduction of Big Sur, Apple shifted to a different update mechanism. Now, updates include the complete system image, ensuring a more robust and reliable update process. While this approach has its benefits, it also leads to larger update sizes.

It’s worth noting that the size of macOS updates can vary depending on the specific update and the version of macOS you are currently running. Major updates, such as moving from one macOS version to another (e.g., Catalina to Big Sur), tend to be larger due to the significant changes involved.

It’s important to keep in mind that while larger updates may require more time to download and install, they often bring important improvements and bug fixes that contribute to a better overall user experience. Despite the inconvenience of larger downloads, these updates are crucial for maintaining the security, stability, and functionality of your macOS system.

The size of macOS updates is primarily driven by the focus on reliability, the inclusion of new features, changes in the update mechanism, and the need to ensure a secure and stable operating system. These updates, although large in size, are essential for maintaining the overall performance and user experience of macOS.