Critical Software Update on Mac: 5 Ways to Fix It

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Mac users may sometimes see a message that says “A critical software update is required for your Mac, but an error was encountered while installing this update”. This message prevents the user from using their Mac until the update is installed, but there are some steps that can be taken to fix the issue.

The problem, however, doesn’t end there. Your computer seems to be trapped in an endless loop as the “critical software update” doesn’t seem to work, locking down your Mac and preventing you from using your machine smoothly and problem-free.

Here’s a quick guide to help you navigate this Mac critical software update issue – why it occurs and a few solid steps you can take to solve it.

How to Fix the ‘Critical Software Update’ Problem on Macs

Imagine this: your computer boots up, and you immediately get a plain white screen with a spinning gear for what seems like an eternity. Then you get the dreaded error message, and there’s hardly any indication of what’s happening and you can’t see the log to see what’s going on. Your Mac is good as useless because you have to shut it down or click Try again, which seems to never work.

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There are a number of likely reasons why this glitch is taking place. At the same time, here are some quick fixes you can try on your own:

  • Tackle Malfunctioning Touch Bar – MacBooks that have the Touch Bar often fall victim to the critical software update problem on Mac. Serving as a built-in accessory, the Touch Bar has particular firmware to help it operate, and this can lead to issues when it’s time to get macOS updated.

A separate update, after all, is required for the Touch Bar, and this update is prone to problems with internet connection as well as in reaction to other factors present during the update process.

Here’s a quick way to address this problem:

  1. Turn off your MacBook. If necessary, hold down Power for a forced shutdown in case it doesn’t respond.
  2. Connect your machine to a wired network; avoid using WiFi. The idea is to link to a directly connected network connection, sans any restriction to access.
  3. Boot up your MacBook and tell it to restart. Try updating the software again. The reboot may take a while, but that’s all right and you can wait to load macOS properly.
  • Address or Uninstall Misbehaving Apps – A recently downloaded app may not be working right with macOS. Try to delete recently installed apps if you can access macOS even for a few moments, and then see if that effectively fixes the issue.

An app can negatively interact with Apple updates, so the simple solution is simply uninstall it if it’s incompatible with the current update process.

  • Uninstall Hands Off! – This app monitors and controls the access of other apps to your network and disks. Using Hands Off!, you can track as well as gain control of internet connections from all apps so as to detect hidden connections and hinder them from sending data or phoning home without your consent.

Hands Off! has been associated with critical software update issues as it installs a kernel-level network extension to control network access. Uninstall it in Safe Mode and reboot your Mac.

  • Reinstall macOS – There are times when an issue like “critical software update” signals a more serious problem, so the best move to make is to entirely reinstall macOS. Don’t worry, though, as you should be able to keep your saved data safe from deletion.

Since this process will take a while, initiate the process only when your Mac is connected to a power supply and you don’t need to use your computer right away. Here are steps to follow:

  1. Turn on your Mac by holding down the Command + R keys, which will launch the macOS Utilities window.
  2. Select Reinstall macOS.
  3. Once prompted, choose Continue and then follow the instructions for reinstallation.
  • Take Your Mac to the Experts – If nothing seems to work, perhaps it’s time to take the issue to the experts and contact your local Apple Store. This way, a professional can check your Mac and see if it’s an internal issue that’s taking place. These people can make a proper diagnosis and you can simply wait to retrieve your Mac after a few days at the shop.

Final Notes

The critical software problem issue on Mac is a total nuisance, and we know you don’t have the time, energy, and sometimes complete know-how to solve it. We then hope one of the fixes we presented above gets the job done before you do a full wipe of your computer.

Of course, don’t forget to clean your Mac, get rid of junk files, and optimize it for top performance using a reliable third-party Mac repair tool. Proper diagnosis, after all, is half the cure.

Have you ever come across this problem? How did you get your Mac back in tiptop shape? Let us know in the comments!

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Paul Campbell
2 years ago

Just had that problem. Tried most of what other folks have. What finally worked was reinstalling Catalina from installer on memory stick.

2 years ago

I have a massive development, guys.

I detached the webcam and now all is working fine. No more critical update prompt, nothing. Of course, I sacrificed the webcam, but it’s better than nothing. I don’t use the webcam frequently anyway. I can live without it.

When the laptop is disassembled, the screen connector is facing north (speakers are south, towards you). The webcam cable is on the right side of the screen connector, under the removable 3cm wide metal shield. There is the same connector on the left side of the screen. Don’t detach it, otherwise the screen goes black. I think it might be the screen backlight.

Now, the laptop went to sleep, but it seemed like it slept really deep. I woke the laptop by pressing a button and the laptop didn’t wake up instantly but with a startup chime, like you put it to sleep for a long time or restarted the laptop. But it resumed from where it slept. Now, I tried it again, but this time it woke up instantly.

I am really happy now and I hope someone can benefit out of it.

Edit: Out of curiosity, I plugged the webcam back in. The boot-up speed significantly reduced, nearly 5 minutes. I was greeted with a critical update message. I was forced to shut down the laptop using the power button.

I unplugged the webcam cable and the boot-up speed was again the same slow, around 3 minutes this time. I started to worry if I caused the magical fix to stop working anymore, but it was all good again after turning on. It took longer to boot because I shut down the PC using the power button and OS X wanted to do a system check to see if everything was fine.

I turned it back on from shutdown using the power button and it turned on really fast. Guess what, Touch ID, sound, touchbar, all are working. So, it looks like they all have separate controllers. I don’t remember if there was a backlight on the keyboard, but it doesn’t work. I don’t care about it.

Now my guesses are these:

The webcam cable is cracked and doesn’t have all its pins sending data to the motherboard, causing lag and system instability. Therefore, the touch bar doesn’t work.
A controller chip or something of the sort has failed on the motherboard, therefore a new screen replacement may not sort this issue out. This is something I will try in the future when I can invest some money on a replacement screen.
Please let me know if it helped you too.

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