Updating to Big Sur on Macbook Pro? Read This First

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Updating to Big Sur on Macbook Pro is an exciting event for most Mac users. On November 12, 2020, Apple officially released macOS 11 Big Sur to the public. This latest macOS version is also pre-installed in new MacBooks, including the Apple Mac mini, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro.

But Apple announced that older macOS devices are also eligible for this update. According to Apple, here are the macOS devices that are able to support Big Sur:

  • MacBook (2015 and newer models)
  • MacBook Air (2013 and newer models)
  • MacBook-Pro (end of 2013 and newer models)
  • Mac mini (2014 and newer models)
  • iMac (2014 and newer models)
  • iMac Pro (2017 and newer models)
  • Mac Pro (2013 and newer models)

So your 2013 or 2014 MacBook should have no trouble running Big Sur, right? If you own an older MacBook and thinking of upgrading now, you might want to hold off that idea.

Mac users on Reddit, Apple support forums, and other technology websites are complaining of serious problems after trying to update their macOS devices to the latest operating system.

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It is difficult to estimate how many Mac users have been impacted by these issues, but the problem seems to affect older models of 13-inch MacBook Pro, particularly those sold in late 2013 and mid-2014. However, there are also reports of newer models, including MacBook Pro 2015 and Apple’s iMac desktop computers, being affected as well.

Big Sur Bricking Older Macbook Pro Models

While it is generally recommended for users to update the software on their devices as soon as the update becomes available to safeguard against cyber threats, you might be better off waiting for a few months before upgrading to macOS Big Sur.

It turns out that macOS 11 is bricking older MacBook Pro models that should ideally be supported. According to reports, macOS Big Sur bricks older MacBook Pros after installation, while others experienced getting locked or stuck with a black screen after attempting the upgrade.

Although it officially supports macOS devices dating back to 2013, this bricking issue reflects reality. Despite the guarantee for compatibility, some MacBook Pro users with 2013 and 2014 models realized that their devices were bricked after installing the macOS Big Sur update. At some point during the installation process, macOS got stuck displaying a blank or black screen, rendering their devices useless.

Mac users and expert have no clue what the cause of the problem is. The devices that should be able to run Big Sur turn into bricked devices, and none of the traditional reboot techniques, such as resetting NVRAM/SMC and booting into Safe Mode can salvage the affected device.

How to Fix an Older MacBook Bricked by Big Sur

If you’re one of the Mac users who fell for this trap and got their device bricked, then you don’t have to worry. Apple has been made aware of the problem and has released a support page for this specific issue.

The new support document lists out the step-by-step instructions on what users need to do if macOS Big Sur fails to install on 2013 or 2014 MacBook models. The instructions below also applies when you install macOS 11 on these Mac models and the installer says that the update cannot be installed, or you reboot your Mac to a blank screen or circle with a line through it.

So if updating to Big Sur on Macbook Pro bricked your device, here’s what you can do:

1. Turn off your Mac.

Press and hold the power button on your device for at least 10 seconds before releasing. Doing this will turn off your Mac if it is turned on. Next, press the power button again to turn it back on. Depending on where you are in the installation process, your Mac should boot accordingly and try to fix the issue. If you booted into the Recovery Mode, you can try to reinstall macOS using the tools available there.

If your Mac did not boot up after turning it off or you did not notice any response when you press the power button, proceed to the next steps.

2. Unplug all external devices from your Mac.

Remove any external displays, hard drives, speakers, external camera, and other USB devices connected to your Mac. If there is a card inserted in the SDXC card slot, remove it. Remove your mouse as well and use the trackpad instead. You should only be left with the bare unit to make sure nothing interferes with the troubleshooting. Next, turn your Mac back on. No luck? Check out the next step.

3. Reset the SMC or System Management Controller.

The SMC is in charge of managing various functions on your computer, and resetting it from time to time allows you to start with a clean slate.

To reset the SMC for Macs with removable batteries, follow the instructions below:

  1. Shut down your Mac and remove the battery.
  2. Press and hold the power button for at least 5 seconds.
  3. Next, reinstall the battery.
  4. Press the power button once again to turn on your Mac.

For those with non-removable batteries, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press and hold these keys together:
    • Left Shift
    • Left Control
    • Left Option (Alt)
  3. While holding these keys, press and hold the power button.
  4. Hold them for at least 10 seconds.
  5. Release the keys, then turn on your Mac.

4. Reset NVRAM/PRAM.

If the above steps don’t work, then you might need to reset the NVRAM or PRAM. You can do this by rebooting your Mac while pressing and holding the Option + Command + P + R keys.

Still no luck? Apple recommends reaching out to Apple Support for further assistance if the steps above don’t work.

Our Recommendation

macOS Big Sur offers a lot of improvements. It adds a user interface complete with new app icons, revamped the notification area, and released an updated version of Safari with support for third-party ad-ons. Unfortunately, all these features deliver no value if you end up bricking your Mac during the upgrade.

So while it might be interesting to try out the latest macOS, we recommend staying away from the macOS Big Sur update for now. At least until Apple has released a patch designed to resolve this error. Keep in mind that this issue mostly impacts users of 2013 or 2014 MacBooks, but some newer models have also been reported to be affected. Although Apple has released a new update for Big Sur, it is not sure whether Apple has included a fix to this issue.

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