According to Apple, Big Sur’s system software updates are one of its features, making it “easier than ever to keep your Mac up to date and secure.” I have yet to hear from a user who agrees: we’re only too well aware of the size of Big Sur updates, and the disruption they cause. Furthermore, Apple no longer supplies standalone updaters for macOS 11.x, so the only way to economise on downloads across multiple Macs is to run a Content Caching server. For these and other reasons, many of us have found Apple’s claimed improvements far from easier or quicker.
Look in the full list of new and improved features of Monterey, and there’s no mention of software updates, implying that there aren’t intended to be any significant changes, and our complaints about Big Sur’s updates have fallen on deaf ears after all. This article reassesses how Big Sur’s “easier” system is working out now, and what comes in the future.
The current version of Big Sur is 11.4, well over half way through its cycle, with the expectation that there are two further minor updates to come before it receives only security updates, and Apple wants us to upgrade to Monterey and start a new update cycle. Over that period, a typical Intel Mac has already downloaded and installed almost 26 GB of macOS updates (excluding security data files which are pushed separately), and the equivalent for an M1 Mac is just over 36 GB – an average of 5 GB per month of macOS updates.