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Mac computers provide users with Apple’s proprietary macOS operating system. Although it differs somewhat from other major operating systems you can find out there, one way in which it is similar is in how it goes about updating itself. System updates like the ones you will see from your Mac computer periodically provide numerous benefits to the end user.

Most notably, they will fix bugs that cause instability in the OS itself. In some cases, developers at Apple may need to release an update to fix some things that a previous update messed up. Otherwise, security features are a big concern when it comes to new updates, and workers at Apple are almost constantly looking for threats to their systems, regularly rolling out updates to make Mac computers safer.

Some fans of Apple may wonder if there is a way to pause or interrupt an update for their Mac computers. While the situations in which you would want to do this may be limited, they do exist, and there may even be occasions where you would want to stop an update entirely.

We will go over these things in our article below. Additionally, we can cover whether you can put the computer to sleep, what happens to the update progress bar if you turn it off entirely, and how to troubleshoot a stuck update.

Can I Interrupt or Pause a Mac Update?

When we talk about Mac updates, we are usually referring to the system update that brings changes to the macOS itself. However, third-party software developers can also roll out updates to their applications, too.

These types of things update themselves in ways that are similar to how you’ll get a system update for the OS, so we will put both of them here in a discussion about pausing or interrupting updates in general.

That said, you may need to go to different locations within your Mac itself to pause or stop these kinds of updates. Furthermore, interrupting a system update could be harmful to your Mac. This might depend on what the update is, where it is in its installation progress, and other things. However, it is worth pointing this caveat out before moving forward.

With that out of the way, you can stop or pause an update to your Mac computer. There are ways to do so in the ‘System Preferences’ section itself. We will go over both pausing or stopping updates altogether in the following sections.

The only other thing to be aware of before diving in is that downloading or installing updates are different things. It is easier to stop or pause the former more so than the latter.

How Do You Stop an Update on Mac?

For the purposes of our discussion, we will assume that a Mac update download is in progress. Some users may wish to stop this update entirely.

This can happen if the update to the operating system is new, since some people would like a chance to see if the latest download has any negative bugs they would like to avoid. Giving Apple a few weeks to roll that update out and work out any problems with it can be helpful.

To stop updates entirely before they begin, you can try following the guidelines below.

1. Go to the ‘System Preferences’ section of your Mac computer.

2. In here, you should find a subsection for ‘App Store’.

3. Although the App Store handles downloads for all the various programs you might like to use on your computer, it also takes care of keeping the macOS system itself current. You’ll see some information about this at the top of the App Store page.

4. By default, your system is probably set to check for and download these updates automatically. You can uncheck that box to keep the system from making this check.

5. Alternatively, you can uncheck any boxes below it to turn off the checks only for apps, the macOS, or system, data, and security files as you see fit.

6. This does nothing for updates already downloaded, but it should prevent future updates from getting to your system automatically.

7. We recommend checking for these things periodically, especially as security updates can be crucial to the health and safety of your computer.

If you want to stop macOS updates that are already in the process of being downloaded onto your system, you can try the steps below.

1. Once you navigate to ‘System Preferences’ again, you should be able to find a section for ‘Updates’.

2. Here is where any ongoing downloads should appear. You should notice a progress bar that tells you how much of the download your system completed already.

3. If you hover over that bar, an ‘X’ should appear at the end of it.

4. Click on this icon to stop the update from completing its download.

How Do You Pause a Mac Update?

Unlike stopping an update download, there isn’t a good way to pause the update process. The nature of upgrades to the macOS or apps means that they download in one chunk before they begin to install themselves on your system.

If you cancel a download in progress, the store will need to start the whole process over once you try again. Furthermore, trying to mess with the update during its actual installation process could cause some glitches in your system.

The only way to “pause” updates reliably is to stop downloads from happening automatically. In this way, you can pause the process of getting the updates until you’re ready to receive them manually.

Can You Put Your Mac To Sleep While Updating?

There are two parts to this question, but you should not allow your computer to sleep during an update. Sleep mode is a low-power state that allows you to resume your session quickly. However, it turns off most functions.

The sleep mode function here would affect both the download and installation processes, although one could be more harmful than the other. If you put your computer to sleep during a download, it will terminate it.

As we touched on above, this means that you will have to start the whole download from the beginning again once you wake up the computer.

Putting your computer to sleep during the installation of an update the Mac has already downloaded could be more harmful. Although nothing may happen, there is some chance that the installation interruption could somehow corrupt system files. It is even possible that you could lose everything on your system and need a fresh installation.

Because of this, it is not recommended to try to put your computer to sleep during the update. Although it can take a long time, it is best to let nature take its course here.

Furthermore, even if you do follow all the instructions for updating, it is a good idea to back up your whole system and its files before any major macOS update. Doing so ensures that you can restore your system with relative ease if anything does go wrong.

What Happens if You Turn Off Your Mac During an Update?

Much like putting the computer to sleep, turning off your Mac during an update could lead to fatal errors. Fatal errors would mean that the system is so unstable that you may have to reinstall macOS completely from a fresh boot in order to get things working again.

Once more, this is where having a complete backup could come in handy.You may be able to boot in recovery mode or otherwise get the system working again, but there are no guarantees on that. It is best to make sure your computer stays on during such an important update.

You can help with this by making sure that it is connected to a stable power source, has plenty of space for the update, and doesn’t do anything if you close the lid.

What Do I Do if My Mac Update Is Stuck?

Most updates go smoothly, but some may get stuck in either the progress bar itself or an endless loop of checking for updates on Apple servers.

If one of these things happens, it is best to check your internet connection. Instability here could prevent the computer from updating properly. Similarly, you can check to see if Apple’s own servers are having issues.

As long as your computer isn’t in the middle of installing an update, you can try restarting it to see if this fixes the issue. Along with all of this, make sure your computer has storage space enough to handle whatever the size of the update is, or it may have trouble getting it started.

Furthermore, be sure before you perform any updates that you make a full backup and recovery point. This could be useful for situations just like this, and you may find that you do have to restart the computer in the middle of the update process in order to get it unstuck.

If so, system instability could delete portions of the OS, and you would need to try to roll things back to an earlier time when everything was working properly.


The macOS is a fine operating system, and updating either it or the apps should go smoothly most of the time. If they ever don’t go through, there are a few things you can try to stop the downloads or try again. Most troubleshooting tips here should work, but make sure you don’t interrupt a system installation, and always have a backup ready for issues that might arise.