Does Updating macOS Delete Everything?

Does updating macOS delete everything? The answer can be different based on the updating methods you take. Check the answers and make full preparation to update your Mac to macOS Monterey, Big Sur or Catalina.

Table of Contents

Page Content:

  1. Part1: How Does macOS Update Work
  2. Part2: When macOS Update Causes Data Loss
  3. Part3: How to Recover Lost Data After macOS Monterey Update

Usually, updating macOS will not remove data or erase the hard drive at all. So, does updating macOS delete everything? The answer is No. 

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How Does macOS Update Work?

Once you enabled the automatic update notification on your Mac, every time Apple has released a new macOS version, either big or small, it'll keep you informed. By navigating to the Apple menu > System Preferences > Software Update, there are two options for you to install a recent macOS version.

Tip: Another access to get a macOS update is in the App Store.

  • Update Now

Update Now refers to updates within the same current system version, such as from the Monterey version12.1 to Monterey 12.2.

  • Upgrade Now

Upgrade Now refers to updates between two different versions, such as from Catalina to Big Sur, or from Big Sur to Monterey.

Both options of installing an available update will also keep the Safari, Messages, Music, Photos, FaceTime and Calendar up to date. It's estimated that the total time from downloading and installing the macOS Monterey on a Macbook takes 35 minutes to several hours. It depends on your Mac disk's health and performance. 

Despite that the regular update is a safe move for your personal data, it's your responsibility to create a backup before proceeding with either of the update options! Never trust a machine's ability to protect data. Trust yourself. 

When macOS Update Causes Data Loss

Here's why we highly suggest users make a copy of important files on Mac using Time Machine or some reliable third-party Mac backup software. As is discussed, upgrading to a subsequent major release of macOS does not affect user data, however, in unlikely cases, the update installation process can go wrong, and cause damage to the hard drive. As a result, let you lose access to data.

Roughly speaking, 27% of Mac users have been experiencing unexpected data loss while doing a macOS update, and over 90% of the causes are insufficient free space on the internal hard drive.

The rest of the 10% of data loss cases are resulted from interrupted and failed macOS updates due to various errors. In a word, the following scenarios are associated with the negative answers to "does updating macOS delete everything?"

  • Not enough free space on the Mac hard drive
  • Incomplete macOS installation
  • Mac takes forever to download the update

How to Recover Lost Data After macOS Monterey Update

If you have successfully updated to the new macOS version, congratulations, but please remember to make a backup before the next version update. And it happens that you are the unlucky part of the user, and the update fails to be obtained. No matter what causes the data loss, please be sure to protect the lost data and prevent continuing to write new data to overwrite the lost data.

Next, download EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac. It is specially designed for users who want to recover deleted files, unformat hard disks, and regain access to data from unbootable Mac situations.

It takes only three steps to recover all types of files on macOS Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, and earlier versions. 

Note: You can create a backup by clicking the "Disk Backup" on the left first. When the disk is damaged or the data on the disk is accidentally deleted or lost, you can get the data back from the backup image.

Step 1. Select the location

Select the disk where you lost data after updating to macOS Sonoma/Ventura/Monterey/Big Sur. Then, click "Search for lost files".

select a location and scan for lost data after macOS update

Step 2. Find lost data after the scan

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard for Mac will immediately scan your selected disk volume and display the scanning results on the left pane. Use the file type and file path to find wanted data on Mac.

Find lost data after the scan

Step 3. Recover data after macOS update

Select the target files that were unknowingly lost during or after the update and click the "Recover" button to get them all back.

Recover data after macOS update

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Updated by Cedric

Cedric Grantham is a senior editor and data recovery specialist of EaseUS. He mainly writes articles and how-to tips about data recovery on PC and Mac. He has handled 10,000+ data recovery cases and is good at data recovery of NTFS, FAT (FAT32 and ExFAT) file systems, and RAID structure reorganization.

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Written by Jean

Jean is recognized as one of the most professional writers in EaseUS. She has kept improving her writing skills over the past 10 years and helped millions of her readers solve their tech problems on PC, Mac, and iOS devices.

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