How to fix the critical software update problem on Macs

A critical software update is required for your Mac

Mac users have recently begun to run into an issue that prevents them from using MacOS effectively: When they try to turn their Macs on, they get a message that says, “A critical software update is required for your Mac, but an error was encountered while installing this update,” with an additional note that warns, “Your Mac can’t be used until this update is installed.”

Often, this traps users in a loop of trying to install this “critical software update” that never seems to work, essentially locking down the Mac (not the first time Macs have encountered issues). This is a serious problem, and when it occurs you’re probably looking for a solution as soon as possible. Here are several potential causes behind this malfunction and the fixes that can help you get back to normal.

Your Touch Bar update isn’t working

cheap macbook deals

This problem is often traced back to MacBooks that have the Touch Bar. The Touch Bar acts much like a built-in accessory, and has specific firmware dedicated to its operation. This can cause problems when it’s time to update MacOS, and a separate update needs to be included for the Touch Bar. Sometimes this Touch Bar update is especially sensitive to internet connections or doesn’t respond well to other factors in the update process.

Fortunately, there’s a relatively easy way to see if this is the problem and fix it. First, shut down your MacBook. If you have to, hold down the power button to force a shutdown in case nothing else responds.

Now connect your laptop to a wired network – don’t use Wi-Fi. You want a directly connected network connection, ideally without any restrictions to access. Now boot up your MacBook again and tell it to restart and try to update the software again. If the reboot takes a while, that’s okay. Let it work out any kinks, and see if it can now load MacOS successfully. This is often just the special treatment that the Touch Bar update needs.

A recent app is causing big problems

how to uninstall programs on a mac apps

Kernel panic and update issues can be caused by a recently downloaded app that is working very poorly with MacOS. If you can access MacOS, even for a few minutes, then you can try deleting recently installed apps and see if this fixes the problem.

Sometimes apps can interact with Apple updates and access to Apple servers in weird ways, especially security and network control apps. Hands Off!, for example, has been linked to this critical software update problems. If you recently tried using this app or any similar apps, go in and uninstall them entirely: They just aren’t compatible with the current Apple update process.

You need to reinstall MacOS

MacOS Reinstall

Sometimes the update problem points to a more serious flaw in MacOS. The best way to deal with this is to reinstall MacOS entirely. Don’t worry! You don’t have to erase your disk to do this, which means you should be able to keep almost all your saved data (which is unlikely to have caused this particular problem).

When turning your Mac on, simple hold down the “Command” and “R” keys to get started. This will launch the MacOS Utilities window. From here, choose “Reinstall MacOS.” When prompted, choose “Continue” and follow the instructions to complete the reinstallation. This will, of course, take some time, so only start the process when your Mac is connected to a power supply and you have plenty of time when you don’t need to use that computer.

It’s time to take your computer to an Apple Store

big tech flops history apple store
Scott Olson/ Getty

If none of these potential solutions are working, it’s time to call up a local Apple Store and arrange to take your Mac in for a closer look from the professionals. Remember, this is a serious issue and the problem could be an internal flaw that you’re just not equipped to deal with. The Apple Store will be able to find out what’s wrong or advise you on how to proceed (such as a full wipe of your computer).

Because a problem like this can lie in the details, it’s often necessary to have an expert take a look and diagnose what’s going on. Make sure you check your schedule and make sure that it’s all right to have your Mac in the shop for a few days or longer!

Computing

The iPhone’s Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts could land on Macs this year

For its desktop computers, it appears that Apple may continue to draw from the iPhone for inspiration. iOS 12 features, like Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts, are believed to be making their way to MacOS this year at WWDC in June.
Gaming

You can now stream PS4 games on your PC using Remote Play (and here’s how)

Remote Play is one of the PlaySation 4's most intriguing features. This guide will show you how to properly set up Remote Play, so you can start streaming your PS4 games on your PlayStation Vita, PC, Mac, or Xperia device.
Mobile

Common Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e problems and how to fix them

Samsung's new Galaxy S10 range is gorgeous and extremely powerful. But they're not perfect, and you may discover some issues with your new phone. Here are some of the most common Galaxy S10 problems and how to fix them.
Computing

Here's how you can download the best free music players for your Mac

Tired of your Mac's default music player? Take a look at our picks for the best free music players available for your Apple rig. Whether you're a casual listener or an audiophile, you're sure to find something that fits your needs here.
Gaming

Kick off your streaming career with our complete guide to Twitch broadcasting

Streaming games on Twitch for the first time can be daunting to say the least, but with a few simple steps, it's remarkably easy to do. Here's how to do so using a PC, Mac, Xbox One, or PlayStation 4 console.
Mobile

Keep your huge phone beautiful with the best iPhone XS Max cases

Apple's iPhone XS Max might be the best large phone the company has ever released. But a bigger OLED display and body means there's more glass to crack. Keep your massive phone safe with the best iPhone XS Max cases.
Deals

Apple iPads and iPad Pros get price cuts up to $150 on Amazon

In the market for a new iPad? Now might be the time to buy -- Amazon has discounted a range of iPad models, including the 10.5-inch, 11-inch, and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, plus the standard iPad.
Mobile

The 15 most stylish iPhone docks and charging stands for your device

The right iPhone dock does more than just hold your phone. If you’re looking for the perfect dock for your bedroom, or one to sit discretely on your office desk, there’s a good chance you’ll find it here.
Cars

Apple’s interest in self-driving cars reported to be revving up

A new report suggests that Apple is in talks with a number of suppliers to purchase lidar sensors, an essential tool for self-driving cars. The news is once again spiking rumors that Apple might be building vehicles.
Trash

How to save yourself money by buying a refurbished iPhone

There’s a lot to consider when you’re looking for a new iPhone, and it can be very expensive. Save yourself some heartache and some money with our guide on how to buy a refurbished iPhone.
Mobile

Best iPhone 7 Plus screen protectors to shield your big, beautiful display

Cracked screens are expensive to replace. Fortunately for you, we've rounded up what's available in terms of protection for Apple's large iPhone 7 Plus. Here are the best screen protectors you can buy.
Mobile

Add style and functionality with the best iPad Pro 9.7 cases

No tablet should be without protection, especially an expensive one. Check out our picks for the best iPad Pro 9.7 cases, so you can add some protection, functionality, and style to your new device.
Mobile

Amazon cuts prices on Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 3 smartwatches

In the market for a new smartwatch? The Apple Watch is the best one, and right now it's a little more affordable than it usually is. The Apple Watch Series 4 and Apple Watch Series 3 are both available at discounted prices straight from…
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.