Have Monterey updates got smaller?

One of the bugbears with Big Sur was the sheer size of its updates. Travelling from macOS 11.0 to 11.6 took a total of more than 35 GB of downloads on an Intel Mac, and just over 50 GB for an M1. The smallest updates, such as the minor patches to 11.2.1 and 11.5.1, still required downloading 2.2 GB (Intel) or 3.1 GB (M1). Even for those who run their own Content Caching Server, there was the requirement for M1 Macs to download a minimum of just under 1 GB direct from Apple’s servers for every one of those updates.

This changed during beta-testing of Monterey, and has continued to improve since its release. By my reckoning (and your mileage may vary), the 12.1 update was 2.8 GB for Intel and 3.2 for M1, which are about 1 GB smaller than the equivalent updates for Big Sur. macOS 12.2 update was smaller still, at 2.4 (Intel) and 2.75 GB (M1). The direct download component for M1 Macs also seems to have disappeared, and Monterey’s updates are far more efficiently handled by a caching server.

Being a consolidating version, unlike its recent predecessors, Monterey is doing rather better than Catalina: by this stage, 10.15.2 had needed 9 GB of updates, although 10.14.2 was slightly better than 12.2, needing nearly 6 GB. Big Sur security updates don’t seem to have shrunk in parallel, though, remaining over 2.5 GB for Intel models, according to figures gathered by Rob Griffiths.

The only cost of Monterey’s smaller updates is longer time required to ‘prepare’ each update prior to its installation, which has risen from 15 minutes (macOS 11) to 30 (macOS 12).

Two disappointments remain, though. After a period of significant improvement, Apple forgot to provide 12.2 with any release notes, merely waffling about “bug fixes and security updates”. The other has affected every update since 11.0.1, in that Apple no longer provides any form of standalone update.

There are only two ways to update to 12.2, either using Software Update (or softwareupdate) to install it, or downloading the full installer app. Apple hasn’t provided any form of downloadable updater in the way that it still does for Catalina security updates. The last that I heard on that was that no decision had been made, but I think it has become clear that there is no intention to do so. If that causes you a problem, you must make your case in Feedback to Apple, as otherwise downloadable updaters will never reappear.


For a good many years now, macOS installers and updaters have also been the only way to update a Mac’s firmware. While Macs with T2 and M1 chips report common firmware versions, for EFI and iBridge, and iBoot, respectively, older Intel Macs have used a wide range of different versions which are normally model-specific. This has been changing lately, with all more recent non-T2 Intel models converging on a single firmware version, currently 447.

With just over four months to go before the likely start of this year’s WWDC and its announcements on the next major version of macOS, it’s tempting to speculate that those Intel Macs running that common EFI firmware, together with T2 and M1 models, will be those supported by macOS 13. In case you’re interested, that list reads:

  • MacBook – from 9,1 onwards (2016)
  • MacBook Air – T2 models only, from 2018
  • MacBook Pro – from 13,1 onwards (2016)
  • iMac – from 17,1 onwards (late 2015 27″, 2017 21.5″), and iMac Pro
  • Mac mini – T2 models only, from 2018
  • Mac Pro – T2 models only, from 2019.

Compared with Monterey, that would drop support for iMac 16 (2015), MacBook Air 2015 and 2017, MacBook Pro 2015, Mac mini 2014, and Mac Pro 2013.