How to upgrade OS X on your Mac using a combo update

Apple Mac keyboard

There is more than one way to update OS X on the Apple Mac and instead of going to the Update tab in the Mac App Store you could use the combo updater instead. Here are the advantages.

When you download updates through the Mac App Store, only the updates necessary to take OS X to the next release are downloaded. You could not update 10.11.1 directly to 10.11.5 and instead you would have to download some updates, reboot, download more updates, reboot and so on. Step by step you would eventually get to the latest version.

A combo update contains every update from every version - 10.11.1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 (the latest as of right now, but if you are reading this article in six month’s time there may well be more).

This means that whatever the version of OS X that is currently installed on your Mac, you can jump to the very latest with one update, skipping all the versions in between. That can be a big time saver.

Software updates can go wrong and sometimes people get stuck downloading, or they download updates and they fail to install for some reason. Some updates might be missing, incomplete or corrupted, and so on.

A combo update, because it contains everything that is needed to get your Mac to the latest version of OS X, can sometimes fix faulty updates. So if you are having problems updating your Mac, try the combo update.

If you have a lot of Macs to update, a combo update makes sense. Instead of downloading the latest update on multiple Mac, using up tons of bandwidth, you can download one combo update and then copy it to each Mac you want to update.

Some people like to disable software updates and only use the combo updates. It is more reliable and provides more control. You can update when it suits you, you can stick with a version until you are ready to update, or wait to see if there are any bugs before committing to an update and so on.

1 Go to Apple Downloads

Open Safari and go to and the latest combo update is listed in the featured downloads.

Apple downloads - get updates for OS X

2 More updates

Add /combo to the URL and many more combo updates are listed. In fact, they go back as far as OS X Mountain Lion. Combo updates only update the minor version though, and not the major one.

Apple downloads - get combo updates for OS X

So the Mountain Lion update only updates Mountain Lion to the latest version, the Mavericks combo update only updates Mavericks to the latest version and so on. This is still very useful if you are running an old version of OS X on an old Mac.

3 Download it

Click the combo version that you want, such as El Capitan 10.11.5 and then click the Download button to save the file to disk.

Download combo updates for OS X on the Apple Mac

4 It’s huge!

Combo updates are very large because they contain every update - 10.11.1, .2, .3, .4 and 5. The latest one is 1.53GB, so bear that in mind when downloading it. You need a fast and reliable internet connection.

Download combo updates for OS X on the Apple Mac

5 Open the download

The file that is downloaded ends up in the Downloads folder. Open the folder and click the file. It contains a single .pkg file. Double click it to run it.

Install the combo update in OS X on the Apple Mac

6 Step-by-step

The installer runs and the next few screens are really boring, like the introduction, read me, license, and so on. Just click through them all.

Install OS X combo update in OS X on the Apple Mac

7 Reboot the Mac

Eventually you will be asked to reboot the Mac. Click the button then go away and do something more interesting while the combo update does its job. Come back in 20 minutes and you can log in and start using OS X.

Install OS X combo update in OS X on the Apple Mac

Combo updates do not update apps, so you still need to open the Mac App Store and select the Updates tab to see if there are any app updates. iTunes, for example, is often updated and it must be downloaded separately through the Mac App Store Update feature.



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