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In the virtual event called “One More Thing,” Apple finally said it out loud: macOS 11 Big Sur is here, with the public release scheduled on November 12. The tech giant debuted a completely redesigned macOS Big Sur — along with other major updates such as iOS 14, iPad OS 14, and Apple silicon — back in June 2020. And we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it since then.

In this article, we’ll guide you through Big Sur macOS compatibility, its main features and benefits, as well as explain how to download and install macOS 11 on Mac.

macOS Big Sur: All new features and tweaks

Apart from many functionality enhancements, macOS Big Sur makes history with its very name. By being officially introduced as macOS 11.0, the new version leaves the era of Mac OS X behind. Good or bad, this definitely marks a new start for the Apple community, which, in the light of a long-awaited shift to Arm-based chips, seems to make a lot of sense. Let’s take a look at the macOS latest version and see what’s in it for you.

Biggest design change in 20 years

Once we got on a call with my colleagues to discuss Big Sur after the Apple Keynote, the one thing people kept mentioning was “it looks soooo different.” Indeed, macOS 11 Big Sur features an overhauled look — and it’s fair to call it the boldest design move since the initial release of OS X around 20 years ago.

So what’s new? Here’s a quick dive into the Big Sur design:

  • New Control Center, with quick access to frequently used toggles and new controls for Dark Mode and music

  • Space-efficient sidebar and toolbar added to many apps

  • Notifications grouped by apps

  • New widgets in three different sizes you can switch between to customize the view

  • Widgets and notifications can be combined within one custom view

  • Translucent Dock icons and the menu bar

  • New rounded corners across windows and app icons.

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And it’s not only the look that has changed. To match the new iOS-like interface, Apple redesigned system sounds and even brought back the classic startup Chime that was eliminated in the 2016 Mac lineup. So if you’ve missed the old good donnnnnng, with macOS 11.0 you no longer have to tweak the settings to enable it.

According to Apple, the redesigned macOS Big Sur “reduces visual complexity while keeping the focus on content.” It also definitely looks a lot more like iOS, which highlights Apple’s effort to improve consistency throughout the ecosystem.

Safari improvements

Beware, there might be a new twist to your Safari-Chrome jokes. With Big Sur, Apple overhauls its native browser, adding some unparalleled privacy, design, and translation enhancements. Best of all, it’s crazily customizable and can look exactly like you want it to.

Here’s why falling in love with new Safari is super easy:

  • Personalized start page. You can design Safari’s start page from scratch. Set a custom background picture and choose what should appear on it — anything from Reading List to Privacy Report works.

  • Tab preview. No such thing as too many tabs in the macOS Big Sur Safari. The new browser features an improved logo-first tab design as well as lets you hover over a tab to see a quick page preview.

  • New extension store. The App Store will now have a dedicated category for Safari extensions you can choose from. What’s more, Apple simplifies the migration of third-party extensions for developers.

  • Web page translation. Translate a web page between seven languages, in one click.

  • Privacy Report. Safari will protect your browsing by blocking cross-site trackers on any website you visit. Plus, you’re getting quick access to the full list of trackers via Privacy Report.

If new features don’t sound too exciting, here’s my last argument: Big Sur Safari is reportedly 50% faster than Chrome — so yes, the fastest browser on the planet.

Messages: New search, memojis, and inline replies

The top messaging destination on Mac looks handier on macOS Big Sur. With an overhauled Search that highlights the matching terms, it’s easier to find links and photos across all your conversations. The new Messages also features inline replies for group chats and the ability to pin conversations to the top of the list — so that nothing gets lost in the shuffle. More Memojis, trending GIFs and images, and group photos arrive to spice up your chats with awesome visuals.

Maps will guide you better

Another Big Sur update relates to Maps, an app that clearly shows ambition for becoming your favorite tour guide. On macOS 11.0, Maps will include a brand-new feature called Guides, which is a list of places worth visiting in a city. The app is redesigned for better navigation and covers support for Look Around and Indoor maps. If you’re a fan of green travel, you’ll love new cycling and electric vehicle routes.

Other macOS 11 updates and enhancements

This was the biggest macOS news — but there are also many more great tweaks to explore. We encourage you to test the beta to fully experience the new gems. For now, here’s a sneak peek into all macOS 11 updates:

  • AirPods device switching. Instead of linking to the last-connected device, AirPods will now auto-pair with the device that starts playing audio first. Apple also upgrades AirPods Pro with Spatial Audio for a more immersive sound experience.

  • Improved editing in Photos. This includes an enhanced ML-based Retouch tool and a few more tweaks for photo editing.

  • Smarter Siri. With the expanded web knowledge, Big Sur’s Siri will be ready to answer more questions than ever before.

  • HomeKit Secure Video upgrade. Apple adds Face Recognition and Activity Zones support to HomeKit Secure Video cameras.

For a detailed list of macOS 11 features, check out Apple’s Big Sur Preview.

How to get Big Sur macOS download

Ready to give it a try? Let’s dive in. Note that this guide explains how to get a public version of Apple’s latest macOS, so it will only work starting November 12, 2020.

  1. Back up your Mac with Get Backup Pro or Time Machine. This is something you should never ignore when it comes to macOS installations because you want to be sure your data is well-protected

  2. Click on the Apple logo at the top left corner of your screen > About This Mac

  3. In the Overview section, click on Software Update

  4. Once the macOS 11 update is available, click on the Update Now button and wait for the installation to complete.

Get an app that makes macOS updates safe

Create automatic backups of your data with Get Backup Pro — avoid data loss and other nonsense while installing macOS Big Sur.

Make sure you have enough space on your Mac for the new macOS. Normally, it requires about 15GB of free space. So if you have any problems installing Big Sur, storage space is the first thing to check. Since Macs accumulate lots of system files, duplicates, and other clutter, we recommend cleaning up storage with CleanMyMac X regularly — and particularly before you install software updates. This app will run a quick scan on your computer and remove all the unneeded stuff, magically. ;

Big Sur macOS compatibility

Whether you’re willing to wait for the public release or want to try macOS Big Sur beta right away, make sure your Mac can take it. Here’s the full list of compatible devices:

  • MacBook (2015 or later)

  • MacBook Air (2013 or later)

  • MacBook Pro (2013 or later)

  • Mac Pro (2013 or later)

  • Mac Mini (2014 or later)

  • iMac (2014 or later)

  • iMac Pro (2017 or later).

macOS 11 release date

If you have a compatible device, you’ll be able to download and install a public version of macOS 11 Big Sur starting November 12. In their “One More Thing” event, Apple also announced the release of the long-awaited ARM-based Macs (MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini). You can pre-order them on Apple’s website. The shipping will start on November 17. So if you want a brand-new macOS on a brand-new Mac, you know what to do.

Download Big Sur macOS wallpaper

Big Sur will include four static and two dynamic wallpapers. If you can’t wait to refresh your desktop and make it all trendy with the macOS 11 backgrounds, you can download them here.

You might also want to pick a few beautiful wallpapers to customize your Safari start page, or just in case you want something unique for your desktop. In that case, check out Wallpaper Wizard. It’s a Mac app with a curated 25k+ collection of desktop wallpapers in HD quality. Basically, a gold mine for those who take their Mac background seriously.

So that’s about it regarding the latest version of macOS. Whether you’re going to test the beta or wait until Big Sur is publicly available, we recommend getting your Mac ready. Like any other macOS, Big Sur 11 requires a good deal of storage space. Plus, you’ll want to create a data backup before running any installations.

Setapp has Get Backup Pro for data protection, along with other great utilities like CleanMyMac X and Disk Drill. So it’s essentially a one-stop toolkit that will do all the Mac housekeeping to prepare for Big Sur. With a 7-day free trial, it’s worth checking out.

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To get the latest features and maintain the security, stability, compatibility, and performance of your Mac, it's important to keep your software up to date. Apple recommends that you always use the latest macOS that is compatible with your Mac.

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Learn how to upgrade to macOS Big Sur, the latest version of macOS.

Check compatibility

If a macOS installer can't be used on your Mac, the installer will let you know. For example, it might say that your Mac doesn't have enough free storage space for the installation, or that the installer is too old to be opened on this version of macOS.

If you want to check compatibility before downloading the installer, learn about the minimum requirements for macOS Catalina, Mojave, High Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, or Yosemite. You can also check compatible operating systems on the product-ID page for MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, MacBook, iMac, Mac mini, or Mac Pro.

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Make a backup

Before installing, it’s a good idea to back up your Mac. Time Machine makes it simple, and other backup methods are also available. Learn how to back up your Mac.

Download macOS

It takes time to download and install macOS, so make sure that you're plugged into AC power and have a reliable internet connection.

These installers from the App Store open automatically after you download them:

  • macOS Catalina 10.15 can upgrade Mojave, High Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks
  • macOS Mojave 10.14 can upgrade High Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks, Mountain Lion
  • macOS High Sierra 10.13 can upgrade Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks, Mountain Lion, Lion

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Your web browser downloads the following older installers as a disk image named InstallOS.dmg or InstallMacOSX.dmg. Open the disk image, then open the .pkg installer inside the disk image. It installs an app named Install [Version Name]. Open that app from your Applications folder to begin installing the operating system.

  • macOS Sierra 10.12 can upgrade El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks, Mountain Lion, or Lion
  • OS X El Capitan 10.11 can upgrade Yosemite, Mavericks, Mountain Lion, Lion, or Snow Leopard
  • OS X Yosemite 10.10can upgrade Mavericks, Mountain Lion, Lion, or Snow Leopard

Install macOS

Follow the onscreen instructions in the installer. It might be easiest to begin installation in the evening so that it can complete overnight, if needed.

If the installer asks for permission to install a helper tool, enter the administrator name and password that you use to log in to your Mac, then click Add Helper.

Please allow installation to complete without putting your Mac to sleep or closing its lid. Your Mac might restart, show a progress bar, or show a blank screen several times as it installs both macOS and related updates to your Mac firmware.

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You might also be able to use use macOS Recovery to reinstall the macOS you're using now, upgrade to the latest compatible macOS, or install the macOS that came with your Mac.