Apple’s new macOS Catalina introduces many new features such as the re-designed Reminders App, the new Music and Podcasts app along with the new Apple TV app. Apple has also provided enhancements to existing popular apps such as Mail via the new Block sender and Mute thread functionalities. Here is a detailed troubleshooting guide to help you with fixing common macOS Catalina install / update errors.
- How to sync music and videos in macOS Catalina
- How to create a macOS Catalina USB installer
- Where is Home Sharing feature on macOS Catalina
- Mail not working in macOS Catalina, How-to fix
- App Store not working in macOS Catalina, How-To Fix
Check macOS Catalina Compatibility
macOS Catalina is available on 2012 and later models on the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac and Mac mini. MacBook models that are 2015 or later will also be able to update to macOS Catalina. Here are the Mac models on which you can install macOS Catalina.
Checklist of 10 items before you install macOS Catalina
Before you install macOS Catalina on your Apple Mac, it may be worth spending some time to browse through the checklist of items shown below. Items 1, 6, 7 and 10 are essential for troubleshooting install related problems.
- Backup your MacBook and make sure your iTunes media library is backed up
- Check for 32 bit apps (You will not be able to use them on macOS Catalina)
- Remove any old ‘Install macOS..’ type files from Applications folder
- Remove external drives and other accessories from MacBook when trying to install
- Plug your MacBook into charging
- De-activate VPN before downloading the update
- Run Disk Utility / First Aid to prevent issues later. Make sure you have adequate free space.
- Make sure you had strong Wi-Fi network
- Create a macOS Install USB drive just in case
- Remove Third party ‘kext’ files. Some of these are known to cause issues
Now that we have covered the basics, lets look through the common installation errors and how to fix them.
Error downloading macOS Catalina
Downloading macOS Catalina is the first step of the process. Depending upon your Mac’s settings, this may already have been downloaded and available (if you use Automatic updates).
Starting with macOS Mojave, Apple has made changes to how you access macOS on your machine. Instead of downloading it from the app store, you can click on > System Preferences > Software Update in order to download the update.
If your macOS Catalina download is taking time or stuck, you may want to do the following:
- Check Apple Server status and make sure macOS Software update is ‘green’
- Make sure your Wi-Fi is strong or use a wired internet connection
- Cancel the download if it is stuck for a long time by clicking on the ‘X’ next to the ‘downloading new updates….’ message
- Switch your DNS to 188.8.131.52 and retry downloading the macOS Catalina
Sometimes it can take a few attempts especially during the early days when the software is released in order to download the operating system.
Error occurred preparing the installation of macOS Catalina
Once macOS Catalina is downloaded, the system prepares it for installation. In a few rare instances, some users may see the error message ‘Error occurred preparing the installation. Try running the application again”.
You may also run into messages such as :
“This copy of the Install application can’t be verified. It may have been corrupted or tampered with during downloading” error, or a “This copy of the Install application can’t be verified. It may have been corrupted or tampered with during downloading” message, or a very general error such as “An error occurred while preparing the installation. Try running again” error message.
If you happen to encounter these error messages during the install process, the easiest thing is to reboot your Mac and try installing again. Few retries usually takes care of this problem.
If the error messages are persistent and you have attempted to reboot several times. here are a couple of tricks that have worked for us in the past and we suggest you try them till the issue is resolved.
Change System Date and Time on your Mac
- Click on > System Preferences > Date & Time
- Set ‘Set Date and Time Automatically’ to ON.
- If its already checked, Uncheck it and then restart your MacBook
- Go back to Date& Time Settings and check it
- Now try installing macOS Catalina
The steps above require that you are connected to internet.
Delete old copy of macOS Catalina and re-install
If the system date/time trick above did not solve your problem, you may have to delete the downloaded macOS Catalina software from your Applications folder.
Locate the install software in your applications folder and move it to trash. After moving the file to trash, empty trash and restart your MacBook.
Once your MacBook restarts, go into > System Preferences > Software Update and try downloading and running the install process again.
You will have to follow this same process if you see errors such as ‘An error occurred validating the installer’. Delete the macOS install software from Applications folder and re-download and install.
Remove installinfo.plist and try again to fix stubborn install problems
We have seen this issue on macOS Mojave and High Sierra where attempting to install shows the error ‘Copy of install macOS application is damaged and cant be used to install macOS’. The workaround for this issue is to delete the installinfo.plist from inside the installer app and then try re-installing.
- Go to your application folder
- Find the installer for macOS Catalina
- Right click on the installer and click ‘Show Package Contents’
- Click on folder named ‘Contents’
- Click on the folder named ‘SharedSupport’
- Delete the file named ‘Installlnfo.plist
- Enter your administer password to confirm
- Now open the installer and run it
macOS Catalina Could not be installed, How to fix
macOS Catalina Update Stuck at Setting up screen?
Some users find that the update process gets stuck. Is it stuck with ‘Setting up your Mac Screen’? The other place the update can appear to be stuck is in the ‘Find My’ app.
If for some reason the update is stuck and you are encountering a spinning wheel, the best option is to restart your MacBook. Press the Power button on your Mac to switch off and then restart your machine.
This tip should work for any user whose MacBook is stuck on the setting up screen for hours while trying to update to macOS Catalina.
Storage Space Related Errors installing macOS Catalina
There are times when the macOS installation does not proceed as smoothly as one would like. Sometimes users encounter error messages such as ‘macOS Could not be installed, the target disk is too small’.
Sometimes, the install process will explicitly show you the message “ There is not enough free space on the selected volume..’
Errors such as this usually happen when there is not enough storage space on your MacBook. if you have not optimized your storage before updating to macOS Catalina, this might be the time to free up some storage. Its best to have at least 18.5 – 20GB free space when attempting to install macOS Catalina.
Apple has published a detail white paper that shows you how you can free storage space on your Mac. Use this Apple’s guide and free up storage on your Mac and then retry.
Network Access error while installing macOS Catalina
Another error that shows up when trying to install macOS Catalina is associated with network/internet access. This error shows up with the error message ‘Code = 551’. Please check your network settings on your Mac.
This is an error that primarily affects users who are behind a firewall or third party security software etc. You may want to disable such software and try and re-install macOS Catalina.
Perform SMC Reset for generic error occurred message and retry
If you see a generic error message such as ‘an error occurred installing macOS’ follow the steps below:
- Shut down and restart your MacBook
- Perform a SMC reset of your MacBook
- Try re-installing macOS Catalina after SMC is complete
The SMC reset before updating actually helps fix many macOS install related issues.
macOS Catalina Install doesn’t complete
Is your macOS Catalina installation stuck with ‘ X minutes remaining’ message for ever? It doesn’t proceed further on that screen.
If your macOS Catalina install fails at the last step every time ( Shows x minutes remaining and then displays the error message). Clicking on the ‘OK’ on the error message takes you out of the install process, you may want to check your console logs. (var/log directory).
There is a chance that your user account is corrupted and it is preventing the install from completing.
One way to work around this would be to create a new admin account on your MacBook, install macOS Catalina using the new admin account and once installation is complete, you can log out of the new admin account. Log in via your old admin account later and delete the newly created admin account.
Mac doesn’t start after macOS Catalina installation
Some users report no issues with downloading and installing the macOS Catalina but their Mac hangs with the spinning icon when trying to startup following the update.
Other issue that is often reported is that the boot sequence starts correctly and then shows a progress bar. The progress bar gets stuck at 90% or so and it doesn’t move beyond that.
Other users report getting stuck with a black screen and Apple Logo for hours.
Typically this means that there is a third party kext file that is causing issues.
One quick way to confirm and address this is to move all third party kext files out of your /Library/Extensions folder and then try booting up your Mac.
In order to do this, Reboot your Mac into Safe Mode ( Press and hold down the ‘Shift’ key when restarting your Mac until you see the Apple Logo. Release the Shift key when you see the login screen).
Once you are in Safe mode, open up Terminal from your Utilities and type in the following command:
mkdir ~/Extensions-Backup && sudo mv /Library/Extensions/* ~/Extensions-Backup/
Once you have moved the Kext files using the above command, Restart your Mac and check if goes through.
Stuck on iCloud Sign-in loop after Catalina Update?
Several users have been stuck with the iCloud authentication loop after updating their Mac with macOS Catalina.
Here is a tip from Tony Citrano (@acitrano) that has helped several users fix the issue.
Still Having Issues? You may need a fresh Install
If you are still having no luck and you want to start a fresh install, follow the steps below. You can get a more detailed sequence of steps and additional information from Apple’s white paper on macOS Recovery procedure.
- Shutdown the Macbook
- Press Power then PRESS COMMAND and R keys. Hold the keys down till you see the spinning globe screen appear.
- It will boot into macOS Utilities Screen
- Choose Reinstall macOS
- Choose Disk Utility. Erase HDD
- Install OS from here.
You can also explore the following guides:
- How-To Factory Reset MacBook Air and other macs with macOS
- MacBook Will Not Start Up After macOS Update, How-To Fix
- Mac Troubleshooting & Help
Between removing third party kext files and re-installing macOS, we are hoping that you were able to fix macOS Catalina install / update issues. If you still continue to experience issues, you may want to reach out to Apple Support and have them help you out.
Please let us know if you have any questions or comments. Feel free to share any tips or workarounds that helped you deal with install errors for macOS Catalina. We will keep the post updated as we learn more and get your comments.
Obsessed with tech since the early arrival of A/UX on Apple, Sudz (SK) is responsible for the original editorial direction of AppleToolBox. He is based out of Los Angeles, CA.
Sudz specializes in covering all things macOS, having reviewed dozens of OS X and macOS developments over the years.
In a former life, Sudz worked helping Fortune 100 companies with their technology and business transformation aspirations.