How to Install MacOS Big Sur Public Beta

Aug 7, 2020 - 7 Comments

How to install macOS Big Sur public beta

Now that MacOS Big Sur public beta is available to download, some adventurous Mac users may wish to install and try out Big Sur themselves, whether to check out the new user interface, experience the new features, or just to try out the next major releases of macOS before it hits the general public.

If you’re interested in installing macOS Big Sur Public Beta, this tutorial will explain how to do so.

Important reminder: macOS Big Sur Public Beta is not intended for widespread use. Beta system software is notoriously buggy, unreliable, and prone to issues and other problems including app crashes, incompatibilities, and potentially more severe difficulties. Thus running beta system software is really only appropriate for advanced Mac users, and preferably on a secondary Mac that is not a primary workstation.

MacOS Big Sur Public Beta Prerequisites

Installing macOS Big Sur public beta has a few requirements:

  • A MacOS Big Sur compatible Mac
  • An active internet connection to download and install the Big Sur public beta
  • Tolerance for a buggier and less stable operating system experience
  • A complete backup of the Mac and all important data, whether backed up with Time Machine or another method of choice

If you meet those and are comfortable with the idea of running beta software, you can proceed to install the Public Beta onto a supported Mac.

How to Install MacOS Big Sur Public Beta

  1. First, backup the Mac with Time Machine or another backup method, failure to complete a backup may result in permanent data loss
  2. Open a web browser on the Mac, then go to the Apple public beta signup here, logging in with your Apple ID and choosing to enroll the Mac
  3. From the “macOS” section, choose to download the macOS Public Beta Access Utility
  4. Mount the freshly downloaded macOS Public Beta access utility disk image and run the package installer, this will install the macOS Public beta profile
  5. Install the macOS Big Sur beta access profile

  6. Next, from the  Apple menu choose “System Preferences” and then go to “Software Update” to find the macOS Big Sur beta available to download, choose “Download” to start the download
  7. Download macOS Big Sur beta in software update

  8. When the download has completed, an “Install macOS Big Sur Beta” splash screen will appear, you can either immediately install the macOS Big Sur beta, or if you wish to make a bootable MacOS Big Sur USB installer or ISO file you’ll want to quit the installer to do so
  9. installing macOS Big Sur beta

  10. Walk through the installer to get macOS Big Sur Public Beta onto the Mac

Installing macOS Big Sur beta requires a reboot, and when finished the Mac will boot directly into macOS Big Sur public beta.

Updating macOS Big Sur Public Beta

Future updates to macOS Big Sur public beta will arrive from the “Software Update” section of System Preferences, just like any other software update.

Be sure to check periodically for available software updates, as each new beta build will improve upon the prior, fixing bugs, refining features, and addressing problems along the way.

macOS Big Sur beta updates

Reporting Bugs & Offering Feedback for MacOS Big Sur

The “Feedback Assistant” application allows Mac users running macOS Big Sur beta to fill out bug reports and to offer feedback about the operating system, it’s features, and the experience. These bug reports are sent directly to Apple. Beta users are encouraged to provide feedback and bug reports during the beta program.

Feedback Assistant on Mac

Will it be possible to upgrade directly from macOS Big Sur Public Beta to the final version?

Assuming the Big Sur beta is like prior macOS Betas, it should be possible to directly update from the beta to the final version of macOS Big Sur when it’s made available this fall.

Downgrading from macOS Big Sur Beta

Assuming you made a Time Machine backup before proceeding with installation, you’ll be able to easily downgrade from macOS Big Sur back to your prior system software version, if you decide that the beta experience is not for you. Doing so requires formatting the Mac and then restoring from the Time Machine backup.

If you have any particularly noteworthy experiences with macOS Big Sur Public Beta, feel free to share in the comments below!


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Chris says:

    Be extra careful when you install Big Sur Beta. Even when I installed BS Beta on an external ssd volume, the internal Mojave volume’s Disk Utility reported errors on the Mojave drive that DU was unable to fix. They were only fixed by using Disk Utility of a Catalina volume that I booted from.

  2. Ryoichi Morita says:

    I was really looking forward to the Big Sur public beta. But try as I might, it just would not install on my 2018 Mac mini. I would get an error message, “An error occurred installing macOS” at about 2 minutes into the installation process. I download the installer three times thinking it might be corrupt. I tried everything I could think of including resetting NVRAM, resetting SMC, reinstalling Catalina 10.15.6, running hardware diagnostics, rebooting in safe mode, etc. to no avail. It would not even install on my external drive. This is so strange. It makes me wonder if I’m the only one with the installation problem. I’ve sent a feedback to Apple.

    • Paul says:

      Sorry to hear you’re having issues with the installation of Big Sur public beta.

      The “An error occurred installing macOS” error is a frustrating one that is sometimes difficult to troubleshoot, and you have already tried a variety of the recommended tips (SMC reset, NVRAM reset, safe mode, etc). You might want to try a few additional things:

      – Delete and re-download the macOS installer

      – Try installing the update *from* safe mode

      – Disconnect any external drives and devices (keyboard and mouse should be fine)

      – Try creating a new user account and installing the update from there

      – Making a bootable USB install drive and updating from that

      – Make sure the Mac time is set properly (via Date & Time system prefs)

      Sometimes the “An error occurred installing macOS” error happens because of an issue with BridgeOS too, which is the firmware running on top of the T2 security chip on the latest Mac models. You might be able to see that in the Console or System Logs after the Mac displays the error message. Occasionally restoring BridgeOS may help with BridgeOS issues, but the potential to brick a Mac is significant (which requires sending it in to Apple to repair) so only attempt that if you know BridgeOS is the issue, have a full system backup, and don’t mind the potential repercussions if it fails or goes wrong.

      Anyway, if you get it sorted, please share what worked for you to resolve the problem!

    • Paul Marcovici says:

      I have the same problem you are not alone. Please post if you find a fix…

  3. Allen Landau says:

    Big Sur Beta install stuck on final black install screen. Rebooted to recovery, ran Fist Aid then redownloaded Big Sur. Still stuck on final black screen and mouse pointer active. What can I do?

    • Paul says:

      Sometimes the installation can take a while to complete, I would let it sit for a while and see if it finishes on its own. Make sure the Mac has an active internet connection too.

      If you can access the installer log or system console you might also get an idea of what’s going on.

      Of course it is a beta, so there could be other issues, but sometimes simply waiting is sufficient.

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