Apple releases macOS Big Sur 11.5.2 to the public

Apple has released macOS Big Sur 11.5.2 with bug fixes.

The new macOS update will automatically download and install for users who have that option enabled. Users can also navigate to System Preferences to initiate the update manually.

Like the macOS 11.5.1 update in July, this update has arrived without a beta period for testing. Apple only lists bug fixes in the update description.

At this time, it is unclear exactly what the new build offers, outside a maintenance and compatibility release. Given that macOS 11.5.1 was a maintenance release, and that macOS Monterey is currently being beta-tested, it seems unlikely that there will be major changes in the build.

Documentation Spotlight: Design great app icons for macOS Big Sur – Discover

Orange and pink illustration of abstracted finder windows

A unique, memorable icon can help people recognize your Mac app at a glance on the desktop, in Finder, and in the Dock. Polished, expressive icons can also hint at an app’s personality and even its overall level of quality.

Icons in macOS Big Sur share a common set of visual attributes, including the rounded-rectangle shape, front-facing perspective, level position, and uniform drop shadow. Discover how you can update your app icon to look great on macOS Big Sur with these guidelines and templates from the Apple Design Resources.

Learn more about designing app icons for macOS

Explore Apple Design Resources for macOS

Updated macOS Big Sur installer resolves installation bug

Apple on Monday released an updated macOS Big Sur 11.2.1 installer that properly checks for free disk space to prevent errors during the installation process.

The revision patches a critical bug in previous macOS Big Sur installers that could result in installation failure and data loss.

On Monday, Apple issued a new installer that properly checks for available disk space. If it detects that there isn’t enough, it will halt the installation process and let users know how much additional space is needed. That’s according to Mr. Macintosh, which first discovered the installation bug.

The bug reportedly impacted past versions of the macOS Big Sur installer, and appears to date back to the first shipping versions of macOS Big Sur that launched in November 2020.

Because past installers failed to check for available disk space, they’d continue to run through the installation process until all available storage was exhausted. That resulted in an install loop, and possible data loss.

Macs required at least 35.5GB of free space to upgrade to macOS Big Sur, not including the 13GB installer itself.

According to Mr. Macintosh, users have been complaining about the issue since November 2020. Although there were some data recovery methods available to affected users, most had to fully erase and reinstall macOS on their machines.

The publication also appears to be the first to have alerted Apple to the issue.

macOS Big Sur upgrade can lead to data loss without ample storage

An issue with Apple’s macOS Big Sur installer allows users to upgrade from an earlier operating system without first verifying that the target Mac has enough free hard drive space, resulting in installation failure and data loss.

The problem is present in currently shipping Big Sur installers and appears to date back to the first macOS 11 builds launched in November, reports Mr. Macintosh. Interestingly, subsequent point releases and delta updates are unaffected by the bug.

Apple’s installers fail to check system hard drive space on initiation and continue to run through the installation process until all storage is exhausted. The resulting failure can lead to an install loop, purgatory in Boot Recovery Assistant with a pop-up reading, “An error occurred preparing the software update,” or display of Big Sur’s Recovery startup screen that shows no startup disk available.

Macs require at least 35.5GB of free space — not including the 13GB installer — to upgrade to Big Sur.

According to the publication, any Mac that is compatible with macOS Big Sur or has downloaded the macOS Big Sur upgrade is vulnerable to the flaw. Testing has confirmed the issue exists in both macOS Big Sur 11.2 and 11.3 beta versions, and is possibly present in macOS Big Sur 11.1.

A failed installation might be the least of a potential upgrader’s worries, however, as Macs with a T2 security chip can suffer data loss when FileVault 2 encryption is activated. As detailed by Mr. Macintosh, users are unable to use their Mac’s admin password to initiate the recovery process. Further, attempting to reset the password using Personal Recovery Key or AppleID fails, while Target Disk Mode is rendered unusable on Catalina and Big Sur. Passwords do work in TDM on macOS Mojave and High Sierra, the report says.

Data recovery is possible using a system backup and a second Mac, though the process is complicated when FileVault is enabled. Macs that did not have FileVault enabled prior to upgrade can free up space for a new install through a bit of quick file management in Terminal or transferring data to a second Mac via TDM.

Alternatively, users who do not need to recover data from an affected Mac can simply erase the drive and reinstall macOS. Newer Macs with T2 chips require users to go through an “Erase Mac” step, according to the report.

Mr. Macintosh alerted Apple to the issue, and others have complained of identical problems on Apple’s Support Forums, but the company has yet to respond.

How to make the most of notifications in macOS Big Sur

The new-style Notification Center in macOS Big Sur come with many hidden options that make using your Mac quicker, and more convenient.

Next time you open Notification Center on your Mac, ignore all the useful widgets. Even though they are the most visibly improved part, there’s a reason the feature is called Notification Center.

You still get the regular notifications that you’ve always had of new mail messages, or alerts from other apps, and so on. But macOS Big Sur has introduced new, extra options to most notifications. You just have to find them.

Gaining and losing functionality in Big Sur

Not all of these Big Sur notifications improvements are great, though. Previously in macOS Catalina, if you got a notification of a new mail message, you could click a button to delete it. So with a glance, you’d see what it was, and if you decided you didn’t want it, the delete button was right there.

Since macOS Big Sur came out, you instead get a button marked Options. It isn’t truly a button, either, as it’s really a drop down menu that you have to select before you can find the option to delete the message.

However, most of the time, the new features let you rapidly get more information, make decisions, and alter notifications if you’re starting to get weary of them all.

What you can do with a single notification

  1. Open Notification Center
  2. Scroll to any one notification and hover your mouse over it
  3. You will get an X icon to delete that notification
  4. Click on the notification instead and you’ll see either the new Options drop down, or a Show button

Opening Notification Center isn’t always as obvious as it seems. You know that it’s a swipe gesture from the side, but it isn’t from the side of the screen. It’s not that you have to move the cursor to the right hand side and then swipe in.

Rather, it’s a two-finger swipe from the right edge of your trackpad. It used to be that there was an ellipses icon of three dots in the top right of the menubar and you could click on that.

This has now been removed in macOS Big Sur, but it is still possible to click to open Notification Center. It’s just that now you have to click on the date and time in the menubar instead.

At least the three dots were a clue. We’re used to menu items ending in an ellipses if that item opens a dialog box for more options. Good luck glancing at the menubar’s date and time and figuring that’s also where you open Notification Center.

Using the Options menu and Show button in a notification

Whether you get shown the Options menu or a Show button, depends on the type of notification you’ve been sent. Then the options that are presented to you depend on the application that has sent the notification.

L-R: a notification, then notification with options dropdown, lastly a typical list of these options

L-R: a notification, then notification with options dropdown, lastly a typical list of these options

Oddly, the Show button does not always show you anything at all. Developers have to choose what happens when you click on that button, and some either don’t, or just haven’t yet.

At the moment, that seems to happen when the notification is an error message. You would hope that the Show button would take you to more details about the specific error, but quite typically it doesn’t even open the notifying app.

The Options dropdown menu, on the other hand, does always give you choices that it then does something about.

If the notification is from any kind of messaging service, you can be sure that there will be a Reply button, for instance. A To Do app like OmniFocus may notify you of a task that’s due, and if it does, the Options will include your being able to say you’ve completed it.

Developers get a wide range of possibilities for this Options menu, but so far it seems that it’s really only Apple who has exploited it. The Mail app puts Reply, Mark as Read, and Delete in this drop down.

That’s only three options, but then Mail gives you many more through another button that other apps have yet to exploit. Once you click on the notification and the Options button appears, so does a forward-arrow icon at top right.

Click on that and Mail will first expand the preview of the new message. Then it will show you the entire message.

It’s presented in the same width as the notification, you are still in Notification Center instead of launching the Mail app. It’s very much like having your iPhone’s version of Mail up in the corner of your Mac.

Mail lets you read the full message, including font changes, and now presents the Reply, Mark as Read, and Delete options as buttons at the bottom of its window.

That’s still not quite all, however. There can be — and Apple expects developers to provide this — yet more options to do with notifications from this app. Apple describes this as being where you can change an app’s notifications settings.

How to change settings from within a notification

When you click on a notification and you see the forward-facing arrow, you click on that arrow. And then you may or may not get an ellipses More button.

L-R click the arrow to first see a larger preview, then in-line Mail message, lastly notification options

L-R click the arrow to first see a larger preview, then in-line Mail message, lastly notification options

If you get it, that button appears to the left of the forward-facing arrow. So you click to go forward, and the new option appears behind you.

Clicking it gives you quick access to the same notification settings you can get through System Preferences. There are always options to Deliver Quietly, Deliver Prominently, Turn Off, or go to Notification Preferences.

If you choose Deliver Quietly, then you’ll get notifications, but solely in Notification Center. You won’t hear a bleep and you won’t see a notification on screen, you will have to choose to go into Notification Center to see if there are any notifications.

Deliver Prominently is the opposite, and Turn Off is the one that gives you quick relief when you’ve been hounded by message after message.

One thing you can’t do here is pause notifications. To do that, you need to either click on Notification Preferences and do it in there, or separately turn on Do Not Disturb.

How to handle multiple notifications

All of this also applies when you’ve received two, ten or many notifications from an app. When you open Notification Center, you see the latest notification, and it has whichever of these controls the app developer has decided.

It also has an stack-like image where this notification appears to sit above and slightly in front of other ones. Now when you click on the one notification, the stack springs out and you see all of them.

You also get a new button called Show Less, which is how you collapse the stack back to just one. Plus there is now a large X icon, which usually means Close, but here turns to a Clear All button.

Notification Center is a boon

It might be inconsistent. It might be impossible to guess how you can do certain things unless someone tells you.

But overall, macOS Big Sur has turned the Notification Center into an active, useful tool that will speed up how you use your Mac. And that’s not even counting all the new widgets that have been introduced to it.

The best of WWDC 2020 — Apple Silicon, iOS 14, macOS Big Sur and more

Apple’s fast-paced keynote raced through the features coming to macOS, iOS, and more, but it wasn’t even close to being complete. Here are highlights from the start to the finish of WWDC 2020.

Apple’s WWDC 2020 keynote video was an especially well-made production that roared through myriad software updates, as well launching the entire move to Apple Silicon. If you want to know what Apple is bringing to us, you would do well to start with that video — but it was far from complete.

Even if only because of time constraints, it couldn’t be. But there was also the issue that the moment news broke of software and the new Apple Silicon, there were questions Apple hadn’t answered.

As soon as those software updates were available for developers to try, there were issues that Apple may not even have thought of. Plus we already know of bugs and feature change requests that developers are filing, which Apple has subsequently spoken about.

So here is a single place that you — and we — can have to find out about the latest on every single thing that Apple is releasing after WWDC. It will be continually updated, and it already links to the in-depth AppleInsider tips, editorials, hands-on reviews, and videos.

Apple Silicon

Twenty presenters, more than a dozen locations around Apple Park, countless updates, and a couple of jokes. It was a memorable WWDC and all 108 minutes of it are available to watch on YouTube.

However, it’s going to be the last half hour or so that gets studied the most. That’s where Tim Cook introduced the transition to Apple Silicon.

We learned about the reasons for the move, we learned about the timescale, and we got news of when we can expect to see the first Apple Silicon Macs.

What we didn’t get then was a claim that it was Intel’s botched Skylake processor that finally prompted Apple to move to its own processors. And it’s also only since the keynote that we’ve learned facts such as how the familiar startup key combinations won’t make the transition.

Nor was there much about the Developer Transition Kit at first. After the keynote, Federighi cautioned that people shouldn’t read too much into that DTK, that it wasn’t anything like what a future consumer product would be.

“It’s not a basis on which to judge future Macs, of course, but it gives you a sense of what our silicon team can do when they’re not even trying,” he said. “And they’re going to be trying.”

Software updates

If it’s this transition that made the loudest news, in another sense there was a far greater volume of information. There can’t be a single element of Apple software that wasn’t touched upon in the keynote, or the subsequent developer sessions.

macOS Big Sur

Watching the keynote when it was first streamed, you could be forgiven for noticing how much time was being spent on iOS, iPadOS, and watchOS. It seemed as if the Mac couldn’t have got a lot of attention, especially not as we were all so sure that there would be an ARM Mac announcement.

Yet if got a shorter slot in the show, that was more because so much of it was about making macOS Big Sur match up with the new iOS 14 features such as updates to Messages and Apple Maps. In terms of a change from previous versions of macOS, it was huge.

Sometimes when you go from one macOS to the next, you initially see very little. It’s over time that you come to appreciate the new features, and it’s when you have to go back to the previous one that you really get how significant they are. Not this time.

This time, the moment macOS Big Sur has been installed, you’re going to know it. The look of everything from the Dock to the menubar to the Finder windows, it’s all be subtly — and sometimes not so subtly — redesigned.

It’s reminiscent of how iOS 7 was a sea change in how the iPhone looked. Then as now, some people love the new look, and others do not.

Some people who dislike it are simply not keen on specific design elements, but others are concerned that this is Apple attempting to make the Mac look more like iOS — and thereby abandon its roots. This is indeed the end of OS X, but it’s far from the end of the Mac.

iOS 14 and iPadOS 14

Despite all of the attention that iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 got in the WWDC keynote, they are both examples of this not-immediate-obvious difference. Except for this time, it’s only your first glance when you won’t pick out the changes.

When you start going into Messages, that’s when you’ll see just how different — and improved — the experience is.

Then if you’ve never swiped to the right to bring up Apple’s small widgets, you might now do it. Once. Swipe into that section, and you can drag widgets out into the home screen or any other page. There are limitations, but once you’ve tried it, this is going to be the distinguishing feature of iOS 14 for you.

That’s not to say that the improvements to Apple Maps aren’t excellent, but you’ll find them when you go to plan a journey, or avoid traffic issues, not every time you pick up the phone.

It’s also not to say that Apple’s annual update to Memoji wasn’t very much welcomed, by whoever uses that stuff.

Right now Apple has to guess what we will all use, and specifically whether Augmented Reality will ever catch on. It’s not as if the rumored “Apple Glass” are the first AR spectacles by a technology company.

However, Apple’s WWDC 2020 developer sessions do continue to make it sound as if we’ll all want to buy “Apple Glass” when it comes out. The latest from this week’s announcements was that ARKit 4 will let software paint virtual artwork mapped onto real-world objects.


Admit it, there may have been more exciting features announced at WWDC, and there were certainly more involved ones, but only one was actually adorable. The forthcoming watchOS 7 will know when you’re washing your hands, and it will prompt you to keep going.

Of course, that’s borne of the coronavirus pandemic, so perhaps adorable isn’t an appropriate word. But it’s the right one. You saw this and you wanted it, and you also thought that only Apple would do it — and do it in quite this way.

More prosaic, but still welcome watchOS features include new fitness ones such as an ability to detect dancing. It can even distinguish between, say, Irish dancing where the upper body is held rigidly still, Argentine tango which is slower, and possibly Dad dancing, which Kevin Lynch gamely demonstrated.

There’s also the long-awaited sleep tracking, although Apple deftly phrased its descriptions to make a virtue of how you’ll need to remember to charge your Apple Watch in the morning. And there is now an easier way to set up complications, or choose Faces, or share them.


Steve Jobs used to refer to Apple TV, the hardware box, as a kind of hobby, and while the company no longer does that, there has to be a limit on what Apple can do with it. Apple TV plays TV.

The company has added Apple Arcade to it, it’s added apps, it’s added Apple TV+, but fundamentally it’s still the same box it’s been for a long time. So of all the predictions about what Apple would unveil, an updated tvOS was an afterthought.

Until Apple unveiled how tvOS was gaining features that make it more useful alongside that other house-bound Apple technology, HomeKit. Now you’ll be able to check out your HomeKit cameras from Apple TV.

What’s more, if someone comes to your door during “Star Trek: Picard,” then the good captain’s face may be interrupted by a less dramatic person, perhaps in a parcel delivery uniform. You can switch a lot of new features off, incidentally.


That delivery person you’ve just chased from your front door until they jumped into their truck and drove off, has hopefully got CarPlay. They work hard, they deserve some new features to get them through their day.


CarPlay is part of iOS 14, and so many of the features in Apple’s new releases are shared across the different platforms. As well as the major ones mentioned, though, there are other niceties such as how Game Center has been updated.

If they were ever seen as just iPhone accessories, AirPods Pro are getting the cross-platform treatment now. As well as the new spacial audio that will improve the sound you hear on the AirPods Pro, you’re now going to more easily hear music on all your devices.

AirPods are already paired to, say, your iPad, if it’s on the same Apple ID as your iPhone. And you can pair them to just about anything, but it does get fiddly — even when it works first time.

Now Apple is saying that as you’re listening to your iPhone, but you then put it down and pick up your iPad, the AirPods Pro will automatically switch to that device. Or back again.

We’ll have to see how well — and how quickly — the feature works. But it is in keeping with how AirPods Pro are so small that you forget you’re wearing them. You. just feel the world is surrounded with music, which is far from a bad thing.

Don’t rush into this

If you’re a developer, or just willing to pay the annual $100 fee to register as one, you could have early, beta versions of macOS Big Sur, iOS 14, iPadOS 14 and more right now. These are all significant enough updates that you want them, too.

But if AppleInsider has installed every beta and is examining them all, there isn’t a single person on staff who has never had problems with beta software. The person next to you can have installed macOS Big Sur without a problem, and something in your MacBook Pro means that it totally fails.

It simply isn’t worth the risk, and most definitely, certainly, positively, it is not worth taking a chance with your main Mac or iOS device.

More than perhaps any other year, this WWDC was like getting a sneak peek of the Christmas and birthday presents you’re going to get later in the year. Enjoy the peek and go back to your current devices — even though iOS 13 and macOS Catalina do suddenly seem very old-fashioned.

APFS changes affect Time Machine in macOS Big Sur, encrypted drives in iOS 14

Apple is increasing its support for APFS on its computing platforms, bringing the ability to use Time Machine with an APFS-formatted disk to macOS Big Sur, while enabling the ability to view external drives using encrypted APFS in iOS and iPadOS 14.

Introduced in 2016, APFS is Apple’s forward-thinking file system that it uses across practically its entire device ecosystem. With the introduction of macOS Big Sur, iOS 14, and iPadOS 14, Apple will be making it even more useful for users, by adding support for APFS in a few new areas.

On macOS Big Sur, Apple is finally bringing the ability to use an APFS-formatted drive with Time Machine, 9to5Mac reports. With macOS Catalina and earlier releases, users were able to back up to an HFS+-formatted disk but not an APFS-formatted version, with macOS offering to reformat the drive to HFS+.

Under Big Sur, users will be able to back up directly to an APFS-formatted drive, eliminating the need to reformat any disks.

Encrypted Drives in iOS 14

For iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, Apple has plugged a hole for external drive support for one specific use case: APFS encrypted drives. While it is currently possible to view external drives in a number of common formats from an iPhone or iPad, it only works for non-encrypted drives, with encrypted drives being unreadable by the mobile devices.

On connecting an encrypted APFS drive to iOS 14 or iPadOS 14, the drive will appear on the updated Sidebar, with a selection of the drive bringing up a password prompt to decrypt it.

The added support for encrypted drives will only work for APFS-formatted drives, which may still be a limiting factor for some users in a multi-platform environment.