MacBook: When software upgrades just don't install

Posted on by Mike Evans

A couple of weeks ago I was celebrating eleven uneventful and satisfying years of Mackery and complimenting Apple on producing a safe, reliable environment that, by and large, helps save us from ourselves (not to mention from those with evil intent). No sooner did I post the eulogy than an unusual problem presented itself. Up to now I have never had the slightest issue with Apple software upgrades and I generally press the button to accept the latest OS or interim updates with reckless abandon. Others, I know, are ultra cautious and never do anything without a complete backup. However, I suppose I can afford to be a bit reckless because I do have a good automatic backup routine in play.

Even a simple little adapter needs a driver and the occasional upgrade. But the latest upgrade just didn't work on our 12in MacBook

Even a simple little adapter needs a driver and the occasional upgrade. But the latest upgrade just didn't work on our 12in MacBook

The first inkling of trouble came with the USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter upgrade for my 12in MacBook. As usual, I agreed to the update and was rewarded with a confident message telling me that the changes had been effectively completed. But they hadn’t. I got the update message again; and again. I must have installed the patch half a dozen times and was becoming frustrated. I could see from the system report (Apple, About this Mac, System Report) that the multi-port adapter driver software was still at version 1.8 instead of the new 2.33. Nothing I could do would get this update to stick.

Take of woe

My tale of woe was related to the relevant discussion at Apple Support and within a few hours a helpful Chris had taken over responsibility. He suggested two courses of action. The first was to reboot the MacBook in safe mode and try to install the software. This I did but the upgrade still didn't stick. Chris's alternative suggestion did produce results, however.

He had me set up a new user account with administrator privileges and then install the software on this account. The theory is that some of the installed applications or settings on my primary account were conflicting with the installation routine. This proved to be the case.

This is the first time I have had a problem of this nature but I was pleased to find that using the new account did indeed work. I now have version 2.33 of the multi-port adapter driver installed.

This tip has wider implications than my rather parochial port driver issue. It is not a bad thing to install system updates on a clean account, such as the one I created, to rule out any conflicts with the inevitably complicated setups that result from day-to-day computing. Your main account on the Mac is constantly being updated and adjusted as you instal new software or, simply, as you do your work. A clean, uncluttered account can be a useful thing to have in reserve.

So, in addition to your main user account, I strongly recommend setting up a new account with full privileges. Let's call it "Administrator" for argument's sake. Let it sit there, don't install any third-party software and don't use it for general work. When you do need it, as I did, it will be a clean slate where you can eliminate conflicts easily.


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