I tried to install some updates on my Macbook Air. I received a notification asking if I wanted to restart the Macbook to install the updates, I accepted and restarted. When booting, the Apple logo appears, the progress bar starts loading but then stops at some point showing the message:

A software update is required to use this startup disk. You can update now or select another startup disk.

I select the Update button, at which point the progress bar starts loading again, but it interrupts almost immediately showing the message:

An error occurred installing the update. Try again or select another startup disk.

I select the Try Again button, but the same message shows again. I then select Startup disk, and I am asked to Select the system you want to use to start up your computer. The list, however, is empty! At this point I don't know what to do, there are basically no options or buttons that I can press.

If I select the Startup disk button first, instead of the Update button, I get the same empty list of Startup disks to choose from.

Any idea what can have gone wrong and how to fix it?


4 Answers 4


The generic advice when a Mac can't start is to boot to recovery HD (internet, local or external as is most convenient for you) and run Disk Utility to check for connection, decide to make a backup of critical files if needed, then attempt a First Aid - repair pass.

Assuming the First Aid works, you should be able to boot again or reinstall the OS from recovery. If not, you need to seek hardware repair, data recovery or try an erase install.

The reinstall instructions below get you to Disk Utility so you can look there and proceed.


I solved it with this video while having the same problem. I hope it will be useful to you too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdDFAlgWqTE

  • Welcome to Ask Different. Thanks for the link. If you can write out the steps, that will help many people know if the video is correct for them. Or better, help if the video ever is taken down or moves.
    – bmike
    Apr 25, 2022 at 22:12

I faced this problem yesterday (and I solved it), here's the context:

TLDR; On the "Startup Disk Selection Screen" (that appears after holding Option), connect a wifi network (search yours on the dropdown list), doing this, when the "it is necessary to make an update" screen appears and you select to do it, the computer will download the updates, make the update and you will be able to proceed with the installation without any problems (after it shuts down itself by the update)

Full Context: I wanted to have 2 different MacOS versions on my computer, so I created a Bootable USB with BigSur Installer (did all of this on my Catalina OS), I also partitioned my HD to install the other MacOS version of the mac but this is not relevant.

So after creating this booable USB, I restarted my PC and holded the "Option" Key so I could see my bootable USB in there. I tried to install my new MacOS BigSur but I faced this same message "A software update is required to use this startup disk" and I couldn't update even choosing this option, I was stuck on the "try again screen", so what I did to solve it is on the "TLDR" section above.

Hope it helps someone!


I had the same issue. I posted a solution here:


  • Answers should be more than just link (which require people to jump off-site, which may break anytime rendering the answer worthless, and whose content doesn't show up in search). Please summarize the solution directly in your answer.
    – nohillside
    Mar 14, 2022 at 10:41

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