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My Macbook (just) qualifies as supported for Big Sur and is running Yosemite 10.10.5 (OK, I'm a little slack with upgrading). I have completed a full backup to external drive.

The doc says:

Upgrading from macOS Catalina 10.15 or Mojave 10.14? Go to Software Update in System Preferences to find macOS Big Sur. Click Upgrade Now and follow the onscreen instructions.

Upgrading from an older version of macOS? If you’re running any release from macOS 10.13 to 10.9, you can upgrade to macOS Big Sur from the App Store. If you’re running Mountain Lion 10.8, you will need to upgrade to El Capitan 10.11 first.

Should I upgrade to Catalina (the last 10.x) first, then Big Sur (11.x) or just go straight to Big Sur?

Is there less risk of screwing up my Macbook going via Catalina, or is the risk the same?

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    The answer used to be to first upgrade to High Sierra. The reason was High Sierra included the firmware upgrade to allow a Mac to boot from APFS volumes. Also, if your Mac boots from a SSD, then the upgrade would convert the boot volume to APFS. Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 5:38
  • @DavidAnderson is that still the advised path? If not, what changed?
    – Bohemian
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 5:39
  • Whatever route you take, the FIRST step is a thorough BACKUP.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 8:32
  • @solar a thorough backup? Is there another kind?
    – Bohemian
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 17:00
  • Sure, back up only your docs, then find out you need the (now no longer available version ) of a particular application...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 17:02

2 Answers 2

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The answer used to be to first upgrade to High Sierra. The reason was High Sierra included the firmware upgrade to allow a Mac to boot from APFS volumes. Also, if your Mac boots from a SSD, then the upgrade would convert the boot volume to APFS.

I can refer to this previous question: Updating to macOS Catalina gets stuck, when trying to update from OS X Mavericks. The jump to Catalina was to far, yet the current macOS Catalina - Technical Specifications state upgrading is possible from "OS X 10.9 or later".

You have Yosemite and want Big Sur. The jump is the same distance. Other than that, I do not know for sure. IMO, upgrading to High Sierra first, would be safer.

You ask what changed. Well Big Sur had not be released when the question I linked to was posted.

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    Thanks for your answer. I called apple support and they said going straight to big sur is OK. I'm going to roll the dice and go big sur. I'll post if it worked or not (there may be further questions following shortly about how to restore a shredded install...)
    – Bohemian
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 7:03
  • @Bohemian: Would be interesting if you have been successful. What hardware specs do you have and how do you know your MacBook qualifies for Big Sur?
    – stephanmg
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 13:09
  • I haven’t done it yet. Will definitely post if success or not.
    – Bohemian
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 17:20
  • @stephanmg See my answer
    – Bohemian
    Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 23:56
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I successfully upgraded from Yosemite to Big Sur!

I contacted Apple support to confirm which OS my hardware could be upgraded to and they said Big Sur.

My specs:

MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015)
1.2 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core M

The process took a couple of hours. After about an hour, it hung on a black screen with an active mouse pointer, which I manually rebooted and the process automatically continued. There was about an hour of automated setup after logging in again, which completed the upgrade.

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  • I would caution other users that "when hug on a black screen" usually means the firmware is being updated. One should be patient and wait for the computer to finish. It is also possible that the computer really was hung. IMO, this would indicate Bohemian actually failed to successfully upgrade from Yosemite to Big Sur and probably should proceeded by first upgrading to High Sierra (as suggested in my answer. Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 3:04
  • @DavidAnderson My mac is now upgraded, including a further minor update to the latest version of Big Sur after the move from Yosemite, and works perfectly. How can this possibly be anything other than successful upgrade to Big Sur? If it "failed", would my OS not still be Yosemite (which it is not)?
    – Bohemian
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 0:03
  • There is no way I can determine why you needed to manually reboot. I have no way of knowing if you succeeded. I have no way of knowing if first installing High Sierra would have resulted in not having to manually reboot. Therefore, I only offered opinions and suggestions. You have over 406k reputation on stack overflow and you are a moderator. So if you think I was wrong to post my comment, then let me know and I will delete it. Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 0:50

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