Apple's macOS Big Sur may be bricking older MacBook Pro models

Posted:
in General Discussion
New reports claim that some late 2013 and mid 2014 13-inch MacBook Pro owners are unable to use their machines after upgrading to macOS Big Sur

Apple's late 2013 13-inch MacBook Pro
Apple's late 2013 13-inch MacBook Pro


Some users are reportedly finding that upgrading to macOS Big Sur renders their Macs unworkable. It appears to be specifically the 13-inch MacBook Pro that is affected, and then chiefly the late 2013 and mid 2014 models.

During the upgrade to macOS Big Sur, these machines reportedly get stuck and remain permanently on a black screen. Typical Mac restart solutions, such as using Internet Recovery, or booting up in Safe Mode, do not work or are simply unavailable.

Apple has not yet commented publicly, though one user on the company's support forums said that the issue was being escalated to the engineering teams.

This problem is being reported by multiple users on Apple's support forums, plus more on Reddit. It was originally spotted by MacRumors.

The late 2013 MacBook Pro is among the oldest machines that macOS Big Sur is be compatible with. AppleInsider has not been able to duplicate the reported problem.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    I have a 2019 MacBook Pro that had this happen. It had errored out with a Catalina update before I attempted the Big Sur update. The screen went blank. I tried all the different recovery techniques. The control command power button on and computer is dead. Anyone experience it with a newer model? I have an appointment for Genius Bar that was a week out. 
  • Reply 2 of 16
    I’m running a 2019 iMac with a fusion HD in it. I upgraded to Big Sur over the weekend and while the system still boots, it’s next to useless. Neither Mail, Safari, Pages, Books, APP Store apps will launch. The only app that seems to run is Firefox. After logging in, the desktop takes 2 minutes to show my icons. It took almost 5 minutes to scroll through my application folder. The real kicker is the my bootable external HD is now shown as non bootable even through it had booted this Mac in the past. I’m still trying to figure out what to try next.
    TimA
    prismatics
  • Reply 3 of 16
    mwhitemwhite Posts: 285member
    tima said:
    I’m running a 2019 iMac with a fusion HD in it. I upgraded to Big Sur over the weekend and while the system still boots, it’s next to useless. Neither Mail, Safari, Pages, Books, APP Store apps will launch. The only app that seems to run is Firefox. After logging in, the desktop takes 2 minutes to show my icons. It took almost 5 minutes to scroll through my application folder. The real kicker is the my bootable external HD is now shown as non bootable even through it had booted this Mac in the past. I’m still trying to figure out what to try next.
    TimA

    Here is a few things to try for booting from your external hard drive make sure that your security setting are still off by starting up holding down the command r keys if the settings are turned off then when you try booting with the external hard drive do it 2 times for some reason mine will only boot on the second time before starting up from the internal hard drive.
    I hope this helps
  • Reply 4 of 16
    The Big Surpise keeps surprising us every day.
    razorpit
  • Reply 5 of 16
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,608member
    The macOS updates now often include a firmware update as part of the update process, I suspect this is breaking and would explain why it's specific models. It used to be the case that FW updates were installed manually by holding the Mac's power button, and they were very rare because they were (apparently still are) relatively risky. Many models had none at all.

    It used to be the case you could put a CD in with the EFI (firmware) on, and the Mac would boot from it and self-recover. Obviously that is no longer an option for most people, so newer Macs are supposed to self-recover. But presumably that is what's broken. Let's hope Apple does the Right Thing here and fixes those Macs where the update failed without charge, since it's not the customer's fault whatsoever. I suspect the broken Macs still have the ability to boot silently to an EFI image over USB, so Apple may push a fix that can be installed to a USB memory stick. Of course if Apple didn't obscure the update process under a black screen people would have a better idea of what's going on when it fails.
    edited November 2020 GeorgeBMacAlexanderWright
  • Reply 6 of 16
    It certainly is interesting that the testing process and beta release process doesn't catch these failures. 

    It likely makes sense given only professional beta testers would keep around old machines in some "never been updated" condition to test the process. People whose old machine is their primary machine are simply not going to be a beta tester. 

    These experiences should make us appreciate the work that goes into the space program, which often launches with old technologies because there is in practice no ability to thoroughly test everything unless they're given a decade or more. 
  • Reply 7 of 16
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,308member
    I had a similar problem when I tried to install Big Sur Beta 1 on my Late 2013 MacBook Pro 13" Retina. I had to do a full internet recovery to Catalina and waited until a later beta to give it a second try. A later beta worked fine and all subsequent betas worked fine, as did the release version. The only minor annoyance is that it decided to download all of my Photos to the machine when the release version landed on the machine, which I had not previously downloaded because they consume so much disk space.

    On my Late 2014 Mac Mini HDD-only machine that I converted to Fusion using a third party M.2 NVMe adapter card and 512 GB SSD, I skipped the betas entirely because I was somewhat concerned about the non-standard setup causing a problem. My concerns turned out to be unnecessary, at least after waiting a couple of days for the initial Big Sur kerfuffle to dissipate. No problems with this machine since its conversion to Fusion. I'm still amazed that a sub $20 board and a $100 SSD turned what was a tortuous machine to use into one that is a pleasure to use and very stable. 

    I'm with Elijahg in thinking that the black screen issues that some people are seeing may be due to firmware updates being slipstreamed into the Big Sur installation. I also know from personal experience that macOS upgrades change the designated boot disk on the fly and ignore the settings you've established in the OS or via the previous Option key boot selection. That's the reason I abandoned the workaround of booting my HDD Mac Mini from an external SSD and went the internal Fusion/SSD direction. It made upgrades a royal PIA.  I've also had cases where my Late 2012 iMac would try to boot from a TB attached Time Machine backup drive during upgrades or after invoking PRAM resets. For a while I'd always unplug all external drives before starting any OS upgrades, but with Catalina that problem seems to have been resolved, but I remain wary.

    Big Sur is a much bigger upgrade than we think. It's far more involved than just prettier icons. They made a lot of changes under the hood, especially to bolster security, and to accommodate M1. It's macOS 11 for a reason.  
    edited November 2020 macpluspluselijahg
  • Reply 8 of 16
    I did a successful Big Sur on my Late 2013 15" MacBook Pro. (Integrated GPU only.)
  • Reply 9 of 16
    Wouldn't be a complete surprise. The transition to OS X cost me a Mac Pro hard drive years ago. Totally destroyed.
  • Reply 10 of 16
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,115member
    Yikes. Well my 2016 iMac updated without a hitch, but I’m going to hold off doing my wife’s equipment that she uses for work. The 2018 iMac would likely be ok, but her two-thousand-somewhere-in-the-danger-zone Macbook Pro isn't worth risking. 
    AlexanderWright
  • Reply 11 of 16
    I installed Big Sur betas on my 2018 MacBook Air starting with beta 6 or 7. Aside from the fact that it won’t let me type in the search field of Spark email, it runs pretty well. Having said that, I’ve noted that if I close the lid to put it to sleep, when I grab it the next day, it appears to have shut down rather than sleeping. I have yet to install the audio software I use and try plugging in my audio interface. If not for the fact that I’ve got a new iMac to handle my regular work, I certainly wouldn’t have installed betas. Hoping MOTU gets their stuff in order soon to support Big Sur so that I can install on my main machine. I actually really like the new interface. 
  • Reply 12 of 16
    I updated my 2013 i7 MacBook Air last Friday and haven't had any problems although I made a bootable clone ahead of time before updating as insurance. 

    Since the update I'm plagued by the usual iCloud photos related processes (especially com.apple.photos.VideoConversionService) taxing the system and running up the fan. I had the same issue for several weeks after I upgraded from Mohave to Catalina (which I did early this year). For some reason Photos seems to decide to re-do its library every time there is a major OS update.
  • Reply 13 of 16
    No issues during the upgrade on my 13" MBP 2013, running pretty smoothly


  • Reply 14 of 16
    urashid said:
    No issues during the upgrade on my 13" MBP 2013, running pretty smoothly
    Lucky you!

    Now, if only I was allowed to visit an Apple Service Centre...

  • Reply 15 of 16
    I'm one of the unfortunate ones. Ran the install of Big Sur on my 2019 MBP and when it went to restart, it never made it. Contacted Apple support and ran through some steps to try and reset SMC and NVRAM, and finally the support tech said that I would need to take it in. Just received the estimate today and they are telling me that it's going to cost over $1300. I am beyond pissed and I can't help but think this is related to this update and of course Apple will take no responsibility.
  • Reply 16 of 16
    my 2019 iMac just crashed as well after the Big Sur upgrade. Can see boot devices if I boot holding the option key, but otherwise it goes into Kernel Shock. Can't even boot from external drive with OS installation on it, although it can see it with the option key boot process. Any advice will be welcome, because it seems to be bricked.
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