Home Tech Apple MacBook: When software upgrades just don’t install

MacBook: When software upgrades just don’t install


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
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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  1. You are right Mike. ‘New tech’ very soon becomes ‘old tech’. Only mature technology can be valued over a long term. That is why I restrict my collecting activities to old film cameras.


  2. Dear Mike

    I don’t know why, but your story reminds me of the apocryphal story about a General Motors guy and a Microsoft guy speaking at a conference some years ago. Apparently, the Microsoft guy said that his company was at the forefront of evolving technology unlike the internal combustion engine which had hardly changed in over 100 years (this was pre Tesla and hybrid motors etc). The General Motors guy responded to this by saying " When did your car last breakdown at a traffic light and ask you to reboot?".

    Your article brings out the fact that, in many ways, computers are still ‘infant technology’ rather than ‘mature technology’. Why else would you have to call a help desk to complete what should be a simple task. Hopefully, at some stage in the future Apple will provide an in-built system that will tell you why you cannot download or install new software and suggest what you might do to fix it. One of the main camera brands always provides new firmware with the same file description. My camera refuses to handle updates unless I rename the file. I had to figure this out myself. No brownie points all round.

    To bring the story full circle, on the issue of mature v infant technology, I purchased a new Audi last April with a large amount of in-built technology. Most of this works perfectly, including the Apple Car Play and the touchpad which is frighteningly good at recognising my awful handwriting for SatNav purposes. It is light years ahead of those clunky Garmin or Tom Tom devices which we used some years ago. The one bit that doesn’t work (yet) is the My Audi feature that provides Google Maps and allows directions to be sent from my iMac to the car before I get into it. My dealer says he can get it to work (the car carries its own 4G Sim) but I have not been able to call by yet to get this done. What does worry me though is the amount of other ‘new technology’ in the car. The automatic ‘gear lever’ is, in effect, a switch as is the handbrake control. There is keyless entry (you still have to press a button on a fob) and push button ignition. If the battery in the fob runs down you can remove the key part and enter the car. You then put the fob on a ‘live plate’ which allows you to start the car. This is not well described in the Audi Handbook. I knew all of these things before I bought the car but the ‘new tech’ is mostly very useful and the car is a delight to drive and gives great fuel economy which I can monitor in detail.

    You probably feel that I have gone well off topic here but my concern is that at some stage some of the ‘infant technology’ that makes the car actually go will fail and that I might have to call a ‘help desk’ some day just to get from A to B. Audi offer an Audi Assist Service and I am also a member of the Automobile Association, but the technology might defeat the latter.

    I hope you can see the connection between the two stories. That is the way the world is going nowadays. Two steps forward and one step back.


    • You have a good point. My car also has an electronic gear switch (a lever on the steering column, which I hate because it is so easy to mistake for the direction indicator. In a way it is: Forward and backward, but not something you want to get confused with. Cars are going the way of computers and will have a finite life after which the technology is no longer suitable or supportable. This will have a big effect on secondhand values. Instead of a gentle progression over ten or fifteen years, values will fall off a cliff much sooner. The is especially worrying in the case of expensive cars which tend to have more toys in any case.


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