macOS Big Sur is freezing older MacBook Pros — what to do

macOS Big Sur
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

If you’re a MacBook Pro owner from 2013, you may have noticed the black screen of death while installing the latest macOS Big Sur update. Well, you’re not alone.

The black screen issue seems to be most common with 13-inch models from 2013 and 2014, per a report by MacRumors. Author Hartley Charlton saw complaints pop up on Reddit, forums, and Apple’s support site. Problems are not limited to 2013 and 2014 models however, and do include Apple’s latest machines.

Weirdly, the common set of troubleshooting fixes, like launching in safe mode, resetting NVRAM, SMC reset, or internet recovery does not seem to be working. 

At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a fix. According to a commenter on Reddit, Apple support suggested scheduling a repair with a technician. And according to an Apple Support thread, the issue has been escalated to the Apple engineering team, meaning that higher ups at the Cupertino-based company are aware of the problem. 

Users on Reddit are discussing a host of other issues, such as the loss of network connectivity on a 2018 model and external monitor flickering. User Booty_Pincher, who owns a 2020 iMac, is also running into the blank black screen problem.

Another user was able to get past the black screen of death by restarting multiple times in safe mode until it eventually worked. The user made a backup on Time Machine immediately. Another user also restarted multiple times until it did install only for their machine to get stuck on a black screen later on.

Big Sur is a massive update and brings with it a slew of improvements, including a revamped design, a greatly improved Safari browser, control center and widgets, Outlook, and security upgrades.

Given the hype around Big Sur, it’s led to a huge increase in downloads from users, slowing Apple’s servers. And given that newer Macs now verify apps each time with Apple’s servers as a malware security check, it’s only adding to the slowdown. Some users have been unable to instal Big Sur altogether, with computers showing installation errors. 

If you own a late 2013 to mid 2014 13-inch MacBook Pro, it’s probably best to hold off on updating to macOS Big Sur for now. And honestly, given the wide range of issues users are reporting across many models, it might be best to not upgrade any device until Apple issues an update.

Imad Khan

Imad is currently Senior Google and Internet Culture reporter for CNET, but until recently was News Editor at Tom's Guide. Hailing from Texas, Imad started his journalism career in 2013 and has amassed bylines with the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN, Wired and Men's Health Magazine, among others. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.