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Apple Starts Pushing High Sierra on Unsuspecting Mac Users

If you’re running macOS 10.12 Sierra or earlier, and do not want to upgrade to 10.13 High Sierra right now, be careful because Apple has started pushing High Sierra to older Macs and making it easy to upgrade inadvertently. In short, if you get a macOS notification asking you to install High Sierra, click the Details button to launch the App Store app, and then quit it.

Here’s the story.

I realized this was happening because I’m testing Watchman Monitoring, an app and service used by Apple consultants, managed service providers (MSP), and large Mac-using organizations. Watchman Monitoring sits in the background, looking for events of interest on a Mac and notifying the consultant, MSP, or IT admin who’s responsible for keeping that Mac running. I have Watchman keeping an eye on all of our Macs, my parents’ Macs, and my aunt and uncle’s Macs — in other words, the Macs that I’ll have to fix if something goes wrong.

The first hint was an email from Watchman Monitoring telling me that my aunt’s Mac had started downloading the High Sierra installer. I was surprised, since she’s quite capable on her Mac but never undertakes major upgrades without asking me first. I saw that message while on a plane to MacTech Conference, and once I had landed in Los Angeles, I received additional messages from Watchman telling me that my father’s and uncle’s Macs had also downloaded High Sierra. That was too many simultaneous instances to be anything but an automatic push from Apple.

Happily, because I was flying to MacTech, within minutes of arriving at the hotel, I’d run into Watchman Monitoring’s Allen Hancock, who confirmed my suspicion that Apple was pushing out High Sierra updates. Additional details became available while talking to Jason Dettbarn, CEO of device management firm Addigy, since Addigy’s consultant and MSP customers who had used Addigy to block unauthorized macOS upgrades were scrambling to explain what was going on to their users. (At least they weren’t scrambling to deal with a bunch of users inappropriately installing High Sierra!)

What happens is that Apple’s Software Update automatically downloads High Sierra in the background and then presents the notification shown at the top of this article to the user, offering just two choices: Install and Details.

If you don’t want to install, the only way to cancel is to click Details, which launches the App Store app and displays the High Sierra description, and then quit App Store. That’s confusing — Apple should instead present a Cancel button.

You almost certainly don’t want to click Install when that notification appears. Regardless of your opinion of High Sierra, installing it will take quite some time — an hour or more — and you should make sure you have a backup before starting, as per Joe Kissell’s advice in “Take Control of Upgrading to High Sierra.”

This automatic upgrade behavior may be annoying, but it was possible with Sierra as well, although no one I’ve talked to remembers Apple pushing Sierra in the same way. Apple explains it in a support document — it’s tied to the “Download newly available updates in the background” checkbox in System Preferences > App Store. There’s no real harm in deselecting that checkbox — you’ll just have to wait for updates to download when you decide to install. That may be better than using limited bandwidth for an unexpected 5 GB download.

(Do not disable “Install system data and security updates” because that option is essential for protecting your Mac against patched security vulnerabilities (see “Make Sure You’re Getting OS X Security Data,” 30 March 2016).)

Since I’m traveling, it has been difficult to verify certain details. However, TidBITS reader Curtis Wilcox confirmed that the full 5.21 GB Install macOS High Sierra app is downloaded to the Applications folder. If you need the disk space back, you can delete it from there, or later launch it manually when you’re ready to upgrade to High Sierra.

High Sierra has been out for less than two months and has received two updates so far, as detailed in “macOS High Sierra 10.13 Supplemental Update Fixes Early Bugs” (5 October 2017) and “macOS 10.13.1 High Sierra Offers Minor Fixes and More Emoji” (1 November 2017). Both seemed highly targeted, so it seems likely that the next update will address more bugs and may get to the point where more IT admins and consultants recommend upgrading to it.

Apple is clearly trying to move macOS in the direction of iOS, where upgrades are difficult to avoid. However, macOS is a much more complex environment and one that’s usually more important to people’s livelihoods, so we recommend approaching upgrades carefully. Presenting people with a one-click install that offers no chance to back up first and that will take hours of time prioritizes ease of use over doing what’s best for the user, and that’s a dangerous tradeoff.


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Comments about Apple Starts Pushing High Sierra on Unsuspecting Mac Users
(Comments are closed.)

John Robinson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2017-11-15 21:53
Was waiting to install HS, only when APFS would convert my fusion drive as well. Suddenly got an Apple Store announcement last week that HS was "ready for my iMac". Only realized after the install that APFS did not effect the fusion drive as yet, but HS seems to run everything fine on my iMac. It took a day and a half to install and overcome incomplete startups, and freezes at boot, but eventually it settled down and HS seems to run fine now on my fusion drive. Hope one day Apple will convert fusion drives to APFS, is that someone snickering?
Michel Hedley  2017-11-16 04:17
Once it was wise to wait for for the first update before installing but now it is wise to wait a through a few updates as the quality of Apple software now is less than first class. Apple's software engineers seem to be putting most effort into those useless and childish emojis.
Colin Owen  2017-11-16 04:56
I installed it on my lap top...Took over five hours!
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-11-21 05:04
That's probably because your laptop has an SSD. High Sierra automatically converts an SSD to APSF, which, of course, takes more time to implement than an average upgrade. An HDD and a Fusion Drive are not converted automatically and the upgrade will probably complete in a more reasonable length of time. Though you can convert an HDD to the new file system, at the present time it is inadvisable to do so as, counterintuitively, APSF actually slows down operations on a mechanical hard drive substantially. There are a great many changes in how APSF works, as evidenced by the fact that the release version of High Sierra will not, and cannot, convert a Fusion Drive. Obviously Apple has not worked out all the kinks yet, though they no doubt intend to at some point as most of their iMacs come with a Fusion Drive installed by default. Interestingly, even on an SSD APFS works more slowly, though not as dramatically as on an HDD. But SSDs are sufficiently faster than an HDD so that the difference is less significant. Apparently the main reason for this performance hit is the "read-on-write" and snapshot technologies which provide enhanced file security and restore points similar to what Windows has had for a very long time.

Meanwhile, it's a bit much to expect the average user to change the default App Store preferences to avoid automatic updates. Most people trust Apple not to mess up their computers. Which, it turns out, is not necessarily a wise thing to do. Those of us "in the know" (like the regular TidBITS reader) have long known that Apple is not as reliable as they would like us to believe them to be.

Still, early adopters, who really should know better, continue to rush in "where wise men fear to tread." And they continue to provide us with reasons to be conservative. Yet this upgrade procedure from Apple turns many unwitting users into early adopters without their knowledge of consent. To say this is a breach of trust is to put it mildly. I smell a class action lawsuit coming.

It's clear Apple's rushed OS upgrade schedule is once again at fault, as it was with Yosemite's flaws. While High Sierra may not be as bad as Yosemite (we don't yet know that for sure), it's still not ready for prime time. Just as with Yosemite, major new technologies were introduced before they were finished. Apple doesn't seem to even be embarrassed by these problems, much less to repent them. Learning from your mistakes is not a core Apple value.

So, thanks again, Adam, for the warning. Now I'll know what to look for when I start getting complaints about High Sierra's auto upgrade habit. Perhaps I'll send out a warning e-mail to my clients and friends. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Colin Owen  2017-11-24 13:09
I noticed this too on my wife's iMac. I have it on mine and it's not ready for prime time. Shame on Apple. It has serious problems with iTunes which I won't go into here.
mike714  2017-11-16 15:20
Has Apple changed the action associated with the "Install OS X updates" check box? For example, if you have OS X 10.12.3, it will auto download and install update .4 thru .6 and then stop or does it continue on and install High Sierra 10.13. ?

If so, then Apple needs a serious head slap for this. I will setup one of my test Macs to see if this happens and to double check the exact wording of that setting.
While we're "slapping heads" let's save some slaps for Adobe, who made no distinction in the CC menu that "update" can install a new version of their apps rather than an update to existing apps.
Walt French  2017-11-16 18:06
I've held off because Excel for Mac/2011 is said to be incompatible, and Office 365 has what is for me a show-stopper bug. Also because DiskWarrior, which has saved my bacon more than once, has not yet figured how to be compatible.

And I'm the guinea pig for our home.

I'm enthused about the new file system and hope my other vendors get cracking!
FWIW, Excel 2011 seems to work fine for me on HS.
Joy Nanda  2017-11-16 19:43
That's exactly what happened to me, Adam! I was wondering, because Apple usually asks me a bunch of times before I am ready to do something like this, but this time it just sort of...happened. Thank you for confirming that I haven't lost my marbles.
I'm afraid "click here to make this window go away" installing a new operating system is the same kind of obnoxious Apple as the one that says the only way to get rid of update badges in iOS is by installing the update.

That said, even worse is the dialog in iOS when Apple keeps nagging about installing the update every 24 or so hours. All there is - besides install now - is install later and details. Why there's no "cancel and leave me the heck alone" button is entirely beyond me.
andrew linden  2017-11-20 22:25
Dennis B. Swaney  2017-11-20 23:00
macmanic  2017-11-17 00:21
This happened to me on my new MacBook Air with Sierra just a few days ago. I remember clicking on the Details button and viewing the description in App Store and then I quit and thought that was it.

However, in my Applications folder, I now find an icon that says 'Install macOS High Sierra'. Not sure how that happened. Seems to have got downloaded in the background.
yep- fund the same thing today while trying to find out why my system disk ' lost" about 4.5 GB from previous week. I simply removed it and hopefully can wait until I want to install High Sierra maybe in a few months ..
David Morrison  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-11-17 04:42
Steve Jobs described himself as a "product guy" which meant he valued the whole user experience for the product. I cannot help thinking that he would be turning over in his grave over some of Apple's recent tactics :-(
Dennis B. Swaney  2017-11-20 23:02
Tim Cook is more a "profit" guy who doesn't give a fig about "the rest of us"!
We should work on changing that. The uproar over their neglect of the pro desktop market was a good start.

The fact that the iMac Pro is still nowhere to be found and the new Mac Pro right now remains vaporware indicates the pressure need to be put back on until they finally get it and commit.

For the moment let me say this, if Tim screws up the pro Mac and macOS market I vow to never buy another iOS product again. It won't be hard either. Going Windows over Mac would be a huge deal, getting a Nexus instead of an iPhone, not so much.
Matt McCaffrey  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-11-17 07:15
For what it's worth, Adam, I've brought my 2012 iMac from Yosemite to El Capitan to Sierra this year. I remember the same dialogue ("Install/Details") in El Capitan trying to get me to Sierra, but I had to download the Sierra installer. On the bright side, now I have a Sierra installer, because I did this two days before the HS release.
I got this same prompt last night. I have a third party (OWC) SSD in my laptop that's not compatible with High Sierra. There have been some instances of the install making the drive unusable. Given that I'm very much not amused by the way Apple is handling the update.
Mark Smith  2017-11-19 23:45
This is only a problem if you choose to install the update. I downloaded the update, but then quite the Installer when it started. Now have the update (Install MacOS High Sierra) sitting in the Applications folder, ready to install when I have time to let it do its thing. The download itself only took 10 minutes, but not running the installer until I have an hour or two to spare.
I have limited bandwidth at work (satellite)and was unaware High Sierra was downloading in the background. 15gb of internet later I have finally worked out that it is this that has used up 25% our monthly internet consumption in 3 days!!
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-11-20 15:55
Here's a MacObserver article commenting on Apple's behavior:
Does anyone see the irony in what Apple has become as a company?

Deceptive update UI, relentlessly pushed on users, especially in iOS. I guess MacOS is now getting the same treatment.

Exerting control over users and developers, and throwing its weight around in the marketplace.

It's acting a lot like other companies Mac users used to gleefully mock, like Microsoft and IBM.

1984 arrived a little late, and the nasty surprise is that Apple is actually the guy on the screen speaking to the drones in the audience.
I have pointed out that very sentiment several times myself. Apple is behaving more and more like the 90s MS. And instead of calling them out for it, many faithful Mac users are bending backwards trying to come up with excuses for their shitty behavior. Tim sure knows how to sweet talk, but when push comes to shove he's a corporate bully.

What many of my fellow Apple faithfuls fail to understand is that one of the main reasons Apple was so much better than MS was that they were held to a higher standard and forced to be better every single day. But nowadays, by constantly giving Apple a pass and riding along on every hysterical marketing ploy they come up with, no matter how backwards, we are essentially telling Tim et al. it's fine to be mediocre as long as the sheep fall in line and pay up. I fail to see in which Apple customer's interest that would be.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-11-21 12:08
Ever since the iPhone became Apple's most important product, the company has switched to focus on attracting new users in favor of enhancing the experience for existing users.

I'm sure Apple would argue that improvements that are aimed at bringing new users into the fold also benefit existing users, and they may in some cases, but I also believe that there are many situations where the needs of existing users conflict with that which will attract new users.

Unfortunately, as long as Apple's money largely comes from selling new products, I don't see this changing. If you want a company to focus on the needs of existing users, their revenue model has to match, and that, unfortunately, means subscriptions.
Eric Wolff  2017-11-21 02:10
I don't want High Sierra (there are good reasons for that). This is a deliberate choice on my part and it is my computer. Apple should respect my wishes. We don't need big brother ...
joestoner  2017-11-21 03:34
Time was when I had a list of Apple contacts that I'd met, visited in their offices and we TALKED I listened and they listened! Now all my email contacts are dead and you can only talk to robots and dorks.
We need to organise a SHOUT at Apple; any suggestions?
@ "TidBITS reader Curtis Wilcox confirmed that the full 5.21 GB Install macOS High Sierra app is downloaded to the Applications folder."

It didn't download to my Applications folder. Presumably because the only Prefs box I have checked on my machines is "Automatically check for updates."

iMac with SSD.

I haven't upgraded to HS yet because I run a mission critical piece of software 24*7 and the developer has asked users to wait until he gives the green light.

OTOH, I have upgraded my MBP (with SSD) and it's working marvelously. For cloned backups, I'm using SuperDuper 3.0.1 and a Glyph Atom RAID SSD formatted APFS, like the MBP internal SSD. And BTW, that upgrade didn't take anywhere near the five hours someone wrote. I didn't time it but I'd guess around 45 minutes.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-11-22 16:24
So where did it go, if not in your Applications folder? We've seen some variable results here too, but haven't been able to track them down.

I agree — 5 hours seems wrong. I'd expect an hour or two at most.
Didn't download at all, Adam. Presumably because of the App Store Prefs selected per my above.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-11-24 12:50
Doh! Sorry, reading too fast. Yes, with your custom settings, this won't happen at all.
Colin Owen  2017-11-24 13:01
Do NOT upgrade to High Sierra if you use any of the older Mac Pro apps. Wave burner, my go to CD mastering app stopped working...I had to go back to Sierra to get it working again. Many other audio/video apps won't work with High sierra, check before you upgrade.
Both my MacPros are 10.13.1 and now crashing every few days. It appears to be a crash in the Finder (only thing open) or deeper and possibly having to do with server connections.
This seems to be happening with iOS too, or something like it. I’ve been getting a “Accessory Update” alert when I plug my iPhone into the USB Camera adapter (I use it sometimes for charging on a New MBP that I don’t want to use for iTunes backup yet). I click “Later” every time. I asked an Apple Store manager about it and he said he’d not heard of it and didn’t know of any “Accessory Update”.

But a more serious problem is that as of 11/24/2017 nothing from Apple works on the iPhone except Mail. Mail works, Safari works, other apps that access the internet work, but No podcasts download (though the feed lists do come through), No app store anything, No iTunes store.

I do not intend to update to iOS 11. I have not restarted the iPhone and don’t want to because I can envision that that will present a further problem of perhaps forced update bs or maybe “Accessory Update” is some kind of scam.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-11-28 10:52
We're straying off topic here, but...

* The Accessory Update is real, and I know of no reason not to let it install the firmware update on your USB Camera Adapter. See

* You absolutely should restart your iPhone. It won't install anything without your permission because of that, and if so many apps are broken, you're not gaining anything by not restarting.

* iOS 11 isn't problematic, and unless you're on the slowest possible iPhone that can run it or rely on 32-bit apps, there really isn't any reason to avoid it. Look at it this way — you're just an accidental drop of your iPhone away from it anyway. :-) Just make sure you make a backup first.
Michael Lever  2017-11-29 05:19
If i deselect automatically check for updates then how would I go about checking for updates manually?
For apps generally I prefer to manually check for updates whenever I like simply by opening the app, so why not the OS security updates?

Ah ha, found it. I go to System Preferences>App Store and click 'Last Check"