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Fix: A software update is required to use this startup disk

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  • 5 min read

Encountering errors on your Mac can be troublesome, especially when they prevent you from using it effectively. One such error message that Mac users might come across is ‘A software update is required to use this startup disk.’ This error occurs when you try to install macOS from a bootable USB.

This article discusses what causes a software update to be required to use this startup disk error and six methods to help you fix the error.

Below we have discussed:

What causes this error?

Here are a few common reasons that might cause the ‘A software update is required to use this startup disk’ error:

  • Issues with the USB hub.
  • WiFi network not connected.
  • Software update required.

Also read: Fix: The disk you attached was not readable by this computer

How to fix the issue?

Here are a few methods to help you fix the issue:

Restart the device

A simple restart can sometimes resolve temporary glitches. It’s always a good first step to try before moving on to more involved solutions, as it can clear up minor issues that might be causing the error message.

Directly connect the disk to your Mac

Avoid using USB hubs, especially ones with extra features like built-in ethernet or HDMI ports. Connect the bootable USB drive directly to your Mac’s USB port. Some hubs might require additional software that doesn’t work in macOS Recovery, which can interfere with the boot process.

Should you use a USB hub with your laptop or tablet?

Check WiFi connection

If installing macOS from a USB drive, ensure your Mac is connected to a reliable WiFi network. Having internet access is important because the installer needs to download important files to finish updating your system.

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Resetting NVRAM/PRAM on your Mac is another great way to fix the software update problem. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Shut down your Mac.

Step 2: Press and hold the Command + Option + P+ R buttons while turning on the Mac.

Step 3: Hold the keys until you hear the startup sound twice.

A simple restart would be enough if you have a Mac with Apple Silicone.

Also read: Fix: The amount of system memory has changed

Allow your Mac to boot from an external drive

T2-equipped Macs frequently encounter the ‘A software update is needed to use this startup disk.’ message. Problems with the security settings could be the cause of this issue. Here are the steps:

  • Step 1: Boot the Mac in the macOS Recovery Mode.
  • Step 2: Select the user and enter the administrator password.
  • Step 3: Click on Utilities.
  • Step 4: Now, go to Startup Security Utility.
  • Step 5: Click on Enter macOS Password, choose the administrator account and type the password.
  • Step 6: Click on the circle beside the Medium Security option under the Secure Boot section and then click on the circle beside the Allow booting from external media option under the Allowed Boot Media section.
  • Step 7: Restart your Mac.

Reinstall macOS in Recovery Mode

If the ‘A software update is required to use this startup disk.’ error message on your Mac still persists, try reinstalling macOS from Recovery Mode rather than using the bootable USB installer. Here are the steps:

For Intel-based Mac

  • Step 1: Restart your Mac.
  • Step 2: On Intel Macs, you can press and hold one of the following keyboard combinations to boot into Mac Recovery Mode:
    • Command + R: Reinstall the current version of the most recently installed macOS. 
    • Option + Command + R: Reinstall the latest macOS compatible with your Mac.
    • Shift + Option + Command + R: Reinstall the macOS that came with your Mac or the closest version still available.
  • Step 3: The Recovery app window will open. Select Reinstall for your macOS.
  • Step 4: Click on the Continue button and follow the on-screen instructions given.

For Silicon-based Mac

  • Step 1: Restart your Mac.
  • Step 2: Press and hold the Power button until you see Loading startup options
  • Step 3: Click on the Options button and then click on the Continue button.
  • Step 6. Follow the on-screen instructions.

Also read: Fix: Macbook is connected to WiFi but there is no internet

Akash Singh

Akash Singh

Akash is a law graduate who likes to go for bike rides on the weekends soul-searching for answers to his many existential questions. You can contact him here: