MacOS Catalina has lots of new features and apps to look forward to. As with all software updates, however, you can expect some bumps along the way. This should come as no surprise, however, as Apple is ambitiously supporting a wide range of hardware, which in some cases dates back to 2012 Mac models.
Whether you're having trouble installing Catalina or having trouble getting your Mac to work after installing it, we've got some helpful tips to help you fix some of the early errors.
For the latest information on macOS, see our articles on How to Download MacOS Big Sur and Common Big Sur Issues.
How to fix macOS Catalina installation issues
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
The first step in your Catalina journey on an existing Mac is to install the operating system. While the upgrade process to Catalina is fairly straightforward – you can find the update on Apple's Mac App Store – some users have reported problems downloading the update.
Common error codes, at least in the first few days that Catalina was made available for download, are messages like the network connection was lost or the installation of MacOS could not continue.
If you've encountered these error messages, please be calm and move on (do other things in the meantime) as it likely just means that Apple's servers are overcrowded. A likely culprit, since Catalina is still new, is that many of your Mac colleagues tried to upgrade at the same time, adding additional load to Apple's servers. If you're trying to download the files over Wi-Fi, consider switching to a sturdier wired Ethernet cable (if your Mac has an Ethernet port) for better results.
If the failure is due to the installation not being able to continue, a possible culprit could be low disk space. The Catalina download file is north of 6GB and you will need 15GB to 20GB of free space to complete the installation. To check how much free space is on your drive, click the Apple menu in the top left corner of your screen, choose About This Mac, and then go to Storage. Here you can manage your storage and free up storage space if necessary.
If these issues are not the source of your problems with Catalina, it is a good idea to check to see if the installation file is damaged or partially downloaded. Use the Finder menu to search for the Install MacOS 10.15 file and delete that file, restart your system and try to download the necessary files again from the Mac App Store.
You can even try signing in and out of your App Store or iCloud account if you run into more problems. Once the file has downloaded you should be prompted to perform the update. If not, simply locate the Catalina installer file on your Mac's drive and double-click it to begin your journey to the dark side of your Mac.
How to Fix MacOS Catalina Sidecar Issues
If you have an iPad in addition to your Mac, one of the best things about Catalina is that you can use your tablet as a secondary display. Known as a sidecar, this is great for multitaskers and illustrators as it gives you extra screen real estate so you can do more.
Sidecar supports iPad 6 or later, iPad mini 5, iPad Air 3, and iPad Pro products. Make sure to download the latest iPadOS on your iPad to take advantage of Sidecar. Otherwise, your Mac will not be able to use this feature. And while Catalina works on older Mac systems, the Sidecar feature requires more modern hardware. This means you will need an iMac 27-inch or newer by the end of 2010, 2016 MacBook Pro or newer, 2018 Mac Mini, 2019 Mac Pro, 2018 MacBook Air, or an early 2016 MacBook or newer.
You can find the sidecar settings in the "System Preferences" app on your Mac. You need to enable Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Handoff. It should be noted that laptop users must connect directly to a Wi-Fi network and you cannot use Sidecar while connected to your iPad's internet connection.
If you have an older iPad or Mac, all hope is not lost. Third-party apps like Duet Display offer Sidecar functionality similar to Sidecar long before Apple rolled out its native support in Catalina. More entrepreneurial Mac users can also follow a Reddit guide to get Sidecar to work with older Mac hardware.
How to Fix MacOS Catalina Bluetooth Problems
If you're having trouble connecting Bluetooth accessories or peripherals to the Catalina, you are not alone. The first step is to open the settings in the top right corner of your screen and then launch the bluetooth settings menu. Click on the devices you are having problems with, delete them and fix them.
This should fix most bluetooth problems. However, if you're still having problems, you should open your Finder search, then click Go on the menu. Select Go to Folder and enter / Library / Preferences. You can see a file called com.apple.Bluetooth.plist.
You want to delete this file. If you want, you can also save a copy to an external flash drive for security reasons before deleting. Once the file is deleted, you will need to restart your Mac and try to pair your bluetooth devices again.
Similarly, some users who upgraded to Catalina found their mouse stopped working. Just don't curse the cursor as there is an easy solution to get your pointer back on track. You want to navigate to the same / Library / Preferences directory and delete two files: find com.apple.AppleMultitouchMouse.plist and com.apple.driver.AppleBluetoothMultitouch.mouse.plist and move them to your Mac's trash. To do this, you may need to find a wired USB mouse that you can use temporarily. After deleting the files, restart your Mac and you should be able to regain control of your cursor.
How to troubleshoot the MacOS Catalina app
With Catalina, Apple gives and Apple takes away. Although Catalina brings Mac users to a whole new world of iOS apps ported to work on the Mac – including native Apple solutions like the News app – older apps no longer work on Catalina.
If you frequently use older 32-bit apps like 1Password 2.12.2, QuickBooks 2015, or VMWare Fusion 3.1.4, you're out of luck with Catalina. Even older versions of stand-alone Adobe applications are in trouble. With the latest Mac operating system, Apple dropped support for all 32-bit apps, which means a good number of antivirus apps have stopped working.
There are 235 apps that have stopped working with Catalina, but luckily, many of them are older titles with appropriate 64-bit replacements that are already available. If you own these older 32-bit apps, you may need to update to newer Mac App Store versions if available, or you may have to wait for the developers to release 64-bit updates.
If you need to use these applications right away, the only option is to downgrade to Mojave.
How to fix macOS Catalina file access issues
As part of the Catalina security overhaul, Apple changed the way apps can access your files. Like an iPhone, when you open a newly downloaded app, Catalina may launch a popup asking you to give that app permission to access certain files or folders. If you've denied access and changed your mind, you can do so by opening your Mac's System Preferences app in the Dock.
Next, select "Security & Privacy" and want to click on "Files and Folders" in the left pane. In the right area you will find a list of the apps with their file access rights. You can click on each app to make your changes.
After you've granted or revoked file access rights, you'll need to restart the app for the changes to take effect.
How to fix macOS Catalina performance issues
After you've recently upgraded to a new operating system, the operating system takes it for granted that it is running and feeling a bit sluggish. This sluggishness could be due to Catalina silently pulling app updates and trying to update libraries and files. Typically, performance should improve after a few days. Be sure to restart your system if you feel like you are throttled. However, if you're still having a sluggish Mac, you may want to do a fresh install of Catalina instead of an OS update to see if performance improves.
You will wipe your slate clean with a fresh installation process, which will likely clear up any inconsistencies, connection errors, or other issues you may have encountered on your operating system. As with the upgrade, you'll want to download the MacOS Catalina installer from the Mac App Store. You'll also need a USB drive – or a USB-C flash drive, depending on your Mac model – that is 16GB or more.
You will want to follow Apple instructions on creating a bootable installer, including the use of terminal commands. This guide may be difficult for some to follow. In this case, you can always make an appointment at an Apple Genius Bar, where you will receive a bootable flash drive.
More Catalina problems?
Apple Support is the best resource for any additional issues you may encounter while using Catalina. Apple offers phone, chat, or face-to-face assistance at its retail locations. And if you want to learn more about Catalina, be sure to check out ours MacOS test and check out some of our Favorite tips and tricks to get the most out of your Mac.