Firmware is an essential part of your computer, and keeping your Mac’s firmware up to date is crucial for optimal performance, enhanced security, and compatibility with the latest software updates.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll show you how to check and update your Mac’s firmware to ensure your system stays current and runs smoothly. I’ll also share the benefits of updating firmware and troubleshooting common issues that may arise during the process.
Before We Begin
Firmware updates can improve compatibility with newer macOS, but you cannot always upgrade the firmware. You can benefit from MacKeeper to keep your apps up-to-date and get all the latest bug fixes and security patches. So, download and install MacKeeper and
What Is Mac Firmware?
Firmware is software installed on hardware components such as the motherboard, hard drive, and other devices. It mediates between the hardware and the operating system, ensuring they work together correctly.
Mac firmware refers to the firmware specifically designed to control and manage the hardware components of Apple Mac computers. It is responsible for initializing and controlling various aspects of Mac’s hardware, enabling it to function properly and interact with the software.
Mac firmware includes several components, such as:
- 💻 Boot ROM: The Boot ROM firmware is the initial code that runs when you power on your Mac. It performs hardware checks, initializes essential components, and locates and loads the operating system. The Boot ROM also provides the firmware update mechanism for the Mac.
- ⚙️ SMC (System Management Controller): The SMC firmware manages power-related functions, thermal management, and some peripheral interfaces on the Mac. It monitors and controls system temperature, battery charging, keyboard backlight, fans, and other hardware-related aspects.
- 🖥️ EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface): EFI is the modern firmware interface used by Macs instead of the traditional BIOS (Basic Input/Output System). EFI provides a standardized interface between the hardware and the operating system, allowing communication and initialization of various hardware components.
- 🔒 T2 Chip: Some Mac models, particularly those released from 2017 onwards, include the T2 chip. The T2 chip integrates several functions, including secure boot, encryption, system management, Touch ID, and advanced image and audio processing.
- 💪 M1 Chip: The M1 chip, introduced by Apple in late 2020, is a custom-designed system-on-a-chip (SoC) that powers newer Mac models. The M1 chip incorporates multiple components, including the CPU, GPU, neural engine, and memory, onto a single chip. It brings significant performance improvements, energy efficiency, and advanced capabilities to Mac computers.
Firmware updates are often included as part of macOS updates, which can be downloaded and installed through the Software Update feature on your Mac. Keeping your Mac’s firmware up to date ensures it remains secure, stable, and compatible with the latest software and hardware technologies.
What Is the Difference Between Firmware and Software Updates on Mac?
Firmware and software updates are crucial for maintaining a well-functioning Mac, but they serve distinct purposes and target different system components.
Firmware refers to the software code permanently programmed into hardware devices. It provides low-level control and instructions for the hardware components, such as the motherboard, graphics card, or network interface. Firmware is typically stored on a chip within the hardware and is responsible for initializing and controlling the hardware’s basic functions.
On the other hand, software updates primarily refer to updates for the operating system (e.g., macOS) and the applications that run on top of it. These updates address bugs and security vulnerabilities and introduce new features or enhancements to improve the user experience. Software updates focus on the higher-level functionality and user-facing aspects of the system.
The distinction between firmware and software updates lies in the level of control and the components they target. Firmware updates are specific to the hardware components and ensure they operate efficiently, reliably, and securely. They may provide performance optimizations, compatibility improvements, bug fixes, or security patches for the hardware.
Software updates, on the other hand, focus on the operating system and the software applications that run on it. They fix issues related to the user interface, features, stability, and system security.
Why You Need to Update Your Mac’s Firmware
Updating your Mac’s firmware is important for several reasons. Some of these reasons are as follows:
- 🛡️ Security: Firmware updates often include patches for security vulnerabilities. Keeping your Mac’s firmware up to date addresses known security issues, reducing the risk of unauthorized access, data breaches, or malware infections.
- 🐛 Bug fixes: Firmware updates also address bugs or software glitches that may impact the performance or stability of your Mac. These updates can resolve issues related to system crashes, freezes, or compatibility problems with certain software or hardware components.
- ✨ New features and improvements: Firmware updates may introduce new features or enhancements to your Mac’s hardware or system capabilities. These updates can optimize performance, add new functionalities, or improve power management, resulting in a better user experience.
- 🖥️ Hardware compatibility: Firmware updates can ensure your Mac remains compatible with the latest hardware devices and peripherals. For example, updating your Mac’s firmware may be necessary if you purchase a new external device or accessory, such as a printer or a camera, and it requires specific firmware support.
- 📞 Manufacturer support: Keeping your Mac’s firmware up to date ensures you receive ongoing support from the manufacturer. If you encounter any issues or need assistance, installing the latest firmware version enables you to seek help from Apple or authorized service providers.
You typically need to install the latest macOS updates to update your Mac’s firmware. These updates often include firmware updates for various components, such as the system controller, graphics card, or storage drives.
Apple periodically releases macOS updates that include firmware updates, and it’s recommended to regularly check for and install these updates to keep your Mac secure and functioning optimally.
How to Check Your Mac’s Firmware
Whether you’re troubleshooting issues, verifying compatibility with the latest software updates, or ensuring your Mac is protected against potential vulnerabilities, knowing how to check your Mac’s firmware is essential.
Now that we’ve covered the importance of firmware updates let’s discuss how to check your Mac’s firmware. There are two ways to check your Mac’s firmware version that I’ve shared below.
1. From System Report
When it comes to gaining detailed information about your Mac’s hardware and software configuration, the System Report is a powerful tool. You can access a wealth of information within the System Report, including your Mac’s firmware version.
To check your Mac’s firmware version using System Report, follow these steps:
- Click the Apple menu in the upper-left corner of your screen and select About This Mac from the drop-down menu.
- Click More Info on the new window.
- In the window that appears, click the System Report button.
- In the left-hand column of the System Information window, scroll down and select Hardware.
- You’ll see the firmware version next to System Firmware Version in the right-hand pane.
2. Using Terminal
Terminal provides an efficient method if you prefer a more direct and command-line approach to checking your Mac’s firmware. It allows you to access the underlying Unix-based system of your Mac and execute commands to retrieve essential information.
You can swiftly uncover your Mac’s firmware version with simple commands. To check your Mac’s firmware version using Terminal, follow these steps:
- Open the Terminal app on your Mac. You can find it in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder or by using Spotlight search.
- Type the following command and press Enter:
- The Terminal will show the firmware version for your Mac’s logic board next to ProductVersion.
How to Update Your Mac’s Firmware
Keeping your Mac’s firmware up to date is crucial for optimal performance, enhanced security, and compatibility with the latest software updates. Fortunately, updating your Mac’s firmware is a straightforward process. Now that you know how to check your Mac’s firmware, let’s discuss how to update it.
One of the easiest ways to ensure your firmware is up to date is through the Software Update feature in macOS. This built-in feature lets you check for and install any available firmware updates Apple releases.
Below, I’ve shared how to access the Software Update feature and update your Mac’s firmware with just a few clicks.
- Click the Apple menu in the top left corner of your screen and select System Settings.
- Click General and select Software Update in System Settings.
- Wait for your Mac to check for available updates.
- If an update is available, click Update Now and follow the on-screen instructions to download and install it.
If a firmware update is available, it will install with the software update.
What Is Firmware “Flashing” on Mac?
Firmware “flashing” on Mac refers to updating or replacing the firmware on a hardware device, typically using specialized software provided by the device manufacturer. It involves writing the updated firmware code onto the device’s memory and replacing the existing firmware with the new version.
Taking precautions is important to ensure a successful and safe process when updating firmware. Here are some key precautions to consider:
- 🔍 Verify the source: Get the firmware update from Apple’s official website or trusted sources the hardware manufacturer provides. Be cautious of downloading firmware from unknown or unauthorized websites, as it can contain malware or incorrect versions.
- 📖 Read the documentation: Carefully review the firmware update instructions and any accompanying documentation provided by the manufacturer. Follow the recommended steps and ensure you understand the process before proceeding.
- 💾 Backup data: Before performing a firmware update, back up important data on the device. While firmware updates typically don’t affect user data, there’s always a small risk of data loss or corruption during the update process.
- 🔌 Power and connectivity: Ensure a stable power source during the firmware update process. If the device loses power or connectivity during the update, it can result in corrupted firmware, rendering it non-functional. Keep the device plugged in or ensure a fully charged battery to avoid interruptions.
- 📝 Follow instructions precisely: Adhere to the instructions provided by the manufacturer when updating firmware. Pay attention to specific prerequisites, such as disabling antivirus software or disconnecting peripheral devices. Skipping or disregarding recommended steps may lead to update failures or device malfunctions.
- ❌ Don’t interrupt the process: Once the firmware update is initiated, don’t interrupt or shut down your Mac until the process completes. Interrupting the update midway can cause irreversible damage to the firmware and render the device inoperable.
- 📁 Keep a record: After completing the firmware update, record the firmware version and the update date. This record can help troubleshoot or revert to a previous firmware version.
- ⚠️ Be cautious with beta or unofficial firmware: Exercise caution when updating to beta or unofficial firmware versions. These versions may not have undergone thorough testing and could introduce instability or compatibility issues.
By following these precautions, you can minimize the risks associated with firmware flashing and ensure a smooth and successful update process.
Update Your Apps Using MacKeeper
Like updating your Mac’s firmware, keeping your applications up to date is essential for security, performance, and access to the latest features. MacKeeper offers a convenient and comprehensive solution that scans your system, identifies outdated apps, and provides a seamless updating experience.
Here’s how to use Update Tracker to update apps on macOS:
- Download and install MacKeeper.
- Launch MacKeeper and click the Update Tracker tab in the left sidebar.
- Click Scan for Updates.
- MacKeeper will scan your Mac for outdated apps and display a list. To select an app, check the little box next to it or click Check All to select all apps.
- Click Update All.
- Wait for the updates to complete. This can take a while, depending on the number and size of updates.
- You’ll get an Update Completed notification. Click Rescan if you want to update more apps.
Keep Your Mac’s Firmware Up to Date
Now that you know how to check and update your Mac’s firmware, you can get the most out of your computer without facing performance issues. Here are some more tips for Mac maintenance:
- Besides your Mac’s firmware, you must update your macOS to ensure you have the latest security fixes, performance improvements, and bug fixes.
- If you’re still facing performance issues, consider updating apps on your Mac, as the problem may be app-specific.
- You may need to upgrade your Mac RAM if you face frequent performance issues, like freezing and crashing.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I check for firmware updates?
It is a good idea to check for firmware updates periodically, such as once a month, especially if you are experiencing issues with your Mac. Apple also releases firmware updates along with macOS updates, so it is recommended to check for updates when a new version of macOS is released.
Can updating firmware harm my Mac?
While rare, firmware updates can cause issues with your Mac if something goes wrong during the update process. Therefore, following the update instructions carefully and ensuring your Mac has enough power and a stable internet connection during the Update is essential.
What do I do if I need to update my Mac’s firmware?
If you cannot update your Mac’s firmware using any of the above methods, you can contact Apple Support for assistance. They can diagnose and fix the issue remotely or advise you to bring your Mac to an authorized service provider.
Why is my firmware version different from what is listed on Apple’s website?
Firmware versions can vary based on your Mac’s specific model and configuration and may also differ based on the region or country in which the Mac was purchased. Therefore, checking the firmware version specifically for your Mac is essential.