Can’t download an app update? It might be time to update your Mac

If you’re using an older version of macOS, you may run into problems when trying to install the latest version of an app.

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There’s got to be the name for the paradox that occurs when you’re told by the Mac App Store that you both have an update for a free or purchased app and you can’t install it. Maybe it’s the Apprisoner’s Dilemma? You might experience this no-win situation when you see a message that says “[app name] can’t be installed on [device] because [OS X/macOS] version 10.[X] or later is required.”

This situation occurs when you’re running an older version of macOS than the minimum required for the latest version of the program’s updated code. App developers who routinely revise their apps earn our thanks for adding features, keeping them up to date with the latest system changes, and fixing bugs.

But developers also have to make choices. While Apple allows coding styles that can preserve backwards compatibility across several releases of macOS, it adds to a developer’s burden and sometimes holds an app back when it has to work across a wide range.

If you haven’t updated an app in a while and receive this error, it’s generally not possible to download any interim update via the Mac App Store that remains compatible with your version of macOS. However, for software companies that have both direct sales and Mac App Store editions of their apps, you can contact the company and see if they can help.

The ultimate solution is to upgrade to a newer version of macOS, if not the latest release. That’s not always ideal depending on why you’ve held back, but it’s definitely the case that you’ll have more and more apps that can’t be upgraded over time.

That’s a process guaranteed to increase later this year with the release of macOS Catalina (version 10.15), which ditches the last vestiges of backwards compatibility for older apps. Some developers will also use the opportunity to shave off that support within their apps, and make their update and testing tasks more streamlined, too.

This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by a Macworld reader.

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