The trials of a new(ish) MacBook Air

At the grand age of 7 years, my original MacBook Pro has died. Kind of. My wife enheritated it a few years ago but it’s got to the point where the constant crashes make it a problem to use (particularly when my wife is working from home and relying on it for remote teaching). In that time it’s been through 3 batteries, 2 MagSafe chargers and 2 SSDs.

The SSD failure occurred only just recently and required a full rebuild, yet the crashes that were being experienced before this continued. I think the software has been pretty much ruled out and I suspect it is hardware related. Anyway, it was time to get my wife something else.

We plumped for a refurbished MacBook Air (2020, Intel model) from Apple – it comes packaged just a like a new product (with the exception of it being shown on the box that it’s refurbished – they don’t want people trying to pass these off as new, after all). Indeed, it does look totally new, which is what I was expecting from Apple. If anyone is wanting to buy an Apple product, I would always looking at their reconditioned options first, as you get a full guarantee and a big discount too.

Big Sur won’t install

Initial set-up was easy but it was on Catalina rather than Big Sur so, whilst installing the applications that my wife needed, I kicked off the background. Except, after downloading the 12GB+ over 2 hours, it failed. It said…

A MacOss styled error message showing the text "The package InstallAssistant.pkg fails to meet Gatekeeper policy."

Gatekeeper is the part of MacOS that ensures that software comes from trusted sources, reducing the chance of Malware, etc.

I searched for the error and found others have had the same issue, all with Big Sur. There were a number of solutions offered though and I worked my way through them, each time having to wait 2 hours of downloading to see if it worked or not.

First of all, instead of using the Sofware Update feature to get Big Sur, I searched in the App Store for “MacOS Big Sur” and downloaded it from there. Nope.

Next, I disabling Gatekeeper. This did disable it but I still got the same message. I ended up re-enabling it.

I removed the AV program that I had installed, in case that was blocking it in some way. That didn’t help.

Finally, I created a new user and tried it from that – IT WORKED! Big Sur installed successfully.

But now there was a further issue.

Settings won’t unlock

I went to download the extra account that we’d created, and it asked my wife for her administrator password. It wouldn’t accept it, despite it being the same password that’s used to login with, which worked. She even tried changing it – it allowed the change but wouldn’t then except the new password either. The behaviour was odd.

I also noticed that it had stopped prompting her for Touch ID at any stage.

The answer… resetting the SMC. It appears the T2 security chip was misbehaving (maybe as a result of the OS upgrade).

And, for now anyway, that appears to be the end of the issues (phew). Quite why the Big Sur install issues occurred I have no idea but, at least, it appears we weren’t alone in having it. I’m glad we found a fix and all is working.

The laptop is lovely and I see why reviewers recommended this over the Pro for the average consumer. I hope we get as much life out of this as we did the old one.

Talk to me!

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