Why is my Mac not downloading files and how to fix it

Downloading files is an essential part of using any computer. Whether it’s updates to the operating system or apps, new applications, syncing files, or sharing photos and videos, they all involve downloading files. So, if your Mac is not downloading files, it’s a significant problem and very inconvenient. In this article, we’ll show you how to fix it when your Mac is not downloading files.

Why is my Mac not downloading files?

When it comes to the reason why your Mac is not downloading files, there are several possibilities:

  • There’s a problem with your Wi-Fi network
  • Your broadband connection is not working
  • The servers hosting the files you’re trying to download are having a problem
  • There’s an issue with your Mac that is preventing files from being downloaded
  • The application that is trying to download the files is misbehaving
Tip: Clear out the junk

Over time, your Mac accumulates lots of junk files that take up space on your startup disk and can make it stop working properly. Junk files can also cause conflicts with other files and could even be the reason why you can’t download files. The solution is to clear out the junk regularly. That includes temporary files that should have been deleted but weren’t, application cache files, leftover files from applications that you got rid of but weren’t properly uninstalled, and language files for languages you don’t use. Tracking down all those files manually so you can drag them to the Trash is a time-consuming and laborious process. However, you don’t have to do it manually — CleanMyMac X’s System Junk module can do it for you with just a couple of clicks. Once it’s scanned your Mac, you can choose to remove everything it’s found in one go or review the results and decide for yourself what to delete. You can download CleanMyMac X for free here.

CleanMyMac X - System junk scan complete

How to fix it when your Mac is not downloading files

As always, when you’re trying to fix a problem that has lots of possible causes, it’s best to troubleshoot logically, starting with the most likely causes and those that are easiest to fix. So, follow the steps below in order.

1. Check your Wi-Fi network 

On your Mac, navigate to any webpage. If it works ok, you know it’s not your Wi-Fi network or broadband connection that’s the problem. If it doesn’t work, try a different web browser. If that doesn’t work either, try switching Wi-FI on your Mac off and then on again. If you still can’t load a web page, try a different device like an iPhone or iPad. If you can’t get online on another device, you know the problem is your Wi-Fi network. Try restarting your router.

2. Check your broadband connection

If you still can’t get online after restarting your router, and the lights on the router look normal, check with your broadband provider to see if there is a problem with its network.

3. Try a different browser

If your internet connection is working and the problem with files not downloading happens when you try to download anything in a web browser, try a different browser. If that works, you know the problem is with the original browser. Check to see if there is an update available. If so, install it. If not, reinstall the browser if you can.

4. Restart your Mac

Restarting your Mac clears out temporary files and, on recent Macs, performs checks on your startup disk. It’s a good catchall for fixing problems when you don’t know what the cause is, and it very often works.

5. Check your Mac’s security settings

If you are trying to download an application from a developer’s website, it may be that your security settings are preventing it. To check, click the Apple menu and choose System Settings > Privacy & Security. Under Security, make sure ‘App Store and identified developers’ is selected.

System Preferences - Privacy & Security

6. Make sure you have enough free space to download the file

If you’re trying to download a file that is larger than the amount of free space you have available on your startup disk, it won’t download. Go to System Settings > General > Storage and look at the graphic at the top of the window to see how much free space you have. If it’s less than, or close to, the size of the file you’re trying to download, you will need to clear space before downloading. You can use CleanMyMac X to help you do that quickly.

System Preferences - Storage

7. Check Apple’s servers

If the file you’re trying to download is from the App Store or another Apple service, or if it’s from your iCloud, it could be that Apple’s servers have a problem. To check, go to this link in a web browser. Look for the service you are trying to download from, such as the Mac App Store or iCloud Drive. If there is a green dot next to it, it’s working as it should. If not, it has a problem. All you can do is wait for it to be fixed.

8. Check for updates

If the problem you’re having downloading files is specific to one application, check whether there is an update to the application available, and if there is, install it. To check apps downloaded from the Mac App Store, open the App Store app and go to the Updates section. To check apps downloaded from a developer’s website, open the app, click its name in the menu bar, and choose Check for Updates. If the issue is with Safari, you will need to check for macOS updates, as Safari is updated alongside macOS. Go to System Settings > General > Software Update. Wait for it to check for an update and follow the instructions on the screen to install it if there is one available.

System Preferences - Software Update

9. Clear browser cache

Sometimes, browser cache files can cause conflicts and prevent you from downloading. The method for clearing cache is slightly different for each browser. But the option is usually in the Security & Privacy section of the browser’s settings. In Safari, it’s in Safari > Settings > Privacy. You then click the ‘Manage website data’ button, and when the data has loaded, click Remove All. In Chrome, click the three dots at the right of the address bar and choose Settings > Privacy and security > Clear browsing data. In Firefox, click the three lines at the right of the address bar and choose Settings > Privacy & Security, scroll down to Cookies and Site Data, and click Clear Data. If you have any browser extensions installed, it’s worth disabling those to see if that fixes the problem.

    There are several possible reasons why your Mac may not be downloading files. It could be anything from your internet connection to the servers you’re downloading from not working properly. It could also be an issue on your Mac or with the application you’re using to download. To identify the cause and fix the problem, follow the steps above. Your Mac will be downloading files again in no time.

    Laptop with CleanMyMac
    CleanMyMac X

    Your Mac. As good as new.