Is it possible to upgrade from MacTeX 2010 to 2011 without downloading the entire package for new?

I’ve tried starting the instructons for upgrading TeXLive at tug.org/texlive/upgrade.html, up to step 3 (so, I’ve duplicated usr/local/texlive/2010 as …/2011), but with the next few steps, I’m worried about confusing the MacTeX “TeX Distibution” system preferences pane, since I don’t know how it finds/builds its list of installed TeX distributions. I had hoped it would find the duplicated copy and allow me to switch to it (which would presumably cover steps 4–6), but it’s not seeing a 2011 distribution.

So… is it safe to proceed with those instructions, without breaking the MacTex preferences pane? Or is there some way one should handle things via that pane? Or is it best to just download MacTeX 2011 afresh?

  • Are you trying to do this to (a) save time/bandwidth costs in the download (in which case would TUG membership and receiving the DVD help?) or (b) reduce the disk footprint on your computer or (c) achieve some other end?
    – mas
    Aug 18, 2011 at 8:40
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    @mas: Mainly (a); but partly also on principle, because it seems like one ought to be able to do this. I love TeX, of course, and an grateful for how TeXlive makes it easy to manage; but I think we sometimes accept flaws in them too easily. If Microsoft Word, say, took up a couple of gigabytes, we’d excoriate it as bloat, and if it required one to regularly re-download the whole thing, even when most of the contents hadn’t changed, people would point out how silly this was. But with TeX, we tend to just accept it. Aug 18, 2011 at 15:37
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    Your comment is well-taken, but at the same time, the MacTeX distribution is put together by a single person (Dick Koch) (of course supported by the rest of the TeXLive team), and I suspect that maintaining an incremental update system is more complicated. Also, it is possible to download BasicTeX, which is very small; you just have to deal with updating things that aren't included in it by hand. We tend to accept it with TeX not because its TeX, but because it's open source and free, and the distributions are created by a small group of very hard working volunteers.
    – Alan Munn
    Aug 18, 2011 at 16:41
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    @Alan Munn: thankyou; that’s a very fair and kind admonition/reminder not to take the work of those volunteers for granted. Aug 21, 2011 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


It's really preferable to download the whole installer, since then it will manage the preference pane stuff for you automatically. (This is quite useful, since if any of your existing documents don't work, you can quickly and painlessly switch between the current and previous distribution.)

If you are really pressed for time, you could install BasicTeX, but then you might need to install any missing packages yourself using TeXLive Utility (or tlmgr.)

I would recommend installing the full package. In either case, be sure to run TeXLive Utility to update everything after you have installed the new distribution.

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