Apple Stops Offering Standalone Update Packages in macOS Big Sur
Apple appears to have ended its tradition of making standalone updater versions of macOS available to all users, beginning with macOS Big Sur.
Apple offers its macOS updates through the Software Update pane in System Preferences, but it usually also lets users download the same updates as standalone installation packages, made available on Apple's downloads website.
However, as noted by Mr. Macintosh and shared by The Eclectic Light Company, Apple hasn't released a standalone updater for macOS 11.1 or 11.0.1, despite providing standalone packages for macOS Catalina and Mojave security updates on December 16.
Standalone packages are useful for administrators who want to update multiple Macs with the same 12GB download, especially given that delta and combo packages come in smaller sizes since they include only the files needed for that particular update.
According to Mr. Macintosh, however, Apple is advising users who need standalone updaters to contact them in an "official capacity," although it's not exactly clear what that means.
Manual downloadable delta and combo updates for Big Sur are no longer available. I will let our resident #MacAdmins expert explain 👇 "If you have a need for individual downloads for Big Sur delta/combo updaters - please make sure that's filed in an official capacity with us" 🐸 — Mr. Macintosh (@ClassicII_MrMac) December 17, 2020
Apple hasn't confirmed that it has ended update packages for macOS, but the current lack of standalone installers for Big Sur doesn't look particularly good for users who rely on them.
That said, there is an alternative solution in the Sharing pane in System Preferences in the form of a Content Caching option, which enables one Mac to download updates and other Macs on the same network to download them directly from the local Mac.