Why are macOS updates bricking your Mac, and what can you do about it

Some rumors over the weekend suggested that the macOS Monterey update could brick some Macs during installation, causing the machine to become unresponsive.MacRumors collected a representative series of complaints from Apple support community forums and Twitter, most of which described the same symptoms: unresponsive Macs that could not be recovered using typical SMC and NVRAM diagnostic features.
The report collected by MacRumors mentions multiple Intel Macs from 2015 to 2020 but doesn't mention Apple silicon models -- which makes sense since their updates are slightly different from Intel Macs and may not be affected by the same issues.
We asked Apple about reports of these rumors to see if the company is aware of any problems or has any guidance for people whose hardware stops responding to input after a software update. We also have our suggestions, along with some hypotheses, as to why these major updates sometimes seem to cause more hardware problems than usual.

The macOS update isn't just about updating macOS
When Apple releases a new macOS update, you don't just get an operating system update. Since around 2015, Apple has released most firmware updates as part of the operating system rather than separately (this also includes updates to the "bridges" software that runs on Apple'S T1 and T2 Macs). For PC users, imagine Windows updates can also update your COMPUTER's BIOS or graphics firmware.
We asked Apple about reports of these rumors to see if the company is aware of any problems or if it has any guidance for people whose hardware stops responding to input after a software update. We also have our suggestions, along with some hypotheses, as to why these major updates sometimes seem to cause more hardware problems than usual.
The macOS update isn't just about updating macOS
When Apple releases a new macOS update, you don't just get an operating system update. Most of the firmware updates apple has released since around 2015 have been released as part of the operating system rather than as a separate release (this also includes updates to the "bridges" software that runs on Apple'S T1 and T2 Macs). For PC users, imagine Windows Update can also update your computer's BIOS or graphics firmware.
How can you fix (and try to avoid) these problems
If you are using an old Intel Mac without an Apple T2 chip (most Macs shipped before 2018), and reset your SMC and your COMPUTER's NVRAM without doing anything, your next best contact with Apple is either on the phone, via chat, or at the Apple Store. If the real underlying problem is your hardware, they can fix it (although this may cost you if your product is out of warranty). Otherwise, they will have more tools to diagnose and restore your machine.
If you have an Apple T2 and have a Mac available, you may have other options. These Macs can boot into "DFU" recovery mode, much like iOS devices and Apple's silicon Macs. According to Apple's instructions, you can connect your "brick" Mac to another Mac using a USB or Thunderbolt cable and restore its firmware using the apple configurator. If the Mac is bootable after the firmware is restored, you should be able to reinstall macOS and run it on your system using Internet Recovery or USB installation drives. Apple's silicon Macs can be restored similarly.
If you use the 'revive' option in your configuration program, it will try to restore the firmware without touching the data on the drive. If that doesn't work, you can try completely erasing and restoring at the expense of everything on your Mac's internal drive. If you keep decent backups, it's worth getting your computer working again. If you have very important data stored on your Mac, or if DFU recovery doesn't work, then contacting Apple should be your next step.
 

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