How to update Ford SYNC with a Mac

I have a 2013 Ford Fusion. I like the car, but SYNC, the media system (think phones, etc.), is really bad.

I thought updating the software would help. Here’s how that went.

Throughout this whole experience, I had to keep reminding myself of two facts to properly lower my expectations.

  1. Ford is a car company, not a software company.
  2. SYNC is powered by Microsoft.

That said…

First, you need to create an account at Ford’s website for car owners, and in the process you add a vehicle to your account by entering the VIN. I made mistakes a few times because it appeared the page was loaded and I would try to use it, but in reality there was an AJAX process that was about to add my details to the pages. The site felt sluggish, so I basically just had to force myself to wait for the website after every move. (My Internet connection clocks in at around 50 to 60 Mbps, so it isn’t that.)

Once I had the account set up and my car added, it seemed obvious that there was an update for SYNC. It took me a moment to actually find it.

The instructions that came up were for more recent versions of SYNC, so I had to skip to a second set of instructions for older vehicles. The instructions helped me see that I was about to run the gauntlet.

For users of macOS, there are two important problems to overcome.

  1. You need to find a USB thumb drive and use Disk Utility to erase it and format as FAT with a scheme of Master Boot Record. (That isn’t hard.)
  2. When you download the installation file, everything goes sideways. If you try to put the files on the USB drive, go to your car and start the installation, your car will tell you File Not Found. You need to fix the files before you try to install them.

Fixing the SYNC install files

When you download the files, they will probably appear in your Downloads directory. Instead of being a file you need to decompress/unzip like Ford’s instructions indicate, it’ll just be a file folder with a name like GG1T-14D544-AB.

When you open that directory, you’ll see a bunch of odd files that look something like this.

Files for the SYNC software update. This won't work.
This is the default SYNC update file list as it appears on my Mac. The backslash characters in the filenames are a good clue.

To fix them, you need to add a new directory called SyncMyRide. Then you need to remove the “SyncMyRide\” from all of the filenames, and then move those files into the SyncMyRide folder.

It’ll end up looking like this.

File list that actually works in upgrading SYNC on Ford.
Here’s what the files should look like in order to work.

Move the files over to the thumbdrive. Don’t drag the containing directory, the GG1T-14D544-AB folder, just the fixed contents of it.

Figuring this out caused me too many trips between my computer and my car. I hope it helps you.

Last note, I did finish the process by reporting back to Ford that I did update SYNC. They really stress that, and I encourage you to do it. It’s probably the easiest part of the whole process, and involves you bringing the USB drive back to your computer and uploading an XML file that your car put on the drive back up to Ford. (That XML file was in the SyncMyRide folder.)

Good luck.

P.S., after doing the update, SYNC is still really bad.

Author: Davin Granroth

Davin is Chief Operating Officer for Covenant Eyes, Inc. in Owosso, MI, USA, where he gets to mix his background in user experience design, research, and strategy with the operation of a software company. For more, see his LinkedIn profile.

12 thoughts on “How to update Ford SYNC with a Mac”

  1. Davin,
    How did you fix the files that did not have
    syncmyride/, like install.lst and autoinstall.list? Thank you

  2. Thank you for this!
    This piece of crap is on the verge of throwing me into a full blown mental breakdown. It just doesn’t understand voice commands anymore, and they’re the only way to connect to bluetooth or USB (at least that I know of, and I read the whole damn manual and whatever I could find online). Anyway, I did all that you suggested, went to the car and plucked in the USB, then waited… and waited forever and ever and nothing happened! Did you just plug it in and it started the reset or whatever?
    Thank you so much, and I will never buy a Ford again if it means I have to deal with this nonsense. I JUST WANT TO LISTEN TO A PODCAST!! Not rocket science, Microsoft, seriously.
    Ok, rant over. Carry on.

  3. funny stumbling upon this post. you sum up the experience pretty perfectly! in Ford’s defense, they attempted to prevent the Mac user headaches in their latest update by instructing the user to open the .zip file with Stuffit Expander. this actually outputs the correct file/folder structure, the same way Windows does.

  4. Hi there,

    I have a 2012 ford escape and I am having the worst luck in trying to download the new sync update. I followed what you had said above but still nothing. My file name is DR3T-14D533-AG – I don’t know what or if I’m doing wrong. any help would be great

  5. Finally, someone has been able to help me update this. Ford was certainly no help! Thanks so much

  6. Thank you, Davin, your Mac work-around for the Sync update of my mother’s 2010 Ford Fusion worked flawlessly. I followed your instructions to a tee and got her car to accept the latest update. There is no way I could have done this using Ford’s woefully-incomplete online instructions. Funny, the one thing you mentioned that would be easy – the uploading of the Ford-placed xml file on the thumb drive – did not happen. I keep getting “Upload unsuccessful.” I chatted online with Ford, who said that there is currently some computer maintenance happening, so try again tomorrow. We’ll see. 😉 Thanks again.

  7. I have a Mac and a 2015 Lincoln MKZ. Thanks for the instructions I will follow them. I am very experienced with computers, but the SyncMyRide.com instructions are abysmal!!

  8. So I want to update my sync but Ford won’t download the file. It says I am up to date. Which is strange since they really don’t know what revision they have. And their database is incorrect.
    officially 5.9 is the latest revision for my car. And since their database thinks that my car has 5.9 it won’t let me download it. Customer service admitted there is a 5.11 but since it isn’t approved for my car they say 5.9 is all I get. Yet my car says I have 5.12. Customer service doesn’t even now this version exists. Yet they can’t get me the 5.9 file to install the official correct version. And I can’t report what I have since it requires the .xml from an actual install.
    In the end customer service is powerless, ignorant, the system database is wrong, and there is no means to correct the ford database. And I am left with a sync that may be crippled because it has an incorrect revision loaded. Or maybe sync just sucks regardless of revision.

  9. Wow, this is apparently a touchy topic. Here are some responses.

    @Robin just leave those two files alone. No need to change their file names. You will copy them to the thumb drive though, and leave in the root directory of the drive.

    @Manuela If I remember correctly, you have to navigate to a menu in Sync on the car to update the files.

    @dan Wow, really, they call out Stuffit Expander? I’m not sure I’ve used that since before OS X. Glad to hear it works though.

    @sia I’m sorry, I don’t know enough about why it isn’t working for you. You could try falling Ford’s customer service.

    @John @Daniel @Paul You’re welcome! Glad this helped.

    @Evan That is messed up. Good luck to you. I’ve had better experience with a recent year Nissan and also with a recent year Chrysler Pacifica. They have their own usability issues, but they are in a whole different (better) league than Ford’s Sync.

  10. Thank you so much for this! My Lincoln just would not take what the Sync download instructions said, and your input was exactly the fix. They should have your instructions on their website!

  11. Would you still have the files? I am trying to update it, but the website doesn’t even offer the software anymore, and I really don’t want to go to the dealer to have them install it for a fee.
    I am not sure what to do.

    Thanks!

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