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Software Update is a software tool by Apple Inc.marker that installs the latest version of Apple software on computers running Mac OS X. It was originally introduced to Mac users in Mac OS 9. A Windows version has been available since the introduction of iTunes 7, under the name "Apple Software Update". Software Update automatically informs users of new updates. It is part of the CoreServices in OS X, found at /System/Library/CoreServices/Software, or by choosing Software Update from the Apple menu. Software Update can be set to check for updates daily, weekly, monthly, or not at all; in addition, it can download and store the associated .pkg file (the same type used by Installer) to be installed at a later date and maintains a history of installed updates.

Software Updates consist of incremental updates of the Mac OS and its applications, Security Updates, device drivers and firmware updates. All software updates require a password, as with all consequential system changes. Some updates require a system restart. Starting with Mac OS X 10.5, updates that require a reboot log out the user prior to installation and automatically restart the computer when complete; in earlier versions, the updates are installed, but critical files are not replaced until the next system startup.

Command line

All of Software Update's features are available through the command-line program softwareupdate.

The command line usage for softwareupdate in Mac OS X 10.6 is:
usage: softwareupdate  [ ...]

-l | --list                List all appropriate updates
-d | --download         Download Only
-i | --install          Install
        -a | --all              all appropriate updates
        -r | --recommended      only recommended updates

Per-user preferences:
--reset-ignored         Clear all ignored updates
--schedule (on | off)   Set automatic checking

-v | --verbose     Enable verbose output
-h | --help     Print this help
Using this tool, it is fairly straightforward for lab administrators to automatically install incoming updates by adding a cron job, or using the new launchd scheduling system, the latter is recommended:

softwareupdate --install --all

(or just --recommended to be more cautious). It is prudent to set the job to run only every few days to allow for time to jump in with an --ignore if a particular update is reported to have issues by early adopters. If running as a cron job, it is also a good idea to avoid running the update while a user is logged in, especially since some updates require reboot to take effect. (softwareupdate does not reboot automatically, it merely displays a warning on its standard output if a reboot is necessary.) Remote administrators may also be interested in also using the cURL and installer command line utilities to set up their own software update system.


Apple Software Update has been criticized for automatically installing new software on Windows when checking for updates. On March 18, 2008 Apple started offering the Safari web browser for download through Software Update. On Windows, Safari was automatically selected for installation whenever update was run. After considerable criticism, Apple modified software update to differentiate between new and updated software, although Safari remained selected by default.

In September of 2009, Apple began offering the iPhone Configuration Utility through Software Update for Windows. This appears to have been an error on Apple's part as the utility is designed for enterprise users and serves absolutely no purpose for home users. Apple removed the utility several weeks later after its presence was widely criticized by the IT community.


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