Check and Install Mac OS X Software Updates from the Terminal

Jan 13, 2011 - 16 Comments

Terminal in OS X

You can check for available updates, ignore packages, and install any or all Mac OS X Software Updates directly from the command line. To see what updates are available, or to install a software update from the Terminal of OS X, you’ll use the ‘softwareupdate’ command as we’ll instruct below.

List All Available Mac Software Updates from Command Line

To get a list of available software updates, type the following command:

softwareupdate -l

You will see a list of available updates.

Installing All Available Updates from Terminal

You can then install all available software updates with the following command:

sudo softwareupdate -iva

The use of sudo is required to get superuser privileges to actually install the updates.

Install Recommended Updates Only from Terminal in OS X

You can also install only the recommended updates with:

sudo softwareupdate -irv


Installing & Ignoring Specific Software Updates to Mac from Terminal of OS X

Or you can just install specific software updates by specifying the shorthand package name from the previous list, like so:

sudo softwareupdate -i iPhoneConfigurationUtility-3.2

If there are any updates you want to ignore, you can do so with the –ignore flag, for example:

sudo softwareupdate --ignore iWeb3.0.2-3.0.2

If you want to see all the available command line shortcuts for Software Update, just type:

softwareupdate -h

This is really useful for remotely updating Macs, setting up automated updates via a bash script, or if you just want to geek out.

This tool is available in all versions of OS X and therefore it can be used to update just about any Mac with necessary software updates. This is one way to avoid using the Mac App Store to update a Mac if that is necessary for whatever reason.

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Posted by: David Mendez in Command Line, Mac OS X


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Joao Gon says:

    Love terminal ‘shortcuts’…

    “softwareupdate -h” or “softwareupdate” will do the same.

  2. chiggsy says:

    What font is that? I have to try it on some code!

  3. Omppa says:

    For me “sudo softwareupdate -i -a” worked, “sudo softwareupdate -iva” didn’t.

  4. […] the command line softwareupdate tool you can update Mac OS X system software without using the App Store. This is particularly […]

  5. Dave Courtemanche says:

    I realize this is an old thread, hopefully you’re still reading. :) This worked great for the OS updates. Any idea how to add the iWork updates or iLife updates too? Trying to remote manage 15 Macs and Apple doesn’t really do enterprise. I’d like to download .dmg or .pkg files to be able to update everyone at once, but the above command only pulls down OS updates.

    • Dan says:

      You already probably found a solution but Munki is useful for installing custom applications (Skype, Google Earth etc), it also has its own command line tool for the client so you could set up a schedule (cron) to run the updates, or get a copy of Apple Remote Desktop

  6. Phred says:

    How can you do manual updates if you have spotlight disabled. I had to disable it because my mac was stuck in the infamous “update loop”.

  7. NR says:

    If someone stumbles upon this, I believe -v is not a valid option, instead it would be –verbose to enable verbose output.

    • Paul says:

      Your belief is incorrect.

      -v is valid to specify for verbose mode, a flag at the command line is shorthand, so in this case it would be -v for -verbose which means it elucidates what is going on when the command for softwareupdate is being executed.

      You can type ‘softwareupdate -h’ for a full list of softwareupdate commands.

  8. NR says:

    While I am familiar with shorthands for flags, interestingly softwareupdate -iva fails, with “invalid option”, whilst softwareupdate –verbose -ia does work, hence the above comment…

  9. Salam Waddah says:

    Thanks work perfectly. For some reason, my AppStore is not connecting to the internet and this method worked perfectly.

  10. Hi
    I’ve recently purchased a refurbished MacBook Pro late 2012. Just about to update iMovie and the greyed out address of the previous owner came up with request for password.
    It will not let me create my own id in this case and it works fine for other circumstances I think accepting my Apple id but not in this.
    So how can I remove previous owner totally!!!so I can update blissfully!!
    best wishes and congrats on an interesting site!

    • Andrew says:

      Hi David,

      Unfortunately the previous owner has already “adopted” the application – only the first owner of the MacBook can adopt. The device combines a mixture of its serial, ethernet hardware address, and sends it to Apple to confirm if the device has already adopted.

      There are less legal methods (such as capturing a pkg file of the updates), but they’re a huge pain to manage even if you’re technically able.

      If the refurb is purchased from Apple directly you might be able to talk them into assigning the apps to you, and when you sign out of the App Store and sign back in they’ll appear in your “Purchased” tab and be updatable.

      Good luck!


  11. Tan Nguyen says:

    With my OS X Sierra (10.12.x+) softwareupdate is in /usr/sbin.

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