How to Change the Software Update Frequency in OS X

Aug 30, 2012 - 7 Comments

Change Software Update check frequency in OS X

OS X now automatically checks for software updates once a week, and a notification pops up if you have updates available. But unlike older versions of Mac OS X, there is no pulldown menu in System Preferences to change how often system updates are checked for, so if you want to adjust the update checking behavior from once a week you’ll need to turn to the command line.

  • Launch Terminal, found in /Applications/Utilities/ and enter the following command:
  • sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/ ScheduleFrequency 3

  • Set the number at the end to the number in days between checking for available software updates, the example uses 3 days

If you want to revert back to default behavior of checking once a week, you can use defaults delete or change the setting to 7, because there are 7 days in a week.

Checking for updates more often than once a week is probably a good idea when there are live vulnerabilities going around, like the current Java 7 issue that will impact some Mountain Lion users who manually installed the update.

The setting can also be changed per-user by pointing at the user library directory ~/Library/ rather than system library /Library/, but for software updates there isn’t much of a reason to do so other than avoiding the sudo command.

Thanks for the tip Tom

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Posted by: William Pearson in Command Line, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Peter says:

    I understand wanting to make updates easier, but removing the ability to change the duration of checks is silly. What if I’m offline when the update is scheduled? I have to wait another week? I shouldn’t need to use a command line tweak to get this to go faster.

    • robert says:

      if you’re offline for a while, why not just manually check for updated when you have internet access again?

      But yes, too preferred the old software update – especially then one where you could download and keep updates.

  2. Dob Bole says:

    Wow, nice tip.

  3. Ryan says:

    Right from Apple’s website:
    “Mountain Lion checks for new updates every day, making sure you have the latest software for your Mac.”

  4. Tom says:

    Does not work for me. I set the interval to 1 (should be daily in my opinion), but after 4 days of waiting nothing happens…

  5. Rob says:

    What about using something like Automator or an Applescript to schedule it to run an a specific day & time of the week? For example, while a the office, I don’t have access to a high bandwidth connection for my personal (retina) laptop, so any day in the evening, etc? Thanks!

    • David says:

      This is what I want. I have Exede satellite and need to have OSX get updates between midnight and 5am….there is no cap during those hours.

      Mtn. Lion uses the App store for updates, so the Automater script would need to work with that.

      Anyone have a method for getting this to work?


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