Automatically Install OS X Updates on a Mac
Automatic Updates has been possible for Mac apps for quite some time, but up until now the system updates of OS X were not part of that automatic installation option. That changed with OS X Yosemite and El Capitan, and now Mac users who would rather take a hands-off approach to maintaining their Macs OS X software updates can choose to automatically check for and install core system updates. This is in addition to the existing options for automatically updating their Mac apps and installing important security updates too, making some of the more important maintenance tasks for Macs completely automated for the users who choose to enable these features.
Important: If you’re going to use this automatic system update option, be sure that Time Machine backups of the Mac are allowed to be made on a regular schedule. Time Machine will do this automatically as long as it’s setup and the backup drive is available. If you do not make regular backups of your Mac, it is not recommended to use an automated system update installation feature.
How to Automatically Install OS X Updates on a Mac
This requires OS X Yosemite for the OS X update specific option, though prior versions of OS X can choose to automatically install app updates if they wish (a similar, function, minus the system software updates).
- Go to Apple menu and choose “System Preferences”
- Go to the “App Store” panel
- Check the boxes for “Automatically check for updates” and “Download newly available updates in the background” – these two features must be enabled to allow for the “Install OS X Updates” option to be available
- Check the box next to “Install OS X updates” to enable that, then close out of System Preferences as usual (or hit “Check Now” at the bottom to see if anything is waiting at the moment)
The rest is handled for you behind the scenes, so when an OS X update arrives, say an update to Yosemite like OS X 10.10.1 or 10.10.2, that update would automatically download and install itself when it becomes available.
It should be noted that the automatic update check and download options are often enabled by default in OS X Yosemite (and other versions of Mac OS X for that matter). If you don’t want your bandwidth to be used by software updates without your own trigger of that function, you can disable them instead by unchecking the appropriate settings in the System Preference App Store panel.
While this feature is not for everyone, using Automatic Updates for system updates and for installed apps is a great option for those users who are forgetful and frequently fall behind on system updates, and for those who just want an automated maintenance schedule maintained for them.
Manually Checking for OS X Updates
If you decide to turn the automatic update setting off, you’ll want to get in the habit of manually checking for available updates once a week or so in order to not fall behind on critical security updates, app updates, and OS X updates. The easiest way to do that is through the Apple menu and choosing “App Store” (yes you now download system updates through the App Store, this used to be named Software Update, but it was changed in OS X Yosemite)
For users who want to further tweak the automatic updates function, you can turn to the command line to modify how often updates are checked for from Apple servers. And if you find those software update notifications to annoy you, you can also deal with those without having to disable the update feature itself.
The ability to install app updates automatically is also available to iOS, though at the moment there is not an option to automatically install iOS system updates. Many iPhone and iPad owners choose to turn off the app updating feature to preserve battery life, which is a bit more important in the smartphone world than on a desktop Mac, but power consumption would be a valid consideration for users of a MacBook Air or Pro.