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00_software_update_logoNobody could find the word “perfect” in the dictionary of the software development world. On the opposite side, “updates” is the one of the most frequently used words; along with bugs, fixes, and upgrades.

Keeping up with the constant updates is an art in itself. Not everybody has the time nor the willingness to do that. That’s why most modern software and operating systems have the automatic-updates feature built in.

Mac OS X is no exception.

Software Update Settings

Mac OS X uses an application called Software Update to help keep users up to date with all Apple-related updates. This app is located in the Apple Menu.



By default, Software Update will regularly check the updates in the background. But the settings can be changed via System Preferences –> Software Updates 02_software_update_system_preferences

After the Software Updates Preferences window opens, choose the “Scheduled Check” tab.


Users can also check all the updates that have been installed in the past from the “Installed Updates” tab.


Everything is set to run automatically, from checking to the installing. With user’s permission, Software Updates will acquire the files, install them, and get out of the sight. But the minimal user participation might not fit everyone’s preference.

The Missing Updates

From my low-speed internet connection point of view, most of the updates downloaded from Apple are enormously huge. Some files could go above a hundred megabytes. The thought of having to re-downloading them again gives me major goosebumps.


But it seems that after the installation process, all the downloaded files are nowhere to be found. It means that under this condition, if a person who owns (or manages) several Macs wants update OS X, he/she has to download all of the updates in each and every machine. Wow.

Editor’s note: You may also find some software update packages in /Library/Receipts/

I’m sure that there are a lot of Mac users who would like to backup the updates to be reused later – or to be installed on other machine(s) – but don’t know how.

There’s an easy way to do just that.

Saving the Updates

In the updating process, right after the Software Update window has opened, do not click the “Install X Item(s)” below. Instead, click on the Update menu and choose “Download Only”. 06_software_update___download_onlyThen, continue with the updating process.

After the download is done, you can choose to install the update packages or just close the Software Update window.


Either way, the downloaded packages are stored in the Download folder.


Using this method, me and my fellow Mac users with crawling internet connections could collect and share updates. We can save time, bandwidth, and money; while strengthening the bonds among members of the community.

As always, share your thoughts, opinions and experiences in the comment below. And don’t forget to check out other MakeUseOf articles about software updates.

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  1. Quiet1
    June 21, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    I've been using the Download Only option. The only thing is, I've not been too sure how to get those packages to install in bulk in a way similar to what Software Update does, I've resorted to manually running each one at a time hoping not to hit any prequisite issues... Is there an easy way to bulk install all the updates letting the system figure out the order, etc in one go?

    • Jeffry Thurana
      June 21, 2009 at 7:47 pm

      After the download process finish, you can click the "Install X Item(s)" button and the apps would be installed in bulk. This method however could not work if you use the downloaded packages in other machines. Or you could also try the "Install and Keep Package" option mentioned by summoner2100 above.

  2. summoner2100
    June 21, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    It will also work if you switch the above dropdown box to "install and keep package" That way the update will be installed and will still remain on your computer..

    • Jeffry Thurana
      June 21, 2009 at 8:02 pm

      I forgot to mention that I've tried this method but the packages dissapeared after the installation process finished. While the process is flawless on some of my friends' Mac, there are others who also have difficulties locating the files.

      All I can say is for users to try it themselves. Thanks for bringing this up.

  3. Jackson Chung
    June 18, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    It will work perfectly for App updates i.e iPhoto, iWork etc. For security and system updates, one has to know exactly what to install and is not generic.

    For example, if an update is released to address issues on certain models, start Software Update to see if you are affected. If there are a few of you with the same model, then it's perfectly safe to share. If that update isn't listed, then you won't need to install it.

    This method is also very useful if you are reinstalling OS X. You may backup your updates before the whole process and simply re-install the updates again.

  4. Alvin Chao
    June 18, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    This technique only works for machines of similar build, aka a MacBook Pro update is not the same for different generations of MacBook Pro since they have different hardware in different revs in the updates. Case in point, the Bluetooth update that was issued today(6-18-09) does not show up for me, but exists for other coworkers on newer MBP's . This may cause issues if it is installed on my machine.