I’m just switching from years on Windows computers and the idea that my new iMac might just download and install an OS update, then reboot, without prompting me first, fills me with anxiety! In the PC world, you always wanted to read about updates before you applied them, to ensure they didn’t mess up your computer. Can I turn this feature OFF on my Mac system?
You offer a most intriguing perspective on operating system updates, no question, and I get your concern about Windows updates breaking your system with buggy patches. But that also seems to be more historical than current, even in the Microsoft Windows world, and I haven’t read about anyone having significant problems for years now. Still, plenty of people leave their computers running overnight – in “sleep” mode – which is often when these updates are applied. Forget to save all your work and it can be darn frustrating to see a login prompt, not your open document or spreadsheet.
As you migrate to the Mac platform, it’s even less likely that an update will be problematic as Apple extensively beta tests all new OS releases, whether it’s a major jump from MacOS 11 to MacOS 12 or a small incremental update from 12.1.0 to 12.1.1. In many years of running Mac systems, I’ve never personally experienced a hiccup or glitch on a system update. However, I do prefer applying operating system updates manually anyway, so I can be aware of when new features appear. Another reason to turn off automatic updates!
MACOS OS AND APP UPDATE SETTINGS
To find the correct setting, go into the Software Updates area. You can find that by going to Apple > System Preferences…
Find “Software Update” – the gear icon – and click. Now you can see how beautiful that icon actually is (I know, probably not relevant, but still worth appreciating) as the system automatically checks to see if there’s a new update to your OS:
Notice I’m running the latest version of MacOS: Monterey 12.3. Look at the bottom checkbox, however. You can see it’s checked and blue. You can turn off all updates, but I don’t recommend that. Instead, click on “Advanced…“. A small window pops up with quite a few options:
I like the granularity of being able to pick and choose specific features, which is why I like this particular window. Rather than disable “Check for updates”, it can be smart to let the system automatically download updates, but not actually install them without manual intervention. This way when you are ready to update, the system’s primed and the typically huge download file is already on your Mac system.
Click to uncheck “Install macOS updates” and…
In what might be a slightly different philosophy to how Windows lets you interact and change system preferences, the Mac waits until the last step to have you confirm your administrative access. That’s why it shows up once I wanted to change things, not just look at the current settings. In this instance, log in with your account password or biometrics, depending on what your system supports.
DISABLE AUTOMATIC MACOS UPDATE INSTALLATION
To disable the automatic installation of MacOS updates, simply uncheck “Install macOS updates”, as shown:
A click on “OK” and you’ve got it disabled. Done.
Now, interestingly, when you look at “Software Update” notice that the checkbox is semi-checked:
Another Mac-ism: A dash in a checkbox means that some of the implied options are checked, while others are not. Subtle, for sure!
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about Mac systems since the very first model! Please check out my extensive MacOS Help Library for hundreds of additional tutorials to help you be a happy Mac user! Thanks.