Software and applications
You use a lot of software and much of it is updated regularly. Apps updates – and also the operating system – can provide new features, performance enhancements, and bug fixes, and these solutions often address security issues to help protect you from potential threats. All of these are important and it is a good idea to keep the software up to date. (In most cases, at least.) That's how it is.
Get software updates on iOS
You get software updates on iOS in a number of ways. App updates are delivered in the App Store and operating system updates in the Settings app.
To check for updates in the App Store open the app and tap the Updates tab. If updates are available, press Update all to download all the new apps or press Update button next to a single app to just download one update .
You can choose to download iOS app updates automatically so you don't have to worry about doing this manually. Go to Settings> iTunes & App Stores and in the Automatic Downloads section of the screen, switch to Updates .
And to download automatic iOS operation system updates, go to Settings> General> Automatic Updates and change that setting. As you can see on that screen, iOS updates are automatically used overnight only when your iOS device is connected to a charger and Wi-Fi. Your iOS device will restart after each operating system update.
However, you will not necessarily automatically update your iOS device. For apps, you may not be surprised by new (or removed) features when you go to use an app. And for iOS, you may not be on the bleeding edge and download updates immediately after they are released. Although rare, there have been cases where iOS updates have caused problems with the iPhone and iPads, and Apple has had to pull them out and release revised versions of them. On the other hand, leaving automatic updates enabled will ensure that critical iOS updates will be installed on your device as soon as they become available, helping you keep your device safer.
Get software updates on MacOS
The way to get updates on macOS is similar to the way iOS delivers updates – at least that's true if you get the bulk of the Mac software from the App Store. To update apps purchased or downloaded from the Mac App Store, open the app App Store and click Updates . (Note that the screen below is from macOS Mojave; earlier versions of macOS have the update button at the top instead of on the left side.)
For apps not purchased from the Mac App Store, the way to check if Updates vary. There is often an option for check for updates in the app's preferences or under app's name menu (next to the Apple menu at the top left of the screen), sometimes under About [the name of the app] as That's the case with Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera browsers. Some apps have their own update app, such as Microsoft AutoUpdate (included in Microsoft Office) and Intego's NetUpdate. Other Mac apps update using a framework like Sparkle. In some cases, an app will check for updates and then tell you to visit the developer's website to download the latest version of the app.
To allow macOS to update automatically, go to Settings> Software Update and then check Automatically keep my Mac updated . The Mac offers some more granular update options than iOS. If you click Advanced … you will see a number of options:
- Check for updates : Enable this to tell your Mac to check for operating system updates and security updates on a regular basis. This should be checked.
- Download new updates when available : If you check this, the Mac downloads new updates as soon as they are available.
- Install macOS updates : This tells your Mac to install operating system and security updates as soon as possible. Your Mac will alert you if it needs to be restarted so you can choose to delay the update if necessary.
- Install updates from the App Store : This does the same as the setting in the App Store settings.  Install system data files and security updates : This setting, which is independent of the install macOS installer, tells Software Update to automatically install certain security updates and some system files that do not require restart, such as XProtect updates.
As with iOS, you might want to stick with installing MacOS updates automatically, especially because it's a good idea to back up your Mac fully before installing such an update. However, it is a very good idea to install system files and security updates because these are updates that are critical to protecting your Mac.
It is worth noting that if you have used unsupported methods to install a recent version of MacOS on an old Mac or if you have built a "hackintosh" (a non-designed PC by Apple running MacOS, potentially in violation of Apple's MacOS software license agreement), you will not be able to install software updates automatically, and it may be necessary to wait a while to install them. The third-party software used to exploit macOS on unsupported Macs may need to be updated to be compatible with newer versions of MacOS.
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About Kirk McElhearn
Kirk McElhearn writes about Macs, iPods, iTunes, books, music and more on his blog Kirkville.
He co-hosts Intego Mac Podcast and PhotoActive, and a regular contributor to The Mac Security Blog, TidBITS, and several other websites and publications.
Kirk has written more than twenty books, including Take Control Books on iTunes, LaunchBar and Scrivener.