Updating Mac OS X - dummies

By Bob LeVitus

As any good software developer should, Apple constantly releases improvements to Mac OS X in the form of software updates. These updates can include all sorts of fun stuff, such as

  • Bug fixes
  • Improvements and new features
  • Enhanced drivers
  • Security upgrades
  • Firmware upgrades

Apple makes it easy to keep Mac OS X up-to-date with the Software Update controls in System Preferences (see Figure 1). Alternatively, you can choose the Apple menu and then choose Software Update. To check for new updates periodically, enable the Check for Updates check box. Then from the drop-down list box, choose how often you want these updates. (At least weekly, if not daily.) For a manual check, make sure that you’re connected to the Internet and then click the Check Now button.

Figure 1: Configuring Software Update is easy.

To download updates automatically, mark the Download Important Updates in the Background check box to enable it; the Big X politely downloads the updates behind the scenes and then alerts you that they’re ready to be installed. (With automatic downloading disabled, Mac OS X displays any available updates with short descriptions, and you can toggle the installation of a specific update by enabling or disabling the check boxes next to it.)

Install all updates, even for hardware that you don’t have yet. For example, install AirPort updates even though if you don’t use an AirPort connection at home. The reason? Often, the functionality covered by an update may include system software that you do use, so you’ll still benefit from installing it.

After you specify the updates that you want to install, click the Install button to begin the update process. You may have to reboot after everything has been installed.

To see which updates you’ve already installed, click the Installed Updates tab.