How to Enable Auto-Updates in macOS

Posted on June 26, 2020 - by Kyle Hankins - in Building Your InfoSec Program

Auto-updates is a background process that keeps your Mac up-to-date with the latest security features from Apple.

Contrary to what you might think, auto-updates are crucial to reducing the surface area of attack on your Mac. Many people assume the seemingly constant notifications of updates, which always seem to pop up at inconvenient times, are unimportant. But ignoring critical security patches leaves your computer vulnerable and open to known threats.  

By taking a little time to set up your Mac to enable automatic updates, you won’t have to worry about those annoying notifications. This is because you can set up the updates to be downloaded automatically in the background. (Not ready for Catalina or Big Sur? Don’t worry, you can specify that you just want the important security updates.)

Here’s How to Automatically Update macOS:

1. Choose Apple Menu > System Preferences, then click Software Update.

2. Click the checkbox “Automatically keep my Mac up to date.

3. Click the Advanced button in the bottom right corner of the window.

4. You will have several checkbox options to select to specify what type of updates are automatically downloaded. The recommended options are to select: 

  • Check for updates
  • Download new updates when available
  • Install macOS updates
  • Install app updates from the App Store
  • Install system data files and security updates

Easy as that! Now you’ll never miss an update on your Mac. You can also check Apple’s support guide about enabling updates, which may be useful if your macOS version doesn’t match these instructions. (If you also have a PC, check out our instructions for enabling auto-updates on Windows 10.)

Why System Updates Are Critical for Your Security

The Equifax data breach where 143 million people had their personal data stolen is a perfect example of how something as simple as not keeping your software up to date leads to catastrophic consequences. Failing to install basic security updates left Equifax open to an attack exploiting a known vulnerability in their outdated software. The breach was completely preventable, as the security patch had been available for months.

It’s important to automatically update your operating system. You should at least check and hit update on security patches regularly, if you have a reason to stick with manually updating.

Ignoring security updates leaves you vulnerable to known issues and cyber attacks. Apple sends out security patches on a regular basis, based on new malware, threats, and newly discovered vulnerabilities. You might not know if it’s for some small bugs that haven’t been exploited “in the wild” or for critical security reasons.

It’s easy to make cybersecurity sound complicated or scary. Yet many of the simple steps that will help protect you from ransomware sound basic. Despite such common sense-sounding best practices, big companies like Equifax still stumble trying to establish adequate security policies and procedures.  

Your company should have an information security policy about regularly installing security updates and may even require enabling auto-updates. If half the computers at your company were taken down in an attack because they had outdated software, that would cause a major business disruption. And that’s not a far fetched scenario. It’s a serious risk that companies need to consider and mitigate. Malicious actors are on the prowl for smaller, weak targets as well as big, harder-to-hack enterprise companies.

Installing security updates is one easy way to protect yourself. As well as anyone your computer might be connected to or hold data on.

Does your company have a policy about updating software and installing security patches?


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