Download Software Updates

Earlier, I suggested setting Software Update to check for, and download, any new updates from Apple daily. If you followed that advice, any important updates download in the background, and Software Update informs you when they're ready to install. So your daily task is more of a don't than a do: on the days when that inevitable alert appears, asking if you want to install the latest software updates, read about the updates but consider postponing installation for a few daysin other words, click Quit instead of Install.

I say this for two reasons. First, software updates take some time to download and install, and you may not have the time available at the instant Software Update informs you that new software is ready. Besides, updates occasionally result in a cascading effect: now that you've updated X, Y no longer works and must be updated; now that Y has been updated, you must make changes to Z's settings. For this reason, I find Saturday mornings especially good for updating software.

Second, in the unlikely event that an update contains a major erroras has happened a few timeswaiting gives you a safety buffer. If you check sites like MacInTouch ( or MacFixIt (, you can get a sense of whether an update has raised any serious issues for other Macintosh users. However, take isolated reports of problems with a grain of salt. Updates can failor appear to failfor many reasons, including user error. The fact that one or two people cry wolf should not dissuade you from applying an update.

A Conversation about Software Updates

Many people install software updates as soon as they appear, but I recommend doing it once a week instead. Here's what some other experts have to say on the subject:

Kirk McElhearn: Daily isn't always best for updatesit means you're on the cutting edge and, since we've seen a handful of Apple updates that were pulled or quickly revised in recent years, it might be more risky than it's worth.

Andy Affleck: I agree with Kirk; daily software updates are very risky. I generally check MacFixIt and MacInTouch for a few days after each update to be sure it's a safe one. Doing software updates weekly is safer.

Tonya Engst: I usually run Apple's Software Update utility during the weekend, because if an update involves restarting it's too much time out of the day, plus it's a distraction from getting my work done.

Chris Pepper: In my department, we have the "Never on Friday" rule. The gist is that you should (a) assume that any work might go horribly pear-shaped, and (b) never start a process you're not prepared to see through to its conclusion. Since we don't like staying late Friday night or working Saturday, we don't start major upgrades on Friday afternoon (unless they're scheduled to run through the weekend). For any substantial maintenance (weekly, monthly, and especially annual), it's probably worth running or checking a backup first, and making sure you have twice as much time as you expect to need, so you don't start a process on Friday afternoon and suck away your weekend if the upgrade doesn't go smoothly.

Geoff Duncan: I check on Mondays but usually don't install anything at that point. Security updates have highest priority with me; I might apply them as early as Wednesday. Anything else has to wait until immediately after a backup and, following Chris's postulate that it's going to take at least twice as long as I think it will, until I have time.

Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups. Industrial-Strength Techniques
Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups. Industrial-Strength Techniques
Year: 2004
Pages: 144 © 2008-2017.
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