How to get updates when they’re still fresh

For every Mac user who wants to delay installing updates, there are several who want them now, immediately. Whether they’re a large macOS update, one of the routine security data updates, or the latest version of an app, many want them as soon as they’re available, and won’t wait until tomorrow. This brief article explains how to ensure that you get updates when they’re still fresh.

Security data updates and RSRs

In the past, we’ve often referred to Apple “pushing” these relatively small and frequent updates to XProtect and others, as if our Mac was a passive partner and Apple’s servers do all the pushing. The reality seems to be that the softwareupdated background service on your Mac does the checking, according to the options set in System Settings > General > Software Update > ⓘ (the Info button).


All users should normally have Check for updates enabled, otherwise no checks will be made at all. Normally, unless you make alternative provision, Install Security Responses and System files should be enabled as well. That will automatically download and install Ventura’s new RSR patches, updates to XProtect and XProtect Remediator, and other security essentials. Other options are up to you, if you want all other updates downloaded or installed automatically.


If you know that there’s an update that you want that’s already available, such as when I announce macOS security and other updates, simply opening Software Update should force a check with Apple’s servers, and should find any outstanding updates. If it doesn’t, then one easy way to give softwareupdated a nudge is to open SilentKnight, or to run the command that it uses to find updates:
softwareupdate -l --include-config-data
Note that the second option is preceded by two hyphens, not a dash. It’s also an undocumented option that has long been used to fetch information about security data updates, which may not be included with the regular -l option.

Note that SilentKnight only lists available installs, and won’t download or install them unless you tell it to. If there’s a large update waiting, you can always quit SilentKnight at that stage and carry on using Software Update, which is what I do for macOS updates.

If that doesn’t find the updates you want, try restarting your Mac and repeating the process, first with Software Update, then SilentKnight. If the softwareupdated service has quietly died, that should get it running again. If a regular restart doesn’t work, try starting up in Safe mode and repeating the process there.

Some users have also reported success by asking for the named update, either using SilentKnight’s Install Named Update feature, or in the command
softwareupdate -i --include-config-data updatename
(again with a double hyphen for the second argument), where updatename is the ‘label’ given for that update.

If those don’t work, try again a little later, as Apple’s servers may not be accessible at that time.

macOS updates

These follow the same system, only you shouldn’t need to include the --include-config-data option in commands. Although SilentKnight is usually very good at finding macOS updates, and normally installs them fine, I recommend that you use Software Update instead, as it provides proper progress indicators and should be totally reliable.

App Store updates

A few versions of macOS ago, I was so annoyed at being informed late of App Store updates I devised a way of forcing them more promptly. If you wait until the App Store offers you an update, then it has often already been available for a day or more. I gather that this slow roll-out is a feature.

When you open the App Store app, first select Discover in the sidebar. Once its front page has loaded, select Updates in the sidebar, then press Command-R to refresh that view. After a couple of seconds, pending updates that the App Store hasn’t got round to telling you about may appear, sometimes a couple of days earlier than if you’d waited for the app to notify you.

Other apps

Many third-party apps supplied direct by their developer offer automatic checks for updates. However, their default setting may be infrequent: one of the first things to check when setting up a new app is whether you can opt in for automatic checks for updates, and their frequency. In most cases, once a week should suffice, but a few apps default to checking once a month unless you change their setting.