softwareupdate - macOS


The softwareupdate command allows users to check for, install, and manage software updates for macOS. It provides a convenient way to keep systems up-to-date with the latest security patches, feature enhancements, and bug fixes.


softwareupdate [options]


  • -l, –list: Lists available updates.
  • -i, –install: Installs available updates.
  • -d, –download: Downloads updates without installing them.
  • -a, –all: Installs all available updates, including recommended and optional.
  • -r, –recommended: Installs recommended updates.
  • -P, –purge: Purges the downloaded update files.
  • -v, –verbose: Provides verbose output during the update process.
  • –fetch-full-installer: Fetches the full macOS installer instead of a delta update.
  • –ignore [bundle identifier]: Ignores specified updates.


1. List available updates:

softwareupdate -l

2. Install all available updates:

sudo softwareupdate -i -a

3. Download updates without installing:

softwareupdate -d -a

4. Install recommended updates:

sudo softwareupdate -i -r

5. Force a system update by downloading the full installer:

sudo softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer

Common Issues

  • Update not found: Ensure that the Mac is connected to the internet.
  • Permission denied: Use sudo before the command to run it with administrative privileges.
  • Insufficient space: Ensure there is enough free space on the startup disk.
  • Software update failed: Reboot the Mac and try again. If the issue persists, refer to Apple Support.


  • softwareupdate can be combined with:
    • launchctl to schedule updates
    • munki to manage updates through a central server