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Manage your Mac OSX system software updates

By C. Steve | July 3, 2008

The following is considered reckless heresy in some circles, but I believe this to be one of the absolute truths about using computers whether they be Macs or PeeCees:

If you use your computer to make money, and particularly if that involves recording audio or video, turn off all automatic software updates. Make sure YOU decide when to update your Operating System software, and what parts of it should be updated or upgraded.

There, I’ve said it, and I firmly believe it. Several of my close friends are IT managers in medium-to-large companies, and they’re believe otherwise. They’re responsible for large numbers of computers including lots of mobile laptops, and as far as they’re concerned the majority of their computer users are bumbling noobs who need to be protected against Bad Stuff on the Internet. Hence their desire to make sure that every patch, update, and fix that becomes available gets applied to their users’ computers. I understand their thinking, but I disagree.

See, I believe that if you’re reading this then you probably use your computer to make money with audio or video. Furthermore, you need your computer to be above all reliable, because you never know when you’ll need to submit that demo or audition that will pay this month’s rent. A reliable computer is a computer whose software collection stays the same from day to day. Once it works, the only sure way to keep it working is to avoid changing it, especially on the say-so of developers who don’t test their patches, updates, and fixes on the software you and I use on a daily basis.

OSX System PrefsSo if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. When a new version or update becomes available, do some research with Google, and find out what others who use the same software as you say about the update. Meanwhile, let’s disable automatic updates on a Mac.

Here’s how to set up 10.5 Leopard so it won’t change its software in the background without your approval. First, click the Apple menu and select System Preferences as shown on the right.sumenu

Next, click the Software Update icon in System Preferences, as shown on the left.suprefs

You will see the Software Update dialog box, which looks like the picture shown below. Make sure you uncheck the¬†box labeled “Download important updates automatically.” You neither need nor want that. However, leaving the “Check for updates” box checked will ensure that you’re aware of the updates… it just won’t be downloading them behind your back, right?

Next tile we’ll look at accomplishing the same task in Windows XP (and in Vista, provided there actually is a way in Vista!).

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