An up-to-date Mac is a safe Mac. Downloading and installing the latest updates – not only for the macOS operating system, but also for your applications – is the only way to ensure that your PC has the latest security patches needed to keep your system secure.
Besides the big updates, new versions of macOS every year, Apple periodically sends out additional patches to fix bugs and fix security holes in the system. Sometimes these add new features and fix the hard spots of the old ones, but more importantly, they fill in known security holes that hackers could use to exploit your machine.
Here’s how to keep your system and apps up to date and as secure as possible.
How to install macOS updates
As part of macOS, system updates are much easier to find and install. Instead of digging into the App Store, you can now go to the System Preferences menu to download a system update. To be clear, we’re talking about updates, not upgrades. A system upgrade would be a new version of macOS – an upgrade from Mojave to Catalina, for example – rather than one of the additional updates and bug fixes.
To update macOS, all you need to do now is go to Apple menu> System Preferences> Software Update. From there, your Mac will scan the system to see if an update is available. If you are using the latest software, you will see it here. Or, if an update is available, you can click the Update Now button in the upper right corner.
A better idea, however, is to simply click on the checkbox next to “Automatically keep my Mac up to date”. This will send a notification whenever a new update is available and ask you if you want to install it now or wait until later.
As for the upgrades, you can still find them in the App Store as usual. Just search for the version you need – for example Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, etc. – download the file, open it and let it run.
How to keep your apps up to date
Perhaps the easiest way to keep apps up to date is to use the same thing we recommend for the operating system. Go to Apple menu> System Preferences> Software Update From there, check the “Automatically keep my Mac up to date” box, but this time click on the button next to it that says Advanced. From there, you can check or uncheck the updates that you want Apple to watch out for.
It’s not the most comprehensive way to do it, but it will update most of your apps without you having to do anything else.
For those that don’t update automatically, you’ll have to do a bit of homework. First, open the Mac App Store. In the left sidebar, click the Updates button to see the apps for which updates are available. You can update each by clicking the button next to the app, or you can update all of these automatically in the future by clicking on App Store (in the menu bar), then Preferences> Updates automatic updates.
For those apps you haven’t downloaded from the App Store, it’s time to do some manual work. It is impossible to give you precise instructions for each application, as it is completely independent from the developer. But usually you can find the update menu in one of the following locations (in the menu bar):
- Application name> Update
- App name> About> Update
- Help> Update
Again, this is entirely up to the developer. There is no standard here, and the location to find these update options changes with each app you use. These are common points to find them, but this is not an exhaustive list. In addition, the wording could be different: “check for updates”, for example.
Many apps, especially in newer versions of macOS, will send you a notification when an update is ready. However, this is not the case for all applications, and especially for older ones.
Other apps, like the Adobe Creative suite, have their own auto-update apps that run in the background when you run the app. Or there’s Google Chrome, for example, which downloads and updates automatically.
However, to keep your Mac safe, you need to stay on top of these updates. And while it’s easy to make sure you have the latest version of macOS, it’s a little tricky to manage all of your apps, especially those downloaded from third parties, outside of the App Store.
If you don’t want to go the extra mile, it’s worth considering installing apps only from the Mac App Store, although it’s not a perfect solution.