Automatic updates for OS X are unsafe! Disable them!

Updates are supposed to fix flaws and bugs and add features, but sometimes they go wrong and they have unintended effects. After an update the computer, phone or tablet may not work properly and a flaw in the update can cause more problems that it is supposed to fix. Disable automatic updates for your safety.

For example, Apple launched iOS 8 for the iPhone and iPad and a week later released an update to fix a few minor bugs. However, the fix created even more problems than it was supposed to repair and some people found their iPhones could no longer make calls. Apple had to writhdraw the update. This disastrous operating system update highlights a problem with being the first to apply them - there is a risk.

It can happen to OS X on the Apple Mac too and some people, admitedly only a small number, experience problems after updating OS X and applications to the latest version. It is a risky procedure and you can never be 100% certain that everything will be OK afterwards. It probably will, but there is a chance it won't.

Related: Use safe mode on your Mac to troubleshoot problems

Unfortunately, OS X on your Apple Mac might be configured to download and install operating system updates automatically before you have had a chance to check whether it is OK or not. While the Mac is connected to the internet it could be silently downloading a major update in the background and then quietly installing it without your knowledge. The question is, is it safe to install? Will your Mac work afterwards? Who knows?

Most of the time, updates are indeed safe to install and they rarely cause problems, but it is not unknown for issues to arise for some people. If you want to be safe you should not be the first person to download and install an update. Let other people do it first. I prefer to wait for a few days or even a week before updating my Mac. During that time I can keep an eye on the latest Mac and OS X news stories and see if there is anyone that is having problems with the update.

When there is a problem, people discover it quite quickly and news sites, message boards and Apple discussions pages are full of chat about what went wrong with the update. If, after a week, nothing bad has been heard about an update, you should go ahead and download it and install it on your computer.

So how do you take control of the downloading and installation of updates? This is easy and you just go to the Apple menu in the top left corner of the screen and select System Preferences. Click the App Store icon and there is a list of options with tick boxes, making it easy to configure system updates.

Enable or disable automatic OS X updates

If you keep abreast of new updates and can remember to check for them on a regular basis, you can clear all the ticks. Every week or or two, return here and click the Check Now button to check to see if there is anything new. You can also run the App Store and click the Updates icon in the toolbar. If there are any, you will be shown a list of those available and it is easy to select the ones you want and update the Mac. This way it is your choice and updates are only installed when you choose.

A better option for most people though, is to tick the first box to automatically check for updates, but to leave all the others clear. You will then receive notifications of updates, but no action will be taken unless you choose to download and install them.

Related: Discover what is slowing down your Mac

There is an option to Download newly available updates in the background. This checks for updates and downloads any that are available, but it does not install them. You are asked if you want to install them and you must confirm that you want to proceed. The disadvantage of this is that it downloads in the background when you may not want it to, such as when you are out with a MacBook at a slow Wi-Fi hotspot or even paying for internet data. It also downloads updates as soon as they are available, so even though it doesn’t install them, it prompts you to, which is just as bad.

My own preference is to turn off all the options and to manually check for updates. I do it when it suits me, such as when I am on a fast internet connection, when I have the time, and after I have just made a system backup. I clone the Mac’s internal disk drive to an external USB disk with SuperDuper! for safety. In the event of a disaster, I can boot up from the external disk and copy the disk back again, undoing everything.





No doubt you are well able to beat the system that sends you on a merry dance while we mere mortals struggle to find the latest free version or update since Apple is about selling products and thus mere mortals are blinded by hard sell about products when all we really want is the latest version of Safari

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