How to Update Your Mac Using Terminal

Update Mac Using Terminal Cover

Most of us are used to updating our Mac’s software (macOS) using the Mac App Store – the traditional way of doing it. However, there is another method also available to update macOS: using Terminal. Using this method to update your Mac can save time and be easier for many, especially since the Mac App Store is known to lag on older devices. Many users have also reported updates download and install faster when installed using Terminal, so that’s another obvious advantage.

If you’re using multiple Macs connected to a server, you can simply run a script or remotely install an update without going through the struggle of accessing each device individually. For users running macOS Mojave or later, software updates have been moved to System Preferences, but the Terminal method is also still available.

This method uses a bunch of commands to allow Terminal to search for any available updates for your particular system and install them. We’ve detailed the entire method below to make it easy for you, so check it out.

Note: since updating software on any system is a core function, you’ll need your administrator password to proceed with any downloads and installations using Terminal.

1. Open Terminal on your Mac. You can do this by searching for it with Spotlight or by accessing “Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal” in Finder.

2. Type in the following command and press Enter:

Update Mac Using Terminal List Updates

This will search Apple’s servers for any available updates for your system. If there are no updates available, it’ll show “No updates available.” However, in the case there are available updates, Terminal will display the list of these updates along with the update file size.

3. Now, to download and install a particular update, use

Here, replace NAME with the particular update you want to download and install. For example, if you want to install the macOS 10.14.5 update, type sudo softwareupdate -i 'macOS 10.14.5 Update- '.

Update Mac Using Terminal Sudo Install

Tip: the name of the update – also known as the identifier – is the one written next to the star/bullet as highlighted below.

Update Mac Using Terminal Identifier

You need to make sure you type in the exact identifier for the update to download and install. Also be careful of any spaces / asterisks present at the end of the identifier as is the case in the update highlighted below.

Update Mac Using Terminal Space

If you want to install all available updates, simply use the following command instead:

The -a command simply instructs Terminal to install all updates. As both of these commands are sudo commands, you’ll need to enter in an administrator password when prompted for one.

That’s it. The update(s) you’ve selected will start to download and will automatically start installing once downloaded. Unfortunately, there is no traditional progress bar. Instead, Terminal will keep updating you with each step via text entries.

In the case that you install an update that needs your computer to restart, Terminal will let you know. Simply enter in your password, and Terminal will automatically restart your Mac.

You can use this method to download macOS updates and updates to Apple’s major apps, but unfortunately, you’re still confined to the Mac App Store or the Software Update section in System Preferences to install any other third-party app on your Mac.

Do you prefer using the Mac App Store or Terminal for installing updates on your Mac? Let us know in the Comments section below!

Shujaa Imran Shujaa Imran

Shujaa Imran is MakeTechEasier's resident Mac tutorial writer. He's currently training to follow his other passion become a commercial pilot. You can check his content out on Youtube

One comment

  1. I have always used the app store. It never dawned on me to use the term, but I will probably give it a try just to see what it is like.

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