How to Get Around One of the Most Annoying macOS (non) Features

macOS High Sierra on iMac

One of the most annoying features of macOS is the persistent notification of available software updates. Sure, software updates are important, especially security updates. But if you’ve ever seen this annoying, persistent, error-prone pop-up from macOS, you may feel that there has to be a better way. There is.

Updates available
Too easy to click an undesired choice.

That pop-up message is, in fact, driven by a setting in the Mac App Store application. That’s found, of course, under the Apple Menu > App Store… (See Apple’s tech note: “How to update the software on your Mac.

When you select the App Store…, you may be tempted to think of what you see as a built-in macOS function. But it’s really just an application. And applications have their preferences.

After you launch the App Store…, take a look at App Store > Preferences, and you’ll see this.

Mac App Store Preferences.
Mac App Store Preferences.

If you check the box, “Automatically check for updates” that will lead to those periodic notifications. But if you leave it unchecked, it’ll be up to you, from time to time, to check for available updates. That’s especially helpful if you want to maintain a fixed configuration for, say, 32-bit app compatibility down the road. But it also means you’ll have to monitor and pay special attention to important security updates.

A Better Way

Apple has a vested interest in helping its customers keep their software up-to-date. Updates are released for good reasons, not the least of which are the security improvements that are typically baked in.

However, it seems to me that the automatic notice, shown in the first figure above, could be improved dramatically.

What I’d like to see, instead, is a simple box that says, “Time to review software updates.” With Yes and No buttons. If you click No, it goes away. Done. If you click Yes, you get a much bigger window. It would have a list of available updates, much like the Mac App Store’s “Updates” tab.

However, there would be two extra fields for each entry.

  1. A label for urgency: {Security Critical, Important, Routine}
  2. Remind me again in “X” days. A user defined number.

That way, the user can gracefully get on with urgent work without worrying about clicking the wrong field in the current pop-up, software updates are still monitored, and the user can define when to be pestered again for each entry. I can imagine that if a user defers a “Security Critical” update for more than a day or two, the pestering ramps up to some level Apple would define.

In any case, the current annoying and potentially confusing method doesn’t seem to fit in with both the capabilities of macOS and the daily needs of most users. It’s time to fix that in macOS 10.14.

2 thoughts on “How to Get Around One of the Most Annoying macOS (non) Features

  • I definitely want automatic update checking for security reasons, so I leave it on. I agree it would be good to have more customizable remind-me-later options. But by continually postponing it you just continue the problem because you are notified over and over until you finally do it. Then you took so long that the next update comes around soon and you are tired of updating so you start the postponing cycle again.

    I would like it to have a postpone option for the critical ones but for the non-critical ones to maybe put an icon in the menu bar and stay that way for whenever I happen to feel like I have time to update. It might also be nice if it were smarter about WHEN to bother me. When I first wake my computer from sleep I probably have something I want to get done immediately. But when I’m putting the computer back to sleep I’m done, so that would be a good time to ask to install updates. (Except sometimes I’m trying to quickly leave and don’t have time to click through things, so I still need a postponing option.)

    What I do with this annoying popup is to click it so that App Store starts to open then immediately quit the app. I’m not sure exactly what that does, but it seems to give me the longest amount of time before it pesters me again.

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