How to prevent your Mac from automatically downloading and installing macOS updates

By , Oct 3, 2016

macOS Sierra installer icon

If you’re on macOS El Capitan 10.11.5 or later, your computer can download major operating system updates such as macOS Sierra in the background. In addition, most Mac models with a macOS version older than El Capitan are capable of downloading app updates and security updates without intervention.

After any such update has finished downloading, your Mac notifies you when it’s ready to install and you can choose to apply, ignore or postpone the update until a more convenient time.

If you don’t want macOS updates to download silently in the background, you can disable this feature with a few clicks in your App Store preferences.

Before we get to it, there are plenty reasons why you would want to prevent macOS updates from downloading automatically. macOS software updates are typically multi-gigabyte affairs so I like to download them on my own time, outside work hours, to ensure the optimal Internet experience when I’m actually working on important stuff.

Storage is another thing that comes to mind.

Although Apple won’t push macOS updates to your Mac if it’s low on space, even if the computer has enough free space and downloads the updates in the background and then starts to get low on space, it will automatically delete them to free up space

To avoid these scenarios, disable auto update downloads.

Disabling auto-downloading macOS updates

1) On your Mac, go to System Preferences → App Store.

2) To prevent your Mac from downloading macOS updates and app updates without asking you first, deselect “Download newly available updates in the background.”

MacBook Air Mac App Store updates screenshot 002

From now on, the Mac will notify you when macOS software updates and updates to your installed apps are available but won’t download them automatically in the background unless you tell it to.

Conversely, to have macOS and app updates download in the background without asking, select “Download newly available updates in the background”.

Once the update finishes downloading, you’ll receive a notification that it’s available to install. Then, you can choose when to install it, or choose to be reminded the next day.

MacBook Air Mac App Store updates screenshot 001

And like before, you can easily check for updates manually at any time by clicking the Updates tab in the Mac App Store.

Managing other auto update downloads

If you want downloaded macOS updates to install automatically without asking, select “Install macOS updates.” To have the computer install any app updates from the Mac App Store automatically, just select “Install app updates” and you’re good to go.

For your own security, you are highly recommended to select the option “Install system data files and security updates” which tells the computer to install system files and security updates without asking.

That way, you’ll have a piece of mind knowing that any worrisome vulnerabilities or dangerous zero-day exploits on your Mac will be automatically fixed as soon as Apple releases the patches.

And last but not least, you can tell your Mac to download any apps that you bought from the Mac App Store on other Macs by selecting the option “Automatically download apps purchased on other Macs”.

Please keep in mind that the MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air must have the power adapter plugged in to automatically download updates in the background.

How do you like this tip?

Speaking of which, how did you set App Store preferences on your Mac? Do you like having your macOS updates automatically downloaded in the background, and why?

Do you let your Mac update your apps automatically?

  • Share:
  • Follow:
  • Osiala

    Slightly off-topic – If I uncheck “Install system data files and security updates”, will my Mac still receive those updates if I update manually through the App Store?

    • Mr_Coldharbour

      Why would you want to disable automatic sys data files and security updates?

    • Jeffsters


  • petieg

    Any way to do this via the command line?