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How to Force Update Mac from Terminal via Softwareupdate?

Updated on Monday, May 13, 2024

iBoysoft author Jenny Zeng

Written by

Jenny Zeng
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee


How to Update Mac from Terminal with Softwareupdate Command Line Tool?

If you find your Mac software update stuck, running into errors, or unable to check for updates when updating from the App Store or Software Update setting, you can update macOS from Terminal with the softwareupdate command line tool. This method applies to any macOS version and may download and install macOS update faster than the usual ways.

Although updating macOS won't delete your data, it's best that you can back up your Mac with Time Machine or through other means beforehand. Then log into your Mac with an administrator account and take the steps below carefully to update Mac from Terminal.

How to update Mac from Terminal (Install combo & delta update)?

It's worth mentioning that when updating your operating system, you're also updating the apps that come pre-installed on your Mac, the firmware, and important security files. 

Depending on your current macOS, Terminal will pick the correct combo or delta update for your Mac. For instance, if you're updating from macOS 13.1 Ventura and the latest is macOS 13.2 Ventura, it will fetch the smaller delta update.

So, keep reading if you're looking for answers to the following questions:

  • How to force update iMac and other Macs?
  • How to update Mac firmware from Terminal?
  • How to install Mac combo update from Terminal?  

To update macOS from Terminal for a specific update:

  1. Launch Terminal from the Applications > Utilities folder.
  2. Copy and paste the following command and hit Enter.softwareupdate -lCheck the latest macOS update available to your Mac
  3. Wait while your Mac is finding available software for your system.   
    If you know there are updates available to your Mac but Terminal says "no software available," close Terminal and retry running the command.
  4. Note down the update label you wish to download and install.
  5. Run the command below to install a particular new update.sudo softwareupdate -i label_name -RWe suggest you use sudo in the beginning to avoid the error, softwareupdate command not found. Don't forget to replace label_name with the label of the update and enclose it with a single quote if it has spaces. If the label is macOS Ventura 13.2.1-22D68, then the command should be: sudo softwareupdate -i 'macOS Ventura 13.2.1-22D68' -R

    Install macOS update from Terminal

  6. Type your admin password and press Enter. (The password will not be visible when you type it.)
  7. Once the installer is downloaded, your Mac will automatically restart. If it asks you to terminate Terminal, click Terminate.Mac automatically restart after the installer is downloaded

 Note: You must use the -R command in the end to automatically restart your Mac for the update to work. Otherwise, you may find the macOS softwareupdate command not working.

To install all available software updates at once:

If you want to install macOS together with all the available independent app, driver, or firmware updates, you can execute the following command instead:

sudo softwareupdate -i -a -R

To download macOS updates without installing via Terminal:

sudo softwareupdate -d label_name

To cancel a download:

sudo softwareupdate -e

Click the button below to help more people know how to force update Mac.


How to download and install macOS update from Terminal (full installers)?

If you want to check all the macOS full installers available to your Mac, and download or install one, take the following steps.

  1. In Terminal, run the following command.softwareupdate --list-full-installers
  2.  Then it will display all the macOS full installers compatible with your Mac, from the latest macOS Ventura to the macOS that came with your Mac.  
    List all macOS full installer compatible with your Mac in Terminal
  3. If you want to download the latest "Install macOS" application to your Mac's Applications folder, execute this command. Once the installer is downloaded, you can launch it from the Applications folder to install the update.softwareupdate --fetch-full-installerIf you prefer to download and install the update automatically, run this command instead:softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --launch-installer
  4. If you wish to download a specific full installer without installing it immediately, execute this command:softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version version_numberFor instance, to download the macOS 13.2.1 Ventura full installer, the command should be: softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version 13.2.1
    If you'd like to download and install the full installer automatically, run this command instead:softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version version_number --launch-installer
  5.  Follow the onscreen instructions to update your Mac.

 Tips: To view the usage of the macOS softwareupdate command line, you can run man softwareupdate in Terminal.

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