Apple provides users of its OS X operating system with a Software Update feature which is run at defined intervals, but which may be accessed manually at any time by visiting the () menu and selecting Software Update.
If you have set your Software Update preferences to run weekly then you see a list of available application upgrades listed every seven days. It makes sense to follow Apple’s own recommendation, which advises that users should usually install all available updates.
Users may need to enter the administrator password for their system at this point if one has been set. A restart may sometimes also be required, but not always.
Users can change the frequency within which Software Updates are offered by visiting System Preferences, also accessible from the () menu. Look for the blue Software Update logo as shown below and select from Daily, Weekly or Monthly options.
An incremental Software Update should not be confused with a Software Upgrade, the latter being a completely new version of an application package, which will generally carry a cost. Instead, Software Updates are provided free of charge and are designed to fine tune the Mac OS X operating systems and its applications with fixes, device drivers and firmware to enhance the stability, compatibility and (perhaps most crucially of all) the security of your Mac.
It is sometimes the case that one piece of software can be a prerequisite for another and that the two share an interconnected relationship; in these cases it may be necessary to perform Software Update more than once to complete the full process — although it is thought to be comparatively uncommon that this situation should arise.
It is important to remember that Mac OS X’s central Software Update function is designed to act upon the core installed applications within a user’s system and not on applications purchased from Apple’s App Store. Users need to visit the online store itself to bring updates here into action.
Software Update will automatically provide updates for third-party printer software and your devices’ drivers. It is important to keep items such as your printer connected and powered on while updating to ensure that all available downloadable data is identified and sent to the correct areas of your system.
Apple also provides an Apple Support Downloads service for those users who get an alert while using Software Update. This is for manual download and update functions and may be more suited for more advanced users.
Software Update forms part of Apple’s CoreServices element of its operating systems. Although Apple has been criticised in the past for pushing users towards Safari updates via linked updates to iTunes, these updates are generally always a very good idea to download onto your machine.