How do I update my Mac without the App Store?

Keeping your Mac up to date with the latest software is important to get new features, security updates, and bug fixes. However, you don’t need to rely solely on the App Store for Mac updates. There are a few other ways to update your Mac OS and apps without using the App Store.

Why Update Your Mac Regularly?

Here are some key reasons why you should aim to keep your Mac’s operating system and apps up to date:

  • Security updates – Apple releases regular security patches to address vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malware. Keeping up-to-date closes security holes.
  • New features – Apple adds handy new features and improvements with each OS update. Updating lets you take advantage of the latest capabilities.
  • Bug fixes – Updates squash bugs in the OS, apps, and services. This improves stability and reliability.
  • App compatibility – New OS versions often introduce changes that require app updates. Updating prevents compatibility issues.
  • New emojis – OS updates usually come with new emoji characters. Updating gives you access to the latest emoji.

Bottom line – keeping your system and apps updated improves security, stability, features, and compatibility. It’s generally wise to update whenever possible.

How to Update Your Mac OS Without the App Store

There are a couple ways to update your Mac’s operating system without using the App Store:

Use Software Update in System Preferences

The Software Update tool in System Preferences provides OS updates directly from Apple. To use it:

  1. Go to the Apple menu and select “System Preferences”
  2. Click “Software Update”
  3. Click “Check Now” – this checks for available updates
  4. Follow the prompts to download and install any available OS updates

Software Update works seamlessly in the background. It will download and install updates whenever available. You can also trigger manual checks.

Download Updates Directly from Apple

You can download macOS installer files directly from Apple. The installers allow you to update by:

  • Downloading and running the installer app
  • Creating a bootable installer drive

To get the latest macOS installer from Apple:

  1. Go to the App Store app
  2. Search for “macOS” and go to the result for the latest version
  3. Click “Get” and download the installer (requires adequate disk space)
  4. Run the installer to update your OS

You can also find older macOS versions by searching Apple’s website. This allows you to downgrade or install an older OS if needed.

Updating Apps Without the App Store

In addition to system updates, you’ll also want to keep your apps up-to-date. Here are some ways to update Mac apps without using the App Store:

Look for App Update Options in Menus

Many apps include a “Check for Updates” option in the app menu. Check the app menu periodically and install any available updates.

Use Auto-Update Features in Apps

Lots of apps include auto-update capabilities. Enable auto-update options within apps to get updates pushed in the background.

Re-download Apps from Developer Websites

For apps you installed manually from downloaded DMG files, you can periodically re-download from the developer’s website to get updates.

Use Third-Party Updater Tools

Tools like Installeri and Update My Apps can check for app updates across multiple apps. Consider using one for simplified updating.

Using Automatic Update Tools

To really simplify Mac updates without the App Store, you can use automated update utilities. Here are some top options:

Tool Pros Cons
Software Update Built into macOS, Easy to use, Automated background updates Only updates Apple software
MacUpdate Desktop Updates many apps, Easy to use interface Only works with supported apps, Paid subscription
hazel Lightweight, Monitors apps and downloads updates Setup can be tricky, Doesn’t install updates

Tools like Software Update and MacUpdate Desktop provide the most seamless experience. But hazel can be a lighter-weight option if you don’t mind handling updates manually.

How to Do Manual Updates for Mac Apps

In some cases you may need to update Mac apps manually outside of automated tools. Here are the steps for manual app updates:

Check the App Developer Website

See if the app developer has update info on their website. They may list details on the latest version and steps to update.

Look for Update Notification Dialogs

Many apps display a dialog when an update is available. The dialog usually includes buttons to download or skip updates.

Re-download the App Installer

If you have the original DMG file for an app, re-download it to get the latest version. Then re-run the installer.

Replace App Files/Resources Manually

Some apps can be updated by replacing just certain files or resources. This avoids a full reinstallation.

Updating apps manually takes more effort but can be necessary with certain apps. Following developer provided guidance is best when available.

Reinstalling macOS from Scratch

In certain cases, you may want to perform a clean install of your Mac’s operating system rather than just update it. Here are reasons you might want to clean install macOS:

  • Resolve persistent OS issues
  • Remove outdated hidden files and settings
  • Start fresh after a major macOS version change
  • Address serious performance or stability problems

Here is an overview of how to reinstall macOS from scratch:

Back Up Your Mac

Before wiping your Mac, be sure to do a full system backup. The backup allows you to restore your files after reinstalling macOS.

Erase Your Mac Drive

Boot to Recovery Mode and open Disk Utility. Erase your main Mac drive to remove all files and your current OS install.

Clean Install macOS

Still in Recovery, proceed to reinstall macOS. The OS installer will guide you through the clean install process.

Restore Files from Your Backup

Once macOS is freshly installed, restore your apps, files, and settings from the backup you made.

Clean installing macOS resets everything and provides a fresh start. It can help resolve OS issues, but erases all your data, so backup first.


Is updating without the App Store safe?

Yes, other official update methods like Software Update are equally as safe as the App Store. As long as you only download updates from Apple’s servers directly, security is ensured.

Do I need to update my Mac regularly?

It’s highly recommended. Updating delivers important security fixes, new features, and improves stability. Out-of-date systems are more vulnerable. Stay current if possible.

What’s the easiest way to update a Mac?

Enabling automatic updates is simplest. The Software Update tool in System Preferences will handle updates in the background automatically. You can also use third party updaters for added convenience.

Does updating macOS cause data loss?

macOS updates should never themselves cause data loss. However, it’s smart to backup your data before any major update just in case issues occur during the process.

How big are macOS updates usually?

Update sizes vary, but are typically 2-4 GB for major version updates. Minor updates are often under 1 GB. Have sufficient free disk space before updating.


Keeping your Mac’s OS and apps up-to-date is important and straightforward to do without the App Store. Use Software Update for system updates, and a combination of built-in app update features, third party tools, and manual techniques for apps. Staying updated improves security, stability, and access to the latest capabilities.