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Thu, Apr 09, 2015 11:11 pm

Check for available updates from the command line under OS X

If you wish to know what updates are available for a Mac OS X system, you can use the system software update tool, softwareupdate, to do so by issuing the command sudo softwareupdate -l, if the account you are logged in under has administrative privileges; if so, enter the password for that account when prompted. A command line prompt is available on OS X by running the terminal application found in the Applications/Utilities folder.
$ sudo softwareupdate -l
Password:
Software Update Tool
Copyright 2002-2010 Apple

2015-04-09 22:51:06.156 softwareupdate[30930:3903] No alternate URLs found for packageId MobileDevice
Software Update found the following new or updated software:
   * RemoteDesktopClient-3.8.2 v1.1
	Remote Desktop Client Update (3.8.2 v1.1), 7123K [recommended]
   * SecUpd2015-004MtLion-1.0
	Security Update 2015-004 (1.0), 179583K [recommended] [restart]
   * Safari6.2.5MountainLion-6.2.5
	Safari (6.2.5), 59025K [recommended]
   * AirPortUtility-6.3.1
	AirPort Utility (6.3.1), 21104K [recommended]
   * iTunesXPatch-12.1.2
	iTunes (12.1.2), 101172K [recommended]
   * Mac App Store Update-1.0
	Mac App Store Update (1.0), 3697K [recommended] [restart]

In the example output above, you can see that installing some of the updates will require a restart afterwards to have the updates take effect.

If you don't precede the command with sudo, you will see a message informing you that the command must be run as root.

$ softwareupdate
softwareupdate: Must be run as root

For a list of available options for the command, you can use sudo softwareupdate -h.

$ sudo softwareupdate -h
Password:
usage: softwareupdate <mode> [<args> ...]

	-l | --list		List all appropriate updates
	-d | --download		Download Only
	-i | --install		Install
		<label> ...	specific updates
		-a | --all		all appropriate updates
		-r | --recommended	only recommended updates

	--ignore <label> ...	Ignore specific updates
	--reset-ignored		Clear all ignored updates
	--schedule (on | off)	Set automatic checking

	-v | --verbose	Enable verbose output
	-h | --help	Print this help

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