How to update apps on Mac

Ten years ago, people didn’t bother to update their software much. If it still works, who cares, right? This type of thinking may cost you dearly in 2021. In fact, every single tip on Mac security today starts with the words “Update your apps.”

Depending on your situation, you can use one of the following ways to refresh your Mac software:

  • Software Updates center in System Settings
  • Mac App Store
  • Dedicated app updater 
  • Update apps individually
  • Use Terminal

Reasons to update Mac software

The older apps get, the more vulnerable they become to security issues and the more likely they are incompatible with newer software. Really, it’s a hassle we don’t need. 

The key to avoiding frustration and lost productivity for me has been to keep my applications as up-to-date as possible. Sometimes, though, this is easier said than done. Out of the box, my Mac doesn’t have a great way to update apps from third-party developers. And it’s not like I can do my job with just standard apps in the Dock. 

Some of these updates are more straightforward than others, which is why a one-stop tool like CleanMyMac X has been a lifesaver for me. Below, I’ll walk you through how to update different kinds of apps on your Mac and recommend some easy fixes to frustrating problems.

How to update apps on MacBook

The most straightforward way to update apps on your Mac is to use the Mac App Store. This feature collects updates to any app you’ve downloaded, as well as your macOS.

When you open the update tab, you’ll always see the most recent available versions of your applications, so there’s no need to compare. Plus, the App Store’s updater makes it a snap to download and install all the updates you need at once. 

Here’s how:

  1. Click the Apple logo in the top left corner of the screen.
  2. Select “App Store” from the drop-down menu. If you have updates waiting, that menu will show you how many.
  3. You can also open the App Store from the Dock and click the Updates tab to see which of your applications are out of date.
  4. Click the Update button beside each app to start downloading and installing the update, or hit Update All to do them all at once.
  5. AppStore Updates tab
Did you know?

You can have the App Store remind you when it’s time to update your OS. In System Settings > General, click Software Update and select the box that says “Automatically Keep My Mac Up To Date.” It will prompt you with a pop-up alert the next time there’s an update ready to install.

Mac AppStore not updating applications? Here’s what to do

Unfortunately, the App Store method only works for software distributed by Apple and other developers through that store. That means that if you want to update any application that you downloaded from another source, you’ll need to find another method. 


Some popular third-party apps like Spotify have their own update prompts that appear when new versions are available. Some even have background installers that can auto-update, leaving you one less thing to worry about.

Here’s an example of how to update a third-party app popular with Mac users, Google Chrome:

  1. Click the Chrome drop-down menu in the top left corner.
  2. Select “About Google Chrome.”
  3. Chrome will scan for new versions and let you know if you’re running the most up-to-date version.
  4. If your version is out of date, click the update button.

Some smaller third-party applications might not have a built-in update check. You’ll have to visit the developer’s website periodically to check for new versions. Or you can install an RSS tracker to monitor the developer’s website for updates, making the whole process easier. 

Did you know?

Updates don’t always make your life easier. For example, starting macOS Catalina, Macs no longer support 32-bit applications. Many Mac users are finding that older apps don’t work after they install the new OS. If you’re worried about having to choose between apps you rely on and a new OS, it’s better to go without the update for now.

How to update apps on MacBook with CleanMyMac X

This method is like a turbo-rocket because it updates all your apps at once. Trying to keep everything up to date ended up sapping my productivity. That’s when I decided to try CleanMyMac X. I was already using this powerful tool to clean the junk off my hard drive and protect my Mac from malware, but I decided to give the Updater tool a try.

Right off the bat, Updater felt different. It had the same smooth Mac-style interface as the app store, but it showed updates for all the installed apps. It also imported developer notes and preview screenshots from the App Store and other sources to see exactly what was going to change.

Having it all in one convenient place saved me a lot of time — I can easily see myself adding an update check to my normal work routine. 

Scan complete and some list of apps shown in Updater module of CMMX

Here’s how it works:

  1. Open CleanMyMac X — download a free version here.
  2. Go to the Updater feature from the left-hand panel.
  3. Select the boxes next to the apps you want to update or click “Select All.”
  4. Click the large “Update” button.

That’s all it takes! I already rely on CleanMyMac X to handle other tasks, and now I can add app updates to the list. 

Bonus Feature

Software not distributed through the App Store must pass Apple’s notarization process before it runs on your Mac. CleanMyMac X is already notarized by Apple and will work with the latest macOS, so it’s a great tool for getting your other apps up to date and clearing unneeded junk files.

And the last way is to use Terminal

The Terminal app isn’t particularly appealing, but it can do almost anything if you know the right commands. Updating apps is no different.

  • Open the Terminal app (you can type its name in the Launchpad)
  • Paste in the following command: 
    sudo softwareupdate -i -a

You’ll be required to enter your password. This command automatically finds available updates for your software, much like the Mac App Store method. But be careful using this method — Terminal is a risky nuclear option, and you should double-check what you’re doing.

Okay, these were my favorite ways to update apps on Mac. Hope you’ve found something useful here.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
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