Disabling Google auto updates

Reader Bill Carmichael has discovered something going on behind the scenes that concerns him. He writes:

I recently installed Little Snitch to help resolve some network problems I was having. When I looked at its Network Monitor window I couldn’t help but notice the many times Google Software Update, Google Software Update via ksfetch, and GoogleSoftwareUpdateDaemon appeared. What are these things and do I need them?

As the names imply, these are processes that automatically work in the background to keep your Google software—Picasa, Google Earth, Chrome, etc—up to date.

Unlike just about any other update mechanism I can recall, Google Software Update doesn’t ask permission to install updates when a new one becomes available. It just happens without your say so.

Correct that. If you were to download a copy of Google Earth, for example, you would see a notice that, as part of that installation, you must also install Google Software Update. If you don’t, you can’t install Google Earth. So, in a very broad sense, you have agreed to allow updates to be automatically installed. If you want Google’s tool, you must play by Google’s rules.

Without donning the tin hat, I would note that Google’s record of respect for its users' privacy is hardly unblemished. And while I believe that Google wouldn’t use this mechanism for unsavory purposes, I’m opposed to any hunk of software that downloads and installs things on my Mac without providing me with the option to carefully peruse what those things are. (And yes, this includes software and security patches installed by Apple.)

So, is there a way to have your cake and keep Google’s fork out of it? There is.

Grant permission or don't use it

Running Lion or Mountain Lion, hold down the Option key and choose Library from the Go menu. Within that now-visible folder you’ll find a Google folder. Open it and inside is the Google Software Update folder. You could clear this out and disable the updater, but the next time you run something like Google Earth, it will be installed again.

So don’t bother. Instead, download Wireload’s free Google Update Uninstaller. Launch the resulting GUU package file and the Google Update Uninstaller application will be placed in your Applications folder. Run it and GUU will not only remove the Google installer, but also place a small file in the Google folder that prevents a fresh copy of the updater from being installed on your Mac.

Of course this means that when seeking updates you’ll have to go to Google’s site to see if any are available rather than depending on an updater that is far more convenient. The tradeoff is that you, rather than Google, get to choose what and what not to update.

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