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MacUpdater has a simple mission: keeping your apps up to date. That’s a noble goal, as some of the worst security flaws and crashing behavior appear in slightly older versions of software we use routinely.
This Mac app scans your applications folders, checks the version of each app present, and consults its database. If your version is older, you can pick whether you’re notified or the app simply gets automatically updated. It’s as simple as that.
But what a relief that is. If you’re like many Mac users, you have a rich history of installed apps and from dozens to hundreds of ones that aren’t in the Mac App Store. Nearly every app I use has its own update system, many of them relying on Sparkle. Yet I have to launch and app and run through its individual update procedure to make it current. MacUpdater lets you scan your apps on a routine basis and on demand, and you can configure automatic updates for apps it finds are lagging by version number.
The interface differentiates between upgrades (a major release number), updates (a minor release), and manual upgrades and updates. It has different options for each. Where possible, MacUpdater downloads the latest version and installs it without intervention. If you need to step through an assistant or installer, enter your administrator password, or otherwise engage, you’re alerted. You can optionally let MacUpdater securely store your administrator password to bypass entering each time it’s called for.
Clicking the “i” info button to the next of each app reveals a wealth of information about the app and its developer, including any available notes about major updates. You can find out which upgrades you may want to purchase for a fee or download if free without having to visit many different web sites.
Beyond its core feature, you can pull a lot of information out of MacUpdater’s scans. I found it useful to view a list of every app installed on my Mac as many are incredibly out of date or obsolete. The app offers optional app badging, available in MacUpdater > Preferences > Appearance, where you can enable symbols for characteristics like 32-bit only, Discontinued, or Intel only. These badges let you scan at a glance how up-to-date your apps are.
While you can’t delete outdated apps from the list, you can Control-click and select Show in Finder. You can also choose Ignore This App. If you keep outdated apps or ones you want to ensure you’re holding to specific versions that work for your purposes, you can identify them in the list or in the Ignores preferences tab. You can also create a list of included and excluded folders in the Scanning preferences tab.
There’s one potentially risky aspect of automatically updating apps: if a developer’s website becomes compromised or there’s other jiggery-pokery, MacUpdater might be convinced to update to a Trojan horse version of an app. While it’s unlikely to happen—only a handful of cases have occurred in the last decade—you can up the default security level set by MacUpdater in the Updating preferences tab.
“Verify ‘Team ID’ whenever possible” is selected by default, a good way to bar some forms of fraudulent app insertion. But you can also enable signature checking before download, disable unencrypted web connections (select “Disallow HTTP connections”), warn of an unexpected checksum (which reveals a potential modification of the app), and more. These security checks are in addition to any performed by macOS when you attempt to launch the app, too.
MacUpdater requires macOS 10.4 Mojave or later. The free version lets you scan for updates, while a $14.99 personal (up to 4 Macs) or $34.99 household license (up to 7 Macs) provides full update features.
Don’t spend valuable time staying to up to date when MacUpdater can update your apps for you.
MacUpdater, initially released in 2018, is among the newest utilities we’ve included in MacGems; this is the first time we’ve reviewed it.
Mac Gems highlights great nuggets of Mac software, apps that have a high utility, have a sharp focus on a limited set of problems to solve, and are generally developed by an individual or small company. With the strong resurgence of the Mac in recent years, we want to celebrate tools we use and that readers recommend to make the most of your macOS experience. Stay tuned for weekly updates, and send your suggestions to the Mac Gems Twitter feed (@macgems).