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Jeremiah Gray
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Software Update Server for Mac: Tips and Tricks for Managing macOS Updates



Software Update Server for Mac: What You Need to Know




If you have a fleet of Mac devices in your organization, you might want to have more control over how they receive and install software updates. Software updates are essential for keeping your Mac devices secure, stable, and compatible with new features and apps. However, you might not want to install every update as soon as it becomes available, or you might want to test the updates before deploying them to your clients. That's where a software update server for Mac comes in handy.




Software Update Server For Mac


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A software update server is a server that hosts and distributes software updates for Mac devices. It allows you to manage updates for your Mac deployment, control which updates are offered to clients, and delay updates for up to 90 days. In this article, we will explain what a software update server is, how to set one up, how to manage macOS updates with Mobile Device Management (MDM), and how to use the softwareupdate command on Mac.


What is a software update server and why do you need one?




A software update server is a server that hosts and distributes software updates for Mac devices




Normally, when you check for software updates on your Mac device, it connects to Apple's servers and downloads the latest available updates. However, if you have multiple Mac devices in your network, this can consume a lot of bandwidth and slow down your internet connection. Moreover, you might not want all of your clients to receive the same updates at the same time, or you might want to customize which updates are available for them.


A software update server solves these problems by hosting the software updates locally on your network. It downloads the updates from Apple's servers once and then distributes them to your clients. This way, you can save bandwidth, speed up the download process, and ensure that all of your clients have access to the same versions of the updates.


A software update server can help you manage updates for your Mac deployment, control which updates are offered to clients, and delay updates for up to 90 days




A software update server also gives you more control over how your clients receive and install software updates. You can configure which updates are offered to your clients based on their model, OS version, or other criteria. You can also delay updates for up to 90 days, which can be useful if you want to test the updates before deploying them to your clients or avoid potential compatibility issues. You can also force your clients to install critical updates, such as security patches, as soon as possible.


How to set up a software update server for Mac




You need a Mac device running macOS Server and an internet connection




To set up a software update server for Mac, you need a Mac device that can run macOS Server, which is an app that turns your Mac into a server. You can download macOS Server from the App Store for $19.99. You also need an internet connection to download the software updates from Apple's servers and distribute them to your clients.


Once you have installed macOS Server on your Mac device, you need to make sure that it has enough storage space to host the software updates. The amount of space required depends on how many updates you want to host and how often you want to update them. You can check the size of the updates by using the softwareupdate command in Terminal. For example, to check the size of all available updates, you can type:


softwareupdate --list --all


This will show you the name and size of each update in megabytes (MB). You can also use the --download-size flag to show the size in gigabytes (GB). For example, to check the size of all available updates in GB, you can type:


softwareupdate --list --all --download-size


You should have at least twice as much storage space as the total size of the updates you want to host, to account for temporary files and backups. You can also use an external hard drive or a network-attached storage (NAS) device to store the updates.


You need to enable the Software Update service in macOS Server and configure the settings




After you have installed macOS Server and ensured that you have enough storage space, you need to enable the Software Update service in macOS Server. To do this, follow these steps:


  • Open macOS Server and click on Software Update in the sidebar.



  • Click on the On/Off switch to turn on the service.



  • Click on Edit Settings and choose which updates you want to host. You can select All Updates, which will download all available updates for all supported OS versions and models, or Custom Updates, which will let you choose which updates to host based on OS version, model, or update name.



  • Click on Save when you are done.



  • Click on Update Now to start downloading the updates from Apple's servers. This might take some time depending on your internet speed and the size of the updates.



  • Click on Advanced Settings if you want to change some optional settings, such as how often to check for new updates, how long to keep old updates, and whether to allow clients to download updates from Apple's servers if they are not available on your server.



Congratulations! You have successfully set up a software update server for Mac. Now you need to point your clients to it so that they can receive and install the updates from your server.


You need to point your Mac clients to the software update server using Mobile Device Management (MDM) or the defaults command




To point your Mac clients to the software update server, you need to use either Mobile Device Management (MDM) or the defaults command. MDM is a tool that allows you to remotely manage and secure your Mac devices. The defaults command is a terminal command that allows you to change various settings on your Mac device. We will explain how to use both methods in the next sections.


How to manage macOS updates with MDM




MDM is a tool that allows you to remotely manage and secure your Mac devices




If you have a large number of Mac devices in your organization, you might want to use MDM to manage them. MDM is a tool that allows you to remotely configure settings, enforce policies, install apps, and perform actions on your Mac devices. You can use MDM with Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager, which are web-based portals that let you enroll and manage your devices, users, and content.


To use MDM with Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager, you need an MDM solution that supports these services. There are many MDM solutions available from third-party vendors, such as Jamf Pro, Mosyle Manager, SimpleMDM, etc. You can also use Profile Manager, which is a built-in MDM solution in macOS Server. However, Profile Manager has limited features and is not recommended for large-scale deployments.


MDM lets you use the Restrictions payload to delay updates for up to 90 days, install updates on demand, and manage client settings




One of the benefits of using MDM to manage macOS updates is that you can use the Restrictions payload to control how your clients receive and install updates. The Restrictions payload lets you do the following:


  • Delay updates for up to 90 days: You can specify how long your clients can defer installing software updates after they become available on your software update server. This can be useful if you want to test the updates before deploying them to your clients or avoid potential compatibility issues. You can also choose whether to allow your clients to override the delay and install the updates manually.



  • Install updates on demand: You can specify whether your clients can check for and install software updates on demand, without waiting for the scheduled update check. This can be useful if you want to give your clients some flexibility and choice over when they update their devices.



  • Manage client settings: You can specify whether your clients can access the Software Update preference pane, change the catalog URL for updates, or ignore specific updates. This can be useful if you want to prevent your clients from changing the settings that you have configured for them or skipping certain updates that you want them to install.



To use the Restrictions payload to manage macOS updates, you need to create a configuration profile in your MDM solution and assign it to your devices or groups. A configuration profile is a file that contains settings and policies that you want to apply to your devices. The steps to create a configuration profile vary depending on your MDM solution, but generally, you need to do the following:


  • Open your MDM solution and go to the section where you can create or edit configuration profiles.



  • Choose a name and description for your profile and select which devices or groups you want to assign it to.



  • Select the Restrictions payload and configure the settings that you want to apply. For example, you can set the Defer software updates setting to 90 days, enable the Install software updates on demand setting, and disable the Allow access to Software Update preference pane setting.



  • Save and deploy your profile to your devices or groups.



Once you have deployed the profile, your clients will receive and install software updates according to the settings that you have configured.


MDM commands can tell clients to download, install, or restart for updates, and specify the number of prompts before enforcing an update




Another benefit of using MDM to manage macOS updates is that you can use MDM commands to perform actions on your clients remotely. MDM commands are instructions that you can send from your MDM solution to your devices or groups. Some of the MDM commands that are related to software updates are:


  • Download software update: This command tells your clients to download a specific software update from your software update server or Apple's servers. You can use this command if you want to prepare your clients for installing an update without installing it right away.



  • Install software update: This command tells your clients to install a specific software update that they have downloaded. You can use this command if you want to install an update on demand without waiting for the scheduled update check.



  • Restart device for software update: This command tells your clients to restart their devices after installing a software update. You can use this command if you want to complete the installation process without requiring user interaction.



  • Specify number of prompts before enforcing software update: This command tells your clients how many times they will be prompted to install a software update before it is enforced. You can use this command if you want to give your clients some time and reminders before forcing them to install an update.



To use MDM commands to manage macOS updates, you need to send them from your MDM solution to your devices or groups. The steps to send MDM commands vary depending on your MDM solution, but generally, you need to do the following:


  • Open your MDM solution and go to the section where you can send commands to your devices or groups.



  • Select the devices or groups that you want to send the command to.



  • Select the command that you want to send and configure the parameters if needed. For example, you can select the Install software update command and choose which update to install.



  • Send the command and wait for the response from your devices or groups.



Once you have sent the command, your clients will perform the action that you have instructed them to do.


How to use the softwareupdate command on Mac




The softwareupdate command is a terminal command that allows you to check for and install updates on Mac devices




If you prefer to use a terminal command to manage macOS updates, you can use the softwareupdate command on Mac. The softwareupdate command allows you to check for and install updates on Mac devices, either locally or remotely. You can use the softwareupdate command to do the following:


  • Check for available updates: You can use the --list flag to list all available updates for your device. For example, to check for available updates, you can type:



softwareupdate --list


  • Download updates: You can use the --download flag to download a specific update or all available updates for your device. For example, to download all available updates, you can type:



softwareupdate --download --all


  • Install updates: You can use the --install flag to install a specific update or all available updates for your device. For example, to install all available updates, you can type:



softwareupdate --install --all


  • Restart for updates: You can use the --restart flag to restart your device after installing an update. For example, to install all available updates and restart your device, you can type:



softwareupdate --install --all --restart


  • Specify the catalog URL for updates: You can use the --set-catalog flag to specify the URL of the catalog that contains the updates for your device. This can be useful if you want to point your device to your software update server or a different Apple server. For example, to set the catalog URL to your software update server, you can type:



softwareupdate --set-catalog http://your-server-address:port/index.sucatalog


To use the softwareupdate command on Mac, you need to open Terminal and type the command with the appropriate flags and parameters. You might need to enter your administrator password or use sudo to run some commands.


The softwareupdate command can be used to ignore specific updates on macOS Catalina and earlier, but not on macOS Big Sur and later




One of the features of the softwareupdate command is that it can be used to ignore specific updates on macOS Catalina and earlier, but not on macOS Big Sur and later. Ignoring an update means that it will not be shown or installed on your device, unless you remove it from the ignore list. This can be useful if you want to skip an update that you don't need or want to install.


To ignore an update on macOS Catalina and earlier, you can use the --ignore flag with the name of the update. For example, to ignore the Safari 14.0.3 update, you can type:


softwareupdate --ignore Safari14.0.3


To remove an update from the ignore list, you can use the --reset-ignored flag. For example, to remove all ignored updates, you can type:


softwareupdate --reset-ignored


To list all ignored updates, you can use the --list-ignored flag. For example, to list all ignored updates, you can type:


softwareupdate --list-ignored


However, on macOS Big Sur and later, the --ignore flag is deprecated and no longer works. This is because Apple has changed the way software updates are delivered and installed on these versions of macOS. Software updates are now part of the system volume, which is a read-only partition that contains the core components of macOS. This means that software updates cannot be ignored or skipped, as they are essential for the integrity and security of the system.


If you want to delay or prevent software updates on macOS Big Sur and later, you need to use MDM or the Restrictions payload, as explained in the previous section.


Conclusion




A software update server for Mac can help you keep your Mac devices up to date and secure




Software updates are important for keeping your Mac devices secure, stable, and compatible with new features and apps. However, if you have a fleet of Mac devices in your organization, you might want to have more control over how they receive and install software updates. A software update server for Mac can help you with that.


A software update server is a server that hosts and distributes software updates for Mac devices. It allows you to manage updates for your Mac deployment, control which updates are offered to clients, and delay updates for up to 90 days. It also saves bandwidth and speeds up the download process by hosting the updates locally on your network.


You can set up a software update server using macOS Server and point your clients to it using MDM or the defaults command




To set up a software update server for Mac, you need a Mac device that can run macOS Server, which is an app that turns your Mac into a server. You also need an internet connection to download the software updates from Apple's servers and distribute them to your clients.


You need to enable the Software Update service in macOS Server and configure which updates you want to host. You also need to point your clients to the software update server using either MDM or the defaults command. MDM is a tool that allows you to remotely manage and secure your Mac devices. The defaults command is a terminal command that allows you to change various settings on your Mac device.


You can manage macOS updates using MDM or the softwareupdate command, depending on your needs and preferences




To manage macOS updates, you can use either MDM or the softwareupdate command, depending on your needs and preferences. MDM lets you use the Restrictions payload to delay updates for up to 90 days, install updates on demand, and manage client settings. MDM commands can tell clients to download, install, or restart for updates, and specify the number of prompts before enforcing an update.


The softwareupdate command allows you to check for and install updates on Mac devices, either locally or remotely. The softwareupdate command can be used to ignore specific updates on macOS Catalina and earlier, but not on macOS Big Sur and later. The softwareupdate command can also be used to list, download, install, or restart for updates, and specify the catalog URL for updates.


FAQs




Q: What is the difference between a software update server and a content caching server?




A: A software update server is a server that hosts and distributes software updates for Mac devices only. A content caching server is a server that caches and delivers various types of content from Apple's servers, such as apps, books, iCloud data, etc., for any Apple device on your network. A content caching server can also cache software updates for Mac devices, but it does not allow you to control which updates are offered to clients or delay them for up to 90 days.


Q: How do I check if my Mac device is pointing to a software update server?




A: You can check if your Mac device is pointing to a software update server by using the softwareupdate command in Terminal. To do this, you can type:


softwareupdate --dump-state


This will show you various information about the software update state of your device, including the catalog URL for updates. If the catalog URL matches the URL of your software update server, then your device is pointing to it. If the catalog URL matches the URL of Apple's servers, then your device is not pointing to a software update server.


Q: How do I update macOS Server to the latest version?




A: You can update macOS Server to the latest version by using the App Store app on your Mac device. To do this, follow these steps:


  • Open the App Store app and go to the Updates tab.



  • Look for macOS Server in the list of available updates and click on Update.



Wait for the updat


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