When the Apple operating system OS X (i.e. Tiger, Leopard or Lion) is first installed by your Computer's Manufacturer, or by you using a Recovery Disc for example, OS X will only be up-to-date from the date of its creation. So if your computer manufacturer installed a copy of OS X that was created on 1st March 2012 but you did not buy the computer from a retailer until 1st August 2012 it means that copy of OS X will probably not of been checked for updated software/hardware files since 1st March 2012. This is normally due to the retailer not wanting to, or not being allowed to, set up OS X for you; for whatever reason(s).

Upon buying the computer from the retailer, getting it home and switching it on, one of the first things OS X asks you to do is create a User Account with default Administration Rights associated to it. After entering your preferred user name OS X then goes through various stages of initialization (set up) before showing you the desktop. At this point you should wait two minutes or so for any "behind the scenes" tasks (programs) to start-up; such as your Internet Security Software enabling certain security features. Once this has been done you should then use the SOFTWARE UPDATE menu-item from the APPLE Menu to check the Apple Updates website for any newly updated software/hardware files that can protect and/or improve your copy of OS X. This whole setup procedure is very simple but something that many retailers are not willing to do for you, as an aftercare service for example. The same setup procedure also applies when you use a Recovery Disc to reinstall OS X.

Anyway! Assuming you are now on the OS X desktop, preferably using a user account with administration rights, I will now show you how to check for newly updated software/hardware files (known as: Updates) using the Software Update feature of OS X. Your Apple Mac will need to be connected to the internet (connected to your broadband connection) for this example to succeed.

Begin by moving the mouse pointer (cursor/arrow) towards the APPLE Menu (Apple icon/logo), located in the top-left corner of the desktop.

Fig 1.0  Move the mouse pointer (cursor/arrow) towards the APPLE Menu (icon/logo)

When the mouse pointer is hovering over the APPLE Menu keep the mouse pointer (mouse) steady, in the same position, and then click on (press and release) the left mouse button. Doing so will bring up (display) a list of menu-items.

Fig 1.1  Click (press and release) the left mouse button when the mouse pointer is over the APPLE Menu

Now move the mouse pointer down the list of menu-items, or press the DOWN ARROW keyboard key, until the menu-item called SOFTWARE UPDATE is highlighted in blue. As you move down the list of menu-items, each menu-item will become highlighted in blue but only while the mouse pointer is hovering over it. Once you move the mouse pointer over another menu-item the previously highlighted menu-item will become unhighlighted.

Fig 1.2  As you hover the mouse pointer over the ABOUT THIS MAC menu-item it becomes highlighted in blue

Fig 1.3  Hovering over the SOFTWARE UPDATE menu-item highlights it, but makes ABOUT THIS MAC unhighlighted.

With the mouse pointer now hovering over the SOFTWARE UPDATE menu-item; Keep the mouse pointer (mouse) steady, in the same position, and then click on (press and release) the left mouse button. Alternatively, just press the ENTER keyboard key. Either way will launch (open) the Software Update window whereby OS X will then check the internet for newly released software updates, which normally includes checks for newly released softwares, security fixes and anti-virus database definitions.

Fig 1.4  OS X is now checking the internet for newly released software and security fixes

In this example Software Update has found two updates for the software called Java, one update for the DVD Player software and one major update for OS X itself. It is updates like the OS X updates that protect your apple mac and keep it running smoothly whilst updates such as the java updates keep your technologies running smoothly. Other updates, such as Adobe Flash updates, are also important and keep things like web pages and youtube working. Hence why you should manually check for updates every so often (i.e. once a month).

When software updates are found you normally move the mouse pointer over the INSTALL button and then click the left mouse button to begin the download and install process. However, it is not always a good idea to do this. Why? Because some updates can be faulty (i.e. badly written). You may see on the internet for example that the latest release (update) of Adobe Flash is crashing peoples computers. In which case you might not want Software Update to download and install any new releases (updates) of Adobe Flash. Hence why Software Update gives you the option to unticked, or tick, certain updates in its list. Only those updates with a tick next to their name are downloaded and installed. With this said, in this example I am quite happy to have Software Update download and install all of the updates it has found; so I will continue by clicking the left mouse button on the INSTALL 3 ITEMS button.

Fig 1.5  Software Update has found three new updates (softwares and fixes) for OS X

After clicking on the INSTALL button you will be asked to authorise this 'Download and Install' action of Software Update, which means you will need to enter your user account password into the PASSWORD edit box of the security requester that appears. Simply type in your password and then click the left mouse button on the OK button to continue.

Fig 1.6  Enter your user account password into the PASSWORD edit box and then click on the OK button

Now that you have authorised (allowed) Software Update to download and install only the ticked updates, you then need to agree to its Terms & Conditions. This goes back to what I was saying about faulty (badly written) updates that might crash your Apple Mac computer. This agreement is just telling you that the Apple company will not take any responsibility for any damage or loss of data caused by these updates when applied to your Apple Mac computer and any of the software and personal files stored on it.

Read the Terms & Conditions carefully and if you agree with them click your left mouse button on the AGREE button. Doing so will then start the download (Fig 1.8) and install (Fig 1.9) process.

Fig 1.7  Only click on the AGREE button if you agree with these Terms & Conditions

Fig 1.8  The ticked updates are being downloaded

Fig 1.9  The ticked updates are being installed

When all of the ticked updates have been downloaded and installed a message requester might appear stating the computer needs to be restarted. This will be because some of the newly installed/updated software cannot be used until the computer has been restarted, which basically means some of the computer's services and features will need restarting before the newly updated softwares can work or function properly. In this case simply click the left mouse button on the requester's RESTART button.

ALWAYS make sure you SAVE anything you are working on beforehand, otherwise you may lose it. Saying this, you should not really be checking for software updates whilst working on important documents for example.

Fig 1.10  Click the left mouse button on the RESTART button to continue

Upon restarting your Apple Mac computer you may think "My computer is now up-to-date - I don't need to check for software updates again until next month", but this is where you would be mistaken. Updates only apply to the current version of OS X and to the newest updates available. Meaning, if there is an OS X update (i.e. from 10.4.5 to 10.4.11 or from Leopard to Lion) you will need to check for software updates again, once that OS X update has been downloaded and installed.

The same applies when checking for newer updates of third-party softwares such as Adobe Flash and Java. In the example below I had to restart the computer a couple of times between updates because each new check for software updates revealed a newer version of Java.

Fig 1.11  As each Java update is installed a newer version is found by Software Update!

Making sure you are always up-to-date with your updates does not have to be a manual chore. You can get away with manually checking Software Update once a month, although once a week is better, especially if you have set up Software Update to run automatically. You can check your automatic updates frequency by going into SYSTEM PREFERENCES and clicking on the SOFTWARE UPDATE icon (not exampled here).

Fig 1.12  SYSTEM PREFERENCES >> SOFTWARE UPDATE will show you when software updates are automatically checked for

When you have done repeated checks for software updates, with possible computer restarts along the way, you should see the following message requester from Software Update stating that it could not find anymore software updates and that your computer is now up-to-date update-wise.

Fig 1.13  There are no more software updates for this computer.....for now

As said above; You can always manually check for software updates by following the above procedure. You can also click on the CHECK NOW button (Fig 1.13 above) of the Software Update system preference.