Robin's Blog

How to: Reset the Software Update URL in OS X

Sometimes you may find that your Mac OS X installation has an old URL for the software update service in its preferences, which may mean that you can't successfully run the Software Update tool under the Apple menu. In my case, I got my Mac from my university and the update server was set to some internal server in their organisation. This server didn't seem to have the latest updates, and half of the time I couldn't even connect to it.

From various searches around the internet I found the following process to reset the update server URL to the default:

  1. Open the /Library/Preferences folder on the main hard drive.
  2. Find the com.apple.SoftwareUpdate.plist file and move this to the desktop (the easiest way is just to drag and drop the file to the Desktop). If you find a similar file with a .apple at the end (com.apple.SoftwareUpdate.plist.apple) then move that too. Moving them to the desktop means that you can restore them if this goes wrong.
    /Library/Preferences folder on OS X
  3. Run the Software Update tool (Software Update on the Apple menu on the top left of the main menu bar)
  4. It should all work fine! If not, then you can always restore the files that you put on the desktop (just move them back to /Library/Preferences)

Categorised as: Computing, How To, OSX


15 Comments

  1. Katie says:

    Thank you for this – a really useful bit of info and solved my problem in two minutes!

  2. Jacob says:

    sudo find / -type f -name com.apple.SoftwareUpdate\* -exec rm -f {} \;

    That worked for me. Will delete any instances of the file com.apple.SoftwareUpdate* for all users

  3. Brad says:

    Jacob – I have been looking everywhere today get this done. This is the one that did it. I brought home an office iMac that was using the office server for updates. I used the Software Update enabler. deleted the .com.apple.softwareupdate.plist and about a 20 other things I read. Yours got ALL the references out. It took about 5 minutes for it to run but now updating everything! Thanks.

  4. Leon says:

    Hi Robin, Thanks for the info but I need to pull you up on the difference between ‘copying’ and ‘moving’. I assume you’re instructing to ‘delete’ the .plist file from Library, in which case it’s a ‘move’. As desktops are always part of the Mac’s HD, maybe the word ‘drag’ is more appropriate. As for the Update, I obtained a copy of ‘Software Update Enabler’ (NOT the Software Update in Mac) where there’s a ‘Revert to Apple’ button. It didn’t display the URL but worked anyway. Cheers, Leon

  5. Robin Wilson says:

    Thanks for the feedback – I’ve updated the post to make it a bit clearer.

  6. Phil says:

    I opened the updater after moving the com.apple.SoftwareUpdater.plist but nothing changed. Did you mean to completely delete it from the listing?
    Phil

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  8. Helen says:

    Hi! I completed all the steps but when I run the software update tool, the same error message about not being able to access the server (the old one linked to my school) pops up. After I replaced the file (in step 4) I still got the same message. Is there a solution?

  9. Juan says:

    Thank you sir, I do not understand why this is not published by Apple – so brilliantly simple.

  10. brett castle says:

    Hi I’m trying to reset a apple iMac 2011 and I’m having very difficult time i don’t know what to do and I’m only on guest user

  11. very useful information for Mac users

  12. Alex says:

    sudo softwareupdate –clear-catalog

    This worked for me on osx 10.11

  13. Dave says:

    The suggestion in the blog did not fix my problem. I had to actually run the following command as mentioned by other commenters:

    sudo softwareupdate –-clear-catalog

    On osx 10.11.4

  14. Phu says:

    The only solution worked for me (Mac os 10.12) is

    sudo softwareupdate –-clear-catalog

  15. Ben says:

    A bit late now, but if you get your Mac second-hand “from your university” or anywhere else you should wipe the disk and reinstall the OS. If you’re using the OS that anyone else installed, you don’t know what settings have been applied. To say nothing of malware, whether by incompetence, accident or ill-will.

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