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Most Mac users update their system software through the Mac App Store, which is fast, easy and efficient. There is absolutely nothing wrong with updating Mac OS X through the App Store, and that approach is best suited for most users, but many advanced Mac users and system administrators rely on so-called Combo Updaters to update Mac OS to the latest versions. available. Additionally, combo updates can be useful for troubleshooting a failed Mac OS X update, and running them can often fix a broken or failed update attempt.
What is a combo update?
In essence, Combo Updaters allow you to update a Mac from an earlier version of MacOS and Mac OS X within the same major release, without the Mac being on the immediately preceding version point release. In others words, it is a combined updateincluding all necessary components from previous point releases, even if they are not installed on the target Mac.
For example, with a Combo Updater you could update directly from OS X 10.11 to Mac OS X 10.11.4, skipping the intermediate 10.11.1, 10.11.2 and 10.11.3 updates altogether. The only real catch is that combo updaters have to be used to update within major releases (e.g. any El Capitan point release, but not from Mavericks to El Capitan, which would require the traditional OS X installer and update process). This combined approach is especially beneficial for Mac system administrators or users updating multiple Macs to the latest version of Mac OS X, where the machines needing updates may be running slightly different versions of system software. This is the case with many IT networks, and home networks with multiple computers.
A combo update can be widely used on all compatible machines with the software version, without worrying about specific interim delta updates and point releases, and without downloading the smaller interim updates unique to each machine. Meaningful? If not, you probably don’t need to use a combo updater and update Mac OS X from the Mac App Store, which is admittedly less confusing ?
Although it sounds a bit complicated and is aimed at advanced users, using Combo Updaters to update Mac OS X is actually quite easy, let’s see how it works.
How to Use a Combo Update Installer to update Mac OS X
Back up the Mac if you haven’t already, this is good practice before updating a system software version, and using a combo update is no different.
- Download the necessary Mac OS X combo update from Apple here on this website, there are many versions available for every version of Mac OS X ever released (in this example we are using the OS X 10.11.4 update combo package)
- Close all other open apps (you can use this excellent little utility if you wish)
- Mount the Combo Update disk image (it is usually located in ~ / Downloads / unless you have it saved elsewhere)
- Double-click the Mac OS X Update Combo package file (it looks like a small box or package) found on the mounted disk image
- Click Continue and go through the update installer as usual
- Select the target hard drive on which to install the combo update (usually the Macintosh HD boot disk) and click “Install”
- Choose Restart when prompted, the Mac will reboot and start the installation process
The Mac will usually reboot a total of two or three times, and the update installation may take a few minutes to over an hour, depending on the size of the update, the speed of the Mac, and other factors.
When you’re done, boot Mac OS X. up as usual. You can confirm that the update is installed by going to the Apple menu and choosing About This Mac, where the version should now show the OS release you just installed with the Combo Update installer.
Easy right? It really isn’t much different from installing a system update from the Mac App Store, it’s just a bit more convenient than the more automated process offered through App Store updates (and certainly more than automatic system updates).
a final something to note if you are going to go this route and use combo updaters in the future; Make sure to always download Combo Update installers from a trusted source such as Apple, you can always do a sha1 hash check on the file and compare it to the trusted source to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with.
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