Sign up ×
Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I would like to force an update of App Store applications from the command line.

How can I do this? Please provide working solution.

share|improve this question
There doesn't appear to be a command line helper like the overall software update so you may be limited to launching a script that will automate the GUI commands. Would you edit the question to clarify if you expect the "working" solution to be a terminal only or if an Automator script that will key in your password when asked is what you are looking for. – bmike May 9 '11 at 14:58
I am looking for something unattended, still if this requires the AppleID id/password I find ok to include it in the script. – sorin Nov 28 '12 at 18:33

3 Answers 3

There doesn't appear to be a command line helper or any scriptable cocoa classes you can latch on to for automation. Unlike the overall software update, you can only script the process of clicking buttons with a mouse.

If someone is logged into the mac (windowmanager is running), you can use Automator and the "watch me do" function to automate updates and storing your store password in the script fairly insecurely.

Here are two tutorials to get you started if this meets your needs.

Once you have a working script, you can use the command line open command to kick it off.

If the App Store app ever exposes that function to scripting you will have more options from the command line. It would be easy to use sdef, sdp and gen_bridge_metadata to dump the entire scriptable dictionary and script things using ruby from the command line, but at present, this is a non-starter.

share|improve this answer
Wow, this is really annoying. The usual software updates are easily scriptable using softwareupdate(8). – Arne Dec 6 '11 at 8:09
I just wanted to state for the record - It's clear Apple has consciously decided to make it hard / not provide any tool or hook or assistance for automating App Store installs and updates. The core system still has the softwareupdate process and it even hooks into the App Store on Mountain Lion - but it's only for non App Store apps. – bmike Nov 28 '12 at 17:47

The App Store is simply not suitable for administration. Barely a quasi-package manager, it is not nearly as useful or reliable as real package managers like pkgsrc, FreeBSD ports, aptitude, RPM, macports or even softwareupdate. In my experience, it is unpredictable and a beard for commercial developers to hock their wares. So there is really only one rational and responsible way, as a competent administrator, to work with App Store:

 sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/

 sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/

 sudo mkdir /System/Library/LaunchAgents\ \(disabled\)/

 sudo mv /System/Library/LaunchAgents/* /System/Library/LaunchAgents\ \(disabled\)/

And just put it out of your mind, it won't trouble you any longer. ;-)

Use ARD instead, though not a package manager, it manages packages, installations, updates, and upgrades, it will do what you want, save you time, and will not let you down:

For Apple Remote Desktop 3, for 10.9:

Check out the admin guide first to convince yourself that this is the way to go:

curl -Ok

    open ARD3_AdminGuide.pdf

Then install:

curl -Ok

hdiutil attach -quiet -noverify -nobrowse -noautoopen RemoteDesktopAdmin372.dmg

sudo installer -pkg /Volumes/Apple\ Remote\ Desktop\ 3.7.2\ Admin\ Update/RemoteDesktopAdmin372.pkg -target /

but that might throw a funny error if not running 10.9, or if no previous version of ARD is installed, and if it does, try:

pkgutil --expand /Volumes/Apple\ Remote\ Desktop\ 3.7.2\ Admin\ Update/RemoteDesktopAdmin372.pkg ARDexpanded/

or to equal effect (either/or here, don't need to use both pkgutil and xar... I'm just being thorough):

mkdir ARDexpanded

cd ARDexpanded

xar -xf /Volumes/Apple\ Remote\ Desktop\ 3.7.2\ Admin\ Update/RemoteDesktopAdmin372.pkg

And we no longer need the disk image attached, so eject it:

hdiutil detach -quiet /Volumes/Apple\ Remote\ Desktop\ 3.7.2\ Admin\ Update/

And now what you'll see if you

cd ARDexpanded/RemoteDesktopAdmin372.pkg/



    Bom         PackageInfo Payload     Scripts

What's in the Payload file, which is a cpio archive compressed with gzip, is what you're after. So with a few piped commands we can get to the app bundle:

cat Payload | gzip -d - | cpio -id



    Applications Bom          Library      PackageInfo  Payload      Scripts

And you're nearly done.

cp -R Applications/Remote\ /Applications/

Now you have installed Apple Remote Desktop Admin 3.7.2

So all that's left to do is purchase your license:


Launch /Applications/Remote\ and serialize. And get some work done.

For 10.6 Snow Leopard, you'll need a slightly earlier version of ARD:

curl -Ok

curl -Ok

hdiutil attach -quiet -noverify -nobrowse -noautoopen RemoteDesktopAdmin353.dmg

sudo installer -pkg /Volumes/Apple\ Remote\ Desktop\ 3.5.3\ Admin\ Update/RemoteDesktopAdmin353.pkg -target /

and if it throws back at you this:

    installer: Cannot install on volume / because it is disabled.
    installer: This update could not find Remote Desktop on this volume.

then try:

pkgutil --expand /Volumes/Apple\ Remote\ Desktop\ 3.5.3\ Admin\ Update/RemoteDesktopAdmin353.pkg ARD353

hdiutil detach -quiet /Volumes/Apple\ Remote\ Desktop\ 3.5.3\ Admin\ Update

drill down to the Payload:

    cd ARD353/RemoteDesktopAdmin353.pkg/



    Bom         PackageInfo Payload     Scripts

So run:

cat Payload | gzip -d - | cpio -id



Applications Bom          Library      PackageInfo  Payload      Scripts

And you're nearly done:

cp -R Applications/Remote\ /Applications/

purchase your license:


Launch /Applications/Remote\ and serialize. And get something done.

share|improve this answer
Great answer, I learned a bunch of new things I can do in the Terminal. +1 – shrx Apr 21 '14 at 13:02

You can use the softwareupdate tool.

sudo softwareupdate -l

Lists all available updates.

sudo softwareupdate -ia

Installs all available updates.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.