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

How can I do this?

  • 2
    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
    Commented May 9, 2011 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
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 18:33
  • 1
    Also see apple.stackexchange.com/questions/42353/… for a solution that calls a third party app
    – bmike
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 19:32

3 Answers 3


Apple doesn't supply a command line helper or any scriptable cocoa classes you can latch on to for automation. Unlike the overall software update, which allows updates and installs out of the box, you can script the process of clicking buttons with a mouse using Automator.

However, the app store has been reverse engineered and released open source as well as a binary form:

The install is quick and it appears to be quite reliable on the current version of OS X 10.11:

brew install argon/mas/mas 

With the source released, I would expect some other implementations of this tool to pop up, perhaps even one scripted with python.

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 the best option would be to use the mas command line tool.

  • 1
    Wow, this is really annoying. The usual software updates are easily scriptable using softwareupdate(8).
    – Arne
    Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 8:09
  • 2
    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
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 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/com.apple.store_helper.plist

 sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.storeagent.plist

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

 sudo mv /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.store* /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 http://images.apple.com/ca/fr/remotedesktop/pdf/ARD3_AdminGuide.pdf

    open ARD3_AdminGuide.pdf

Then install:

curl -Ok http://supportdownload.apple.com/download.info.apple.com/Apple_Support_Area/Apple_Software_Updates/Mac_OS_X/downloads/031-2845.20140313.rerft/RemoteDesktopAdmin372.dmg

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\ Desktop.app /Applications/

Now you have installed Apple Remote Desktop Admin 3.7.2

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

open http://store.apple.com/us_smb_78313/product/D6020Z/A/apple-remote-desktop-3-volume-licenses-20-seats-price-is-per-seat

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

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

curl -Ok http://images.apple.com/ca/fr/remotedesktop/pdf/ARD3_AdminGuide.pdf

curl -Ok http://supportdownload.apple.com/download.info.apple.com/Apple_Support_Area/Apple_Software_Updates/Mac_OS_X/downloads/041-6789.20120917.xD6TR/RemoteDesktopAdmin353.dmg

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\ Desktop.app /Applications/

purchase your license:

open http://store.apple.com/us_smb_78313/product/D6020Z/A/apple-remote-desktop-3-volume-licenses-20-seats-price-is-per-seat

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

  • 1
    Great answer, I learned a bunch of new things I can do in the Terminal. +1
    – shrx
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 13:02

You can use the softwareupdate tool.

sudo softwareupdate -l

Lists all available updates.

sudo softwareupdate -ia

Installs all available updates.

  • This doesn't work for Appstore applications, only for apple packages.
    – bric3
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 15:31
  • try also: man softwareupdate Commented May 2, 2018 at 18:08

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