Why does it take so long for Software Update in OS X to tell me that I'm up to date? I'm currently running 10.7.2, but this has been the case for all versions of OS X I've run. I just performed a check, and it took three minutes to return.

I can't think of any reason why it should take so long. Isn't it a fairly quick lookup of applications and versions?

By contrast, the same function in the iOS/iTunes Store and Mac App Store takes almost no time.

  • +1 same here. And this is not a Lion thing, it has been that way in Snow Leopard, too. I suggest network problems (slow servers), but hopefully someone knows what's up here. – Thilo Nov 17 '11 at 12:18
  • @Thilo Not only, but the checks take forever also on iOS systems – Matteo Jun 18 '13 at 5:37

Mac OS X keeps a list of all installed packages in /var/log/receipts.

When software update is run it checks for updates for every (or perhaps only Apple) package individually by sending a HTTP request with a signature of the package to Apple's servers and waiting for a reply. This is necessary because of the wide variety of configurations possible for any system.

On my Snow Leopard system running software update sent ~322 HTTP requests to Apple's servers.

So basically it is just looking up if there are any updates, but because of the sheer number of separate and sometimes optional (Java, X11, printer drivers, etc.) packages, combined with the fact that it's sending each request separately, it can take awhile.

  • This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Software Update sucks up CPU time like crazy for quite a while, and a few hundred HTTP requests can't explain that. Actually, I am running Software Update right now, and it has only opened four TCP connections. But it is using so much CPU the computer is really sluggish in use. It has been going on for eight minutes this far. – Harald Hanche-Olsen Nov 18 '11 at 22:07
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    @HaraldHanche-Olsen TCP connections aren't HTTP requests. There's a big difference.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – user10355 Nov 18 '11 at 23:03
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    Hm. That's an interesting theory, but when I ran Software Update with HTTPScoop, I only saw three requests (two large, ~2mb and ~3mb). So, the results of this experiment do not correspond with your "hundreds of HTTP requests" theory. See this screenshot. – Trieu Nov 19 '11 at 4:45

I have never experienced this issue, because I never manually do a "Software Update". Lion tells me, with a pop-up of "Software Update", whenever an update is ready for me. And then check after the update takes just about one minute.

This is a huge improvement from their side.

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