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I had upgraded to macOS Mojave on April 2020 and am still on it.

The Software Installations list on System Information lists the following security updates installed:

  • Security Update 2020-002
  • Security Update 2020-003
  • Security Update 2020-004
  • Security Update 2020-005
  • Security Update 2020-006

As you can see Security Update 2020-001, which was released on January 28, 2020 is missing from the list. I don't recall if I installed 2020-002 security update manually on it or through Software Update.

Now that Apple is releasing even Combo updates for the macOS, which are cumulative updates of point releases, is there any clarity on whether security updates are also now cumulative?

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  • How do you define cumulative? (Or is this about whether the combo updates roll in Security Updates?)
    – bmike
    Dec 1, 2020 at 23:39
  • @bmike - No, I am only talking about security updates. By cumulative I mean the latest security update installer will also have all the previous security updates. So for example, if you have not installed security updates 004 and 005, installing just 006 should cover you. If it is not cumulative, you would have to install all of them.
    – sfxedit
    Dec 1, 2020 at 23:56
  • Aah, so you don’t necessarily trust if Apple says there are no updates that something in the past was skipped? In the end, I just want to check for updates and apply them all, then repeat. It wasn’t clear what you wanted to do initially...
    – bmike
    Dec 2, 2020 at 0:12
  • @bmike Not about trust. I am looking for clarification on how Apple manages security update releases - do you need to install all the previous updates before installing the latest update? This 5 year old question says yes, you have to. Is it still the same situation now in 2020 with macOS Mojave and above?
    – sfxedit
    Dec 2, 2020 at 0:35

1 Answer 1

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Yes, security updates are cumulative since the most recent point release. So, if you're downloading updates manually (to use with offline machines, or in some sort of automated deployment setup, etc), you'll want to install (1) the most recent "combo update" followed by (2) the most recent "security update".

Frustratingly, I have been unable to find any official confirmation of this from Apple, but I am relatively confident this is how things work based on my own use. If you try to install an OS X 10.9.5 security update (like 2016-004) before updating from 10.9.4 to 10.9.5, the installer will complain and won't run. However, installing security update 2016-001 followed by 2016-004 seems to have the same affect as just installing 2016-004—you end up on the same build version.

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  • That's the issue though - just because we can skip and install the latest security update doesn't mean we can be sure that it has all the previous security updates though.
    – sfxedit
    Dec 1, 2020 at 23:51
  • You end up on the same build version either way. I can't say I've done a check of every single system file to see if they're identical, but it would be extremely bizarre if you could have the same build version despite having two different sets of patches applied. Dec 2, 2020 at 3:04
  • If you're still not convinced, you could do this experiment pretty easily. Packages aren't magic, expand them with pkgutil --expand [package-name].pkg [folder] and extract the payload (rename to .zip) to see what files are inside. If there are any files in the earlier package which aren't also in the later package, the updates aren't cumulative. I'm personally not willing to do this, because I just can't imagine the build numbers would lie like that. There would be no point in having build numbers! Dec 2, 2020 at 3:12
  • I have reasonably confirmed your assertion - Security Update 2021-001 (Mojave) was released on 5th Feb 2021, and Security Update 2021-002 (Mojave) on 8th Feb 2021. I hadn't installed either. But on checking with Software Update, I was only offered the latest security update (2021-002), and not both.
    – sfxedit
    Feb 14, 2021 at 0:56

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