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I am trying to stop my MacOS from periodically checking for updates and displaying these notifications:

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I have unchecked seemingly all relevant checkboxes in App Store preferences:

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And in System Preferences / Software Update as well:

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Yet every time I open the latter it defiantly checks for updates:

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How do I get it obey my directions? I am aware that some updates are required to actually fix security issues (as opposed to enhance the telemetry / data collection / spying etc. for the benefit of Apple). Yet I expect the OS to do what it apparently supposed to: not to check for updates if the checkboxes are unchecked (otherwise why would those checkboxes exist in the first place?). I am happy to take the risk to live without updates where I choose to, and I do not need Apple to override my decision.

This is Big Sur 11.3.1 (20E241).

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    You've set it to not automatically check for updates. Opening the Update control panel is not doing it automatically, you're telling it to check.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 15 at 5:46
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    If all automatic checks are off, how else are you going to ask it to check? There is no sensible alternative. Your analogy doesn't work.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 15 at 6:11
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    Unchecking "automatic" switches it to "Manual". You can't get any clearer signal than opening the control panel to tell it to check manually. if you don't want it to check, don't open it.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 15 at 6:32
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    I was talking about the system updates. As nohillside has already pointed out, you can't stop the app update checks. If you don't want your car to start, don't turn the key in the ignition. The hood has nothing to do with it, your analogy doesn't work. Anyway, if you're paranoid about being 'spied on' by Apple, consider their business model. They want to sell you some more hardware soon. Compare that to Google, who want to sell advertising, as targeted to your demographic as they can. I'd be far more worried about that. Do you use Chrome, by any chance?
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 15 at 6:39
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    With respect, it sounds like you're woefully misinformed about Apple's privacy policies. Even Linux offers (and announces) regular updates. Whatever it is you're worried about in receiving software updates, I can guarantee you that it isn't the problem you think it is.
    – benwiggy
    Jul 15 at 6:57
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  • The App Store preference only controls the automatic update, not the checking whether an update is available. The later happens automatically
  • Software Update checks when you open the panel, independent of the "automatic" setting. If it detects an update it shows it in the menu

So basically it works in the way defined in the preferences.

PS: Some of the answers on How can I permanently disable App Store notifications in Big Sur? might be useful

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  • The popup notifications would show up now and again even after closing them, rebooting and not touching the preferences panel for days.
    – Greendrake
    Jul 15 at 6:27
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    @greendrake Ah, seems you are asking two different things here: how to prevent automatic update checks and how to prevent notifications. AFAIR we already have a question on the later somewhere, with a „it is not possible“ answer.
    – nohillside
    Jul 15 at 6:37
  • In order for the system to show those notifications it has to check if updates are available. If it wasn't checking updates it would never detect any to show those notifications. Therefore getting it not check updates would get it not show notifications.
    – Greendrake
    Jul 15 at 7:09
  • I can confirm though that it is only the App Store popup that shows up by itself. The System Update popup only shows up after opening the Software Update panel which triggers "manual", unexpected update check. In light of this, your answer makes sense.
    – Greendrake
    Jul 15 at 7:59
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If you wanted to prevent the OS from checking the software update catalog, you could try changing the catalog's URL:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.SoftwareUpdate CatalogURL http://www.example.com

... and then when you have somehow satisfied yourself that updates are ok, you can manually check for them, by removing the preference key:

sudo defaults delete /Library/Preferences/com.apple.SoftwareUpdate CatalogURL 

Note that the OS will not be able to find any system updates until the catalog is restored.
(You may want to keep a copy of the unmodified /Library/Preferences/com.apple.SoftwareUpdate.plist, just in case.)

Alternatively, you could just auto-install and roll back if concerns are discovered about an update.

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  • Thanks but what is "software update catalog"? Does it pertain to App Store or Software Update? Which of the two types of notifications will your method stop?
    – Greendrake
    Jul 15 at 10:05
  • "Software Update" is the updates that come in System Prefs, not App Store.
    – benwiggy
    Jul 15 at 10:15
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    but you can already stop system update checks by the simple expedient of never opening the control panel.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 15 at 10:25
  • @Tetsujin I agree that it's not necessarily a wise course of action!
    – benwiggy
    Jul 15 at 10:37

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