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Apple Software Updates With Munki

Nick McSpadden edited this page Mar 8, 2018 · 33 revisions


Munki can be configured to install available Apple Software Updates, with the benefit that users don't need to be administrators to install updates.


To install Apple Software Updates with Munki, set InstallAppleSoftwareUpdates to True in Munki's preferences:


Or using defaults:

defaults write /Library/Preferences/ManagedInstalls InstallAppleSoftwareUpdates -bool True

or via equivalent configuration profile.

To set a custom CatalogURL for Apple Software Updates, you can use defaults or a configuration profile to manage

defaults write /Library/Preferences/ CatalogURL ""

Apple update behavior notes

Munki updates and Apple Software updates can appear and be installed in the same Munki session. To prevent possible conflicts, if any item to be installed or removed from the Munki server is an Apple item, Apple updates will not be processed in the same session. An item from the Munki server is identified as an Apple item if it has the optional apple_item key set toTrue in its pkginfo file.

Additionally, an item will be treated as an apple_item during an update check if the apple_item key is missing but the item contains either a receipts array with a packageid key that starts with or an installs array with a CFBundleIdentifier key that starts with

It is important to note that any Apple application scheduled for install without an apple_item key explicitly set to False will cause the item to be treated as an apple_item during an update check. The implication of this is that if a user has an update waiting to be installed for Pages, as an example, and the Pages update has no apple_item key set no Apple software update checks will be performed for as long as the user postpones the Pages update.

In reality this means that if any high-profile Apple software updates (Security Update, OS X update) became available after the user first received the Pages update they will not be available for install until after Pages is installed. If an important OS X update has also been given a force_install_date by the admin via the apple_update_metadata method and the user doesn't install the waiting Pages until after the forced date expires, before long Managed Software Center will initiate the final one hour grace period countdown and logout to install the waiting Apple update. This may be a problem from a UX point of view and makes directly managing the apple_item key very important in order to prevent long periods of Apple software update "blackout" for users who tend to postpone waiting updates for long periods on end, or any surprises arising from passed forced install deadlines.

In order to prevent such a blackout the admin has two options:

  • Mark all Apple updates in Munki as unattended where possible
  • Set the apple_item key to <false/> in any Apple item's pkginfo file

For additional notes on the apple_item key see this section of the Munki wiki.

Pre-10.11 notes (10.10 and below)

For OS X versions prior to 10.11, you may also direct Munki to use a different Apple Software Update server (for example, one you host internally) by setting the SoftwareUpdateServerURL key in Munki's preferences to the appropriate CatalogURL:


or again with the defaults command:

defaults write /Library/Preferences/ManagedInstalls SoftwareUpdateServerURL ""

(Beginning with OS X 10.11, setting this value is not currently recommended)

Mavericks and Yosemite notes

Due to changes in how the /usr/sbin/softwareupdate tool works in OS X 10.9 and 10.10, you may have unexpected/undesirable results if you use MCX or configuration profiles to manage the CatalogURL in See this discussion:

As an alternative to managing this preference with MCX or configuration profiles, consider just directly setting your desired CatalogURL in /Library/Preferences/

El Capitan+ notes

Due to changes in how the /usr/sbin/softwareupdate tool works in OS X 10.11 and later, it is no longer recommended to set SoftwareUpdateServerURL in Munki's preferences. Instead you should just allow Munki to use whatever Apple Software Update is using "normally" -- either the system defaults, or a CatalogURL value set in the preferences domain.

With the 2.8.0 release of the Munki tools, the SoftwareUpdateServerURL, if set, will be ignored under 10.11+.

Unlike with earlier versions of macOS/OS X, under macOS 10.11+, due to the changed implementation, it's fine to manage's CatalogURL using a configuration profile (or MCX!).

Apple Update Metadata

Munki supports admin-provided additional metadata for Apple updates, which allows admins to better control the timing and conditions of Apple updates. Adding metadata information for an Apple update cannot cause Munki to offer any update Apple Software Update will not offer. It can only change how the update, if available from Apple Software Update, is installed. It can allow Munki to install an Apple update in an unattended manner; it can require a logout or restart even if the update normally would not require these, or it can be force installed after a certain date. Again, if Software Update is not offering the item to the client, Apple Update Metadata cannot force it to do so.

More info on Apple Update Metadata is Pkginfo For Apple Software Updates.

Unattended Apple Updates

The most common use for Apple Update Metadata has been to mark updates as unattended so that Munki will install them in the background.

With the 2.5.0 release of the Munki tools (and on OS X Yosemite or later), setting UnattendedAppleUpdates to true in Munki's preferences will cause Munki to automatically install all possible Apple updates in the background without notifying the user, such as iTunes, Safari, and Command Line Tools updates. Updates requiring a reboot will be ignored by this setting, and blocking applications are automatically extracted from the update's distribution file. This generally alleviates the need to create the metadata specified above unless there is a need for using force_install_by_date


Using the Munki tools only to install Apple Software Updates

You can use the Munki tools without any Munki repository to install Apple updates. In /Library/Preferences/ManagedPreferences.plist, set AppleSoftwareUpdatesOnly to True.

defaults write /Library/Preferences/ManagedInstalls AppleSoftwareUpdatesOnly -bool True

managedsoftwareupdate will then not request a manifest and catalog(s) from a Munki server, but will proceed directly to checking for (and possibly installing) Apple Software Updates.

Apple Update Metadata functionality is not available with this configuration, since the additional metadata is stored in a Munki repo.


Munki 3

Managed Software Center

Command-line Tools

Munki configuration




Advanced Munki

Related tasks


Product-specific notes

Legacy Documentation

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