Hiding Apple’s Big Sur Upgrade Badges

Originally published at: Hiding Apple’s Big Sur Upgrade Badges - TidBITS

macOS Big Sur has been out for only a short time, but Apple is already pushing it on users by badging the System Preferences Dock icon and displaying a Big Sur-only update to GarageBand. Adam Engst shares a few workarounds that can reduce the annoyance.


The suggestion at Remove red (1) notification badge for disabled Catalina upgrade in Mojave still works for me (for hiding Big Sur upgrade badges on Mojave):

TL;DR: defaults delete com.apple.preferences.softwareupdate LatestMajorOSSeenByUserBundleIdentifier && softwareupdate --list

Thank you, @ace. :+1: Really good stuff! :slight_smile:

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And indeed, it continues to work in Catalina too, but with the caveat that you have to run it again if you ever open the Software Update preference pane.

Thanks! I think my Automator app approach is more reliable, in this case, but it’s good to have this documented in the comment for those who might prefer it for some reason.

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It did not work for me on Catalina 10.15.7. When I ran it the first time, I got this:

Finding available software
Software Update found the following new or updated software:

  • Label: Command Line Tools for Xcode-12.2
    Title: Command Line Tools for Xcode, Version: 12.2, Size: 440911K, Recommended: YES,
  • Label: Safari14.0.1CatalinaAuto-14.0.1
    Title: Safari, Version: 14.0.1, Size: 65582K, Recommended: YES,

Both of those updates had already been installed, by the way. The badges on App Store and System Preferences did not change. Restarting the Dock did not help.

I launched the App Store and System Preferences/Software Update to verify that these were the only updates showing, and then ran the command again. This time, I got:

Domain (com.apple.preferences.softwareupdate) not found.
Defaults have not been changed.

It would appear that the “delete” worked, but it had no effect on the badges.

To be honest, the App Store one bothers me more than the Software Update one, because previously, the App Store automatically hid updates that were not compatible with your OS version behind a gray tag on the Update panel that said “Show Incompatible App Updates”. There is ZERO reason for Apple to bug you about an update that you can’t install. Under any circumstances, the GarageBand update issue is an error on Apple’s part and should be corrected.

Just out of curiosity, are people on machines that can’t run Big Sur having this problem? (From what I can tell, that would mean machines that max out on High Sierra or earlier.) Or is it just those of us on Mojave and/or Catalina?

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Others are downright essential—if you don’t stay at least two macOS releases behind Apple, your Mac could be exposed to significant security vulnerabilities that have been fixed in later releases.

Tough call, as upgrading can expose you to new vulnerabilities (e.g. Goto Fail) in less-tested OS versions—and upgrading can remove essential features. More on this at ‘The Era of “Update Automatically” is Over: A Rant.’

I like the Automator method, this was a good option. It allowed me to name it “Settings” since that is what I always search for instead of “System Preferences” using the launcher app Alfred.

Kills two birds with one stone :slight_smile: Thanks @ace!

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Sure, nothing comes for free. But new vulnerabilities will be patched, generally quickly, whereas obsolete operating systems will remain vulnerable forever to exploits that are well-known and probably weaponized for script kiddies.

And while change is hard for many people, there aren’t many “essential features” that actually disappear. A particular way of accomplishing a task may no longer be possible, or a specific piece of software may no longer run, or there may be a cost to stay current, but it’s extremely unusual for a complete capability to disappear.

As I say repeatedly, you can keep using older systems for some time. But at some point, for some reason, you will have to upgrade, and the longer you wait, the more painful that upgrade is going to be. It’s up to everyone to choose whether they want a lot of pain at once, or a small amount of pain on multiple occasions.

Lastly, speaking personally, if I wasn’t excited to see new things from Apple, new apps from our talented developers, and new discoveries and workflows from others in the Apple community, I’d go do something else entirely. We’re all traveling this road together, and if you’re not enjoying yourself, you should switch gears and focus on something you do like. But hey, that’s just me.


Would someone parse this command in simple terms for me, please? (In particular, the && and --list.)

defaults delete com.apple.preferences.softwareupdate LatestMajorOSSeenByUserBundleIdentifier && softwareupdate --list

In another thread, I said that I didn’t have the badge or the notifications, and promptly jinxed myself. After reading this article, I looked at the System Preferences icon in the Dock; no badge. I looked at the Software Update icon in System Preferences; no badge. I looked at System Preferences… command in the Apple menu; no lozenge. (At least there is consistency.) I took no steps to hide the badge (in spite of asking for detailed instructions on how to execute a shell script), and I have no idea what makes the badges come or go. (I did install Security Update 2020-006 10.14.6 and Safari 14.0.1 since I last saw the badges, but I don’t know if they disappeared before, after, or during that installation process.)


defaults delete com.apple.preferences.softwareupdate LatestMajorOSSeenByUserBundleIdentifier

This is telling macOS to delete the preference named LatestMajorOSSeenByUserBundleIdentifier from the com.apple.preferences.softwareupdate preference file.


The && command is part of the shell. It means “execute the next command only if the previous command succeeded”.

softwareupdate --list

This tells the software update service to search for available updates and report what it finds.

Interestingly, when I run it on my system, it says I have no new software available even though the App Store app shows me the GarageBand update that I can’t install and the System Update preference panel shows me the link to upgrade to Big Sur.

You can see the full set of softwareupdate options by typing one of these commands:

softwareupdate --help
man softwareupdate

Do you by any chance have a 2013 or 2014 13" MacBook Pro?

According to a recent article about Big Sur, Apple pulled the update for these Macs because there have been reports about a firmware upgrade bricking them.

Incidentally, this article says that for most other people, this has been (so far) a painless upgrade. Which is surprisingly good news. I’m still going to wait a bit until the apps I use are all known to work with it, but maybe I won’t have to wait until 11.3 ships. :smiley:

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Thanks, @Shamino. I should have thought of ‘man softwareupdate’ on my own. It sure seems like I would have come across && in a previous life, but I have no recollection of it. Well, memory is the second thing to go.

If I’m typing the commands in Terminal, why wouldn’t I type the first command, see the result, and then type the second command if desired? (I didn’t follow the link; did the original source mean for the compound command to be in a script?)

Nope, it’s a MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015).

That is good news. Other than (a lot of) inertia and no pressing need, the main thing holding me back from ordering the M1 MacBook Air was nervousness about Big Sur.

You can, and it will work absolutely the same.

Commands are often displayed this way because that is the way they are scripted and automated. You hit return once and you’re done. It’s very common on UNIX/Linux systems to connect commands with && or | or >/>> depending on what task you’re trying to accomplish—not few would probably claim it’s a key advantage of these systems and their CLIs. In this case somebody is presenting you with a compound workflow, not a list of single commands that achieve something on their own that you’d want. But as you suspect, you can take these workflows apart and run one after the other (assuming the preceding command completes successfully) and you’ll get the desired result.

Understood. Someone once said to me, “The Macintosh GUI is cute and can be fun, but sometimes I want to have a command line and get some work done!”

But new vulnerabilities will be patched, generally quickly,

Newly-reported vulnerabilities are usually patched quickly, but Goto Fail and Snowden are both quite troubling about vulnerabilities that aren’t reported. I know only enough about security to know that I don’t know enough to balance the risks from a newer but sloppier OS against those from an older one.

there aren’t many “essential features” that actually disappear.

Running Windows is still essential for some of us, and there seems to be no prospect of x86 Windows emulation on ARM anytime soon. (Every few years I investigate moving two decades of Quicken data to MacQuicken, and recoil in horror. I hope next time is different; I did not enjoy administering a physical Windows box.) Organizing the apps on my iPad and iPhone is fairly close to essential, as is running my preferred and paid-for version of Word.
I’ve been dry-running modern iOS versions on a new iPad Pro, and that seems less dire; I can replace the Shorter Oxford with a combination of two apps and a subscription.

if you’re not enjoying yourself, you should switch gears and focus on something you do like.

Funny you should mention that; that was fairly close to the last question my manager’s manager at Apple asked me when trying to talk me out of my second attempt at resigning. (More complicated than that, and mostly not relevant—I did believe that Xcode was getting less bad, and that the compilers were getting better.)
But wisdom sometimes consists of knowing what is enough, and the right combination of recent Apple hardware and software is good enough for a lot of purposes. Civilization advances at different rates in different fields at different times; the last generation or two has been a Golden Age for Silicon Valley innovation, but forced innovation is not necessarily an improvement.

We’d have to ask a security expert like @rmogull, but absolutely everything I hear from that world revolves around staying up to date with security patches. So it’s hard to imagine that running a version of the OS that isn’t patched regularly would be a win through “security through obsolescence.” :slight_smile:

No, but given that Intel-based Macs will still be sold for several years and supported for roughly five years according to Apple, and that there’s Windows for ARM and virtualization support from VMware and Parallels, I’m not too worried about this. The extra oomph from the Apple silicon may also enable reasonable emulation in the future.

It does seem that we have different definitions of “essential feature.” I see an essential feature as something like “being able to collaborate with others using documents in DOCX format,” whereas your definition seems to be “running Word 2008 and not paying for an upgrade.” Or, I’d say “manage my personal finances” whereas you’d say “maintain my personal finances in Quicken for Windows running in emulations on a Mac.”

True, and everyone’s needs vary. You could probably put together a Mac that worked on a sufficiently old version of the OS and with sufficiently old apps that it wouldn’t need Internet access or suffer from security issues. That’s not really possible—or at least advisable—with modern Macs.

The problem comes when you both want to interact with the evolving tech world and have everything remain as it was at some arbitrary Golden Age.

Personally, I enjoy looking backward mostly for nostalgic reasons. Most of what I do is better, faster, easier, and more accurate than it was in the past. Your mileage may vary!

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Depends on how obsolete you want to go.

I’m sure that if I fire up my 2002-era PowerMac running 10.5, I probably won’t run across any malware (aside from JavaScript-based malware) simply because nobody would consider it worth bothering.

If I would go even further back in time and set up an OS/2 system, there won’t be any malware at all.

But these systems would be extremely limited in the amount of Internet communication I could do with them because there don’t exist (as far as I know) any modern web browsers or e-mail clients for these platforms.

I think this is the crucial issue in this saga “That’s problematic because it teaches users to ignore the badge, which could prevent them from installing a critical security update in the future.”
By disabling the SoftwareUpdate Terminal command Apple is forcing some Mac users to use other means to suppress the nagging (i.e. badge in the Dock). These could result in an important Mojave or Catalina security update being overlooked.
Even with the badge showing, if there is an important Mojave update and I go so Sys Prefs all I see is the Big Sur “Upgrade” promotion and a less prominent button about other updates. Clearly the priorities should be the other way around.

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The softwareupdate command only check your the software update catalog for the macOS you are running/subscribed to, not any of the apps from the MAS.

And further depends on the target. As an example, the state sponsored attacks against Tibetan activists were purposely written to attack older macOS and application versions, because the targets were known to use older Macs with well known vulnerabilities that have been patched on newer systems.

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