Microsoft AutoUpdate vs macOS

I notice that MS AutoUpdate opens at start up despite the configuration
• In Mac OS Big Sur: no user/group Login Item is added
• MS AutoUpdate 4.41: the “Automatically Keep … Apps up to date” box is unchecked

There must be some other feature/preference configuration somewhere in the Mac system
or Microsoft, basically, forces the Update Check regardless of the settings

hmmm

The check box to “automatically keep…” prevents automatic installation of updates. It does not prevent it from checking for updates.

There is a LaunchAgent file (/Library/LaunchAgents/com.microsoft.update.agent.plist) which appears to be the culprit. It’s a binary-format Apple property-list file. You can use QuickLook to view it as XML data or open it for editing using XCode. The XML representation of the file on my computer is:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
<dict>
	<key>ProgramArguments</key>
	<array>
		<string>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/MAU2.0/Microsoft AutoUpdate.app/Contents/MacOS/Microsoft Update Assistant.app/Contents/MacOS/Microsoft Update Assistant</string>
		<string>--launchByAgent</string>
	</array>
	<key>StartInterval</key>
	<integer>7200</integer>
	<key>Label</key>
	<string>com.microsoft.update.agent</string>
	<key>Disabled</key>
	<false/>
	<key>RunAtLoad</key>
	<true/>
	<key>MachServices</key>
	<dict>
		<key>com.microsoft.update.xpc</key>
		<true/>
	</dict>
</dict>
</plist>

The information most relevant to our discussion is:

  • It is running a sub-app within the Microsoft AutoUpdate application package
  • As a LaunchAgent, it will be scheduled to run whenever a user is logged in. (If it was a LauncDaemon, it would run even when nobody is logged in.)
  • It runs every two hours (the StartInterval key, set to 7200 seconds), with the first run taking place when a user logs in (the RunAtLoad key, set to true).

If you want to turn it off, try one of the following:

  • Delete the file, or move it to some other location if you want a backup copy

  • Use a plist editor (e.g. the one built-in to XCode) and change the Disabled key to true.

    macOS’s “launch control” service can override the Disabled key, but if it doesn’t, this will effectively turn it off.

If you do this, be aware that MS might revert the change. I don’t know that they will, but it is a definite possibility. Some conditions that might cause it to happen (in order from most-likely to least-likely, based entirely on my gut feeling) include:

  • The next time the MS AutoUpdate app gets updated
  • The next time any MS app (Word, Excel, Edge, etc.) gets updated
  • The next time you manually check for updates
  • The next time you launch an MS app. (I think this is unlikely)
  • Automatically, based on some hidden mechanism. (I think this is even less likely, but Google does this with their desktop apps)
1 Like

Thanks for that review!