How to Update Safari without upgrading macOS?


Safari updates are usually bundled with MacOS system updates. Do you want to update Safari to the latest version but don’t want to upgrade to the latest macOS version? Here’s how to do it.

No matter how fast and enjoyable Safari is, Apple always tries to streamline it. And there’s a good reason for that:

  • Over time, software incompatibilities inevitably arise.
  • Apple security experts regularly discover loopholes that can be exploited by cybercriminals.

The updated version of Safari might then fix those security issues, as well as resolve other bugs.

You might also want to run the latest version of Safari because it has new features. An example like Safari 14 in Big Sur, which came with speed gains of up to 50%, a revamped start page, favicons, and instant translation, among other things.

Since it is deeply integrated into the OS, it is perhaps the most efficiently optimized browser for your Mac. All the features and customizations that you could try out on your device would be totally in sync with the Apple ecosystem.

However, there are quite a few drawbacks attached to the Safari browser being treated as a system app.

The annoying inability to update the Safari browser without updating the OS. Upgrading the OS to update a browser doesn’t always translate to the best-case scenarios.

Many users do not wish to immediately install the latest OS upgrade on Mac because of compatibility or performance issues with some apps and software.

Likewise, setups used for development or testing purposes don’t require frequent updates, as they would then have to restructure their code designs at regular intervals.

It also consumes a lot of GBs of data to fully update the macOS full system, when you could have done away with a few MBs downloading just the Safari browser.

How to check the current version of your Safari browser

  1. Open Safari.
  2. In the Safari menu at the top of your screen, click About Safari.
  3. In the window that opens, check the Safari version.
Apple Safari About Screen

Update Safari without upgrading macOS

In the top left corner of the screen, you can see the Apple logo, click on it.

Mac Check for Software Update 1

The pop-up menu will be displayed, with the options to go to the App store and also system preference.

All updates used to be done in the app store, but with mac updates, you are required to go to system updates.

Mac Check for Software Update 2

Click on the System Preference, and on the pop-up menu, then, tap on the Software Update application to open, located on the left-hand side of the window.

Mac Check for Software Update 3

In the next window shown below, you’ll find there are multiple software updates available for different things. For example, there might be a Safari update, alongside a macOS supplemental update, a security update, or a firmware update.

Click on more info, for further details on the size of the update.

Mac Software Update Screen

Uncheck any other software updates you do not want to install yet, then click on “Install Now” to install only the checked software updates.

Mac Software Update Screen 2

Alternatively, you can close the window and use the update now in the window shown below.

Mac Software Update Screen 3

Let Software Update download the update and install it automatically to the Mac as usual. Make sure to close the Safari browser before starting the process to avoid an error message.

Mac Software Update Screen 4

That’s it, you can now fire up the safari, and enjoy your browsing.

How to Check For & Install macOS Software Updates from the Command Line

As this is using the command line, you will be using the Terminal application. If you’re unfamiliar with the command line, it’s probably better to simply install software updates from the Software Update system preference or the Mac App Store.

List All Available Mac Software Updates from Command Line

To get a list of available software updates, type the following command in the Terminal:

softwareupdate -l 

(-l being the small letter L).

This will provide a list of all available updates along with their individual file sizes and a note indicating whether you’ll need to restart your Mac to complete the update process.

To install an individual software update, in this case, Safari Browser, enter the command sudo softwareupdate -i name, where “name” is the exact name of one of the available updates revealed by the list command.

As this is a superuser (sudo) command, you’ll need to enter your admin account password when prompted.

sudo softwareupdate -i (safari version)

Obviously without the brackets.

There’s no traditional progress bar, but you will see updated text entries in the Terminal window as each step is completed, letting you know both when certain updates have been downloaded and when the entire installation process is complete.

If you installed software updates that require a reboot, you’ll see a final message instructing you to restart your Mac. You can do this via the normal macOS interface, but since we’re already using UNIX commands in Terminal, you can also type sudo shutdown -r now, which instructs the shutdown command to restart the Mac (“-r”) immediately (“now”).

Benefits of Using Software Update via the Terminal

One big reason is automation and remote management. Users with multiple Macs to manage can create scripts or remotely initiate a software update via a method such as SSH without needing to manually use screen sharing or remote management software.

Another potential benefit is speed. While not universal, many users report that updates install faster when installed via Terminal, both in terms of the initial installation and the post-restart portion as the Mac reboots. While not every update will see a significant speed increase, the Terminal method at least won’t add any time compared to the Mac App Store.

The Terminal method only works with macOS system updates and first-party Apple apps like Safari Browser and iTunes. It is the same as the original Mac Software Update utility, which is how Apple delivered the system and first-party updates to users prior to the launch of the Mac App Store, which did not support third-party applications. The softwareupdate UNIX command also served as the basis of the original Software Update utility.

The command-line approach to software updates is really useful for remotely updating Macs with ssh, setting up automated updates via a bash script.

This tool is available in all versions of Mac OS X and macOS, and therefore it can be used to update just about any Mac with necessary software updates.

Why is my Safari not updating?

With newer versions of macOS, your Safari isn’t updating because Apple has removed browser updates via the App Store. Now you can simply update macOS instead of manually updating Safari.

If you’re using macOS High Sierra or earlier and don’t want to upgrade the OS itself, you can update Safari in the App Store. Sometimes, though, that’s not possible, because the App Store preferences have become corrupted.

To install an older version of Safari, you can downgrade your macOS, thereby downgrading Safari too. This isn’t recommended, though, because older versions may have unpatched security holes in them.

Updating Safari without the need to update a Mac can be done by manually updating the browser from the App Store. Keep in mind that manual Safari updates are only available for older versions of macOS.

To download Safari updates without updating macOS, do the following:

  1. Quit Safari
  2. From the Apple menu, open App Store
  3. In the window that opens, click Update next to Safari


It is still solely in the hands of Apple as and when or if they plan on taking this approach of releasing a standalone browser update rather than a part of the system update. Using the App Store app is easy to download and install.

In the example here, an update to Safari was installed, while a broader system software update was ignored for the time being.

This can be helpful whether you’re avoiding a particular software update package for some reason, or perhaps you just don’t want to reboot the computer yet. Or perhaps you want to install macOS system updates using a Combo Update and therefore want to ignore those updates while you continue to install other updates through System Preferences.

This applies only to installing system software updates and updates delivery through the Software Update mechanism of macOS. That is different from installing and updating apps on the Mac App Store or the developer website, or even directly through the app itself.

Another option exists for more advanced users too, and that’s installing macOS software updates through the command line Terminal, which also allows you to selectively install specific updates.

If you use automatic updates for macOS system software, then this won’t be particularly relevant to you. Auto-update will install all available software updates when they become available. Keep that in mind when determining your settings and how you update your Mac.

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