Does Apple’s update utility constitute malware?

! Warning: this post hasn't been updated in over three years and so may contain out of date information.

Apple logoLooks like Apple are being more than a little naughty with their update utility on Windows. Whenever you install an Apple application (Safari, QuickTime or iTunes), you are offered the option of installing a handy update utility too. I like update utilities, as they do the hard work of checking for important updates for me. However – as Microsoft found out last year – there are two really important rules to updates: never force updates on those that don’t want them, and never ever ever install a new product under the guise of an update. Apple have broken both of these rules sadly.

Firstly, their update utility has been caught, by John Lilly, Mozilla CEO, of trying to install an “update” to Safari on PCs that do not have Safari installed. Apparently according to the feedback to John’s post, the update utility does this with iTunes and QuickTime too.

Not happy with forcing new software on people through disguising it as updates, Apple also completely disregard the request not to install the update utility. When installing one of their apps, the user is given the choice of whether they want the update utility installed. Regardless of whether you say yes or no, the utility is installed anyway.

Unsurprisingly,this has led Apple-haters to accuse Apple of pushing malware on users, and it has also provoked a strong counter response from the fan-boys. Beneath this schoolboy banter though lies a very serious point as John points out. Updates are vital to keeping machines secure from criminal elements that hijack them for illegal purposes. Anything – by any company – that damages users confidence in updates needs to be strongly condemned and Apple needs to address this situation, fast.

Until Apple do fix it, you can fix the problem yourself very easily. Simply go to the control panel, select “Add/ Remove Software” in XP or “Uninstall a program” in Vista and select “Apple Software Update” for removal.