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Removing Google Software Update

Much has been written about how far Google intrudes into your online privacy. I notice this when I use my Gmail account and have small targeted advertising links at the top of the page. Occasionally they are useful links so I don’t mind the small loss of privacy. That’s all changed with the latest release of Google Earth and Picasa.

I recently mentioned Picasa for Mac as a fast photo viewer and intended to use it alongside Lightroom for browsing photo’s. Google earth has been updated to version 5 adding lots of interesting new features. Both of these apps tie in with the Google Software Updater which is a background task claiming to exist only to regularly check for software updates.

My objection here is a having a resource consuming process that is out of my control and providing a remote service with information I can’t see. Most Macintosh apps have an easily controlled update check that runs at a user configurable interval or on app startup. Even Apple’s Software Update can be turned off easily. Google give you no controll over the update app, and don’t even make it clear that the updater is being installed. Several sites including ArsTechnica and Wired have covered this story in detail so I won’t go into detail. It all comes down to Google’s attitude that ‘it’s in the EULA’ so they aren’t doing anything the user isn’t told about. And we all read EULA’s before installing software, don’t we?

Picasa I can manage without, especially since I am now looking at maintaining a library of edited Jpeg’s in iPhoto on my NAS/hackintosh/HTPC. Google earth is a nice app that I frequently use and don’t want to lose. Fortunately there is a solution (for now) that’s easy and quick.

Raam Dev’s Blog has details of not only how to remove the Google Software Update (from this Google page) but also how to stop Google apps from reinstalling it when they launch. Once the Software Update app is gone it’s just a case of setting permissions on the folder so it can’t be installed again. To remove the Software Update app use:

  • Uninstall for a specific user:Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate/GoogleSoftwareUpdate.bundle/Contents/Resources/GoogleSoftwareUpdateAgent.app/Contents/Resources/install.py –uninstall
  • Uninstall for the whole system: (needs root access)sudo /Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate/GoogleSoftwareUpdate.bundle/Contents/Resources/GoogleSoftwareUpdateAgent.app/Contents/Resources/install.py –uninstall

Copy the code into a terminal window and hit enter. I had to use the first option, uninstall for a specific user. There’s no harm in trying both, I just got an error message for file not found with the second option.

Once the Software Update is gone the next step is to prevent it’s return. This is done by the advice of a commenter on Raam Dev’s blog. Thanks to Bud for this:

Google Earth reinstalls the software updater when it’s launched. To prevent this I created an empty file at ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate, then transferred ownership to root and made it read-only for normal users:

touch ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate
sudo chown root ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate
sudo chmod 644 ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate

After using both of these tips Google Earth and Picasa have been run with no sign of the Google Software Updater. There’s no guarantee it won’t return in the future but for now the problem is fixed.

  1. Douglas De Clue
    February 16, 2009 at 2:40 am

    On a Windows box is it not sufficient to simply disable the Google Update service from the services control panel?

  2. basshead
    February 16, 2009 at 8:25 am

    That’s correct on a Windows box but this article concerns the Mac versions of Google Apps. There is no Software Update application on the Mac so there’s no easy way of changing the behaviour of the update service.

  3. John
    April 9, 2009 at 9:44 am

    No option to disable the update, and only one way to force it to stop running:


    Also, I’m using my firewall to block all connections to it stopped the unwanted updates no matter how many times it’ll reappear.

  4. smilr
    January 24, 2010 at 9:58 am

    To expand on what Douglas mentioned, and is detailed in the Overunity link John provided:

    On windows not only must you stop and disable the service, but clean out entries in Scheduled Tasks that will re-enable the service.

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