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Apple ships OS X 10.6.5 update: its biggest yet?

By Rob Pegoraro

On Wednesday, Apple shipped its fifth patch to Snow Leopard, the 10.6 version of Mac OS X that it delivered in August 2009.


OS X 10.6.5, to judge from its characteristically vague release notes, is not the most consequential update ever. It fixes such glitches as "an issue syncing Address Book with Google" (what issue? who knows?) and "a delay between print jobs."

This patch also packs a large assortment of security fixes, addressing 55 vulnerabilities in Adobe's Flash player alone and dozens in OS X's component software. Those fixes by themselves justify installing 10.6.5.

But what sets this update apart is its massive size. It weighs in at 977.2 megabytes for the "combo update" download you can apply on a factory-stock installation of Snow Leopard and 644.5 MB for the "delta update" that requires OS X 10.6.4.

(Individual computers may not need such an enormous file. The 10.6.5 patch was a 680.1 MB download on a MacBook Air and a relatively svelte 517.3 MB on an iMac. The update didn't blow up either computer.)

As downloads go, the 10.6.5 update squashes earlier releases flat. It outstrips everything listed on the chart Mac developer Paul Schreiber put together last year, listing the download sizes of every patch up to 10.5.7, as well as most prior Snow Leopard fixes available on Apple's site.

One exception: The delta update of 10.6.3 outweighs 10.6.5, but its combo version can't match 10.6.5's combo. I'll leave it to you all to issue a ruling on which update officially counts as "biggest ever."

For users with broadband access, these ever-larger downloads aren't a serious obstacle, even if they are getting a little ridiculous. (The current version of Ubuntu Linux--including the entire operating system and bundled applications--clocks in at 693 MB.) But if you're still on dial-up ... I guess you either visit the Apple Store or have a broadband-blessed friend download the update and mail you a CD DVD or a USB flash drive.

What workaround would you advise for a Mac user with a slow connection? And when do you think an OS X update will break the one-gigabyte mark?

By Rob Pegoraro  | November 12, 2010; 5:05 AM ET
Categories:  Mac, Security  
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I think Apple should make these updates available on floppy disk, too. This Intertubes-phoneline-cable thing is too new to rely on. What if the power goes out again, today? 1.44 Megabyte floppies are dependable, and according to my slide rule here, it would only take 678.6 floppies to fit this Combo Update. And floppies have really come down in price lately. Now if I could just find a bigger hard drive than the 10 Megabyte drive that came with my Mac. PCs have 20 Megabyte drives! I think I will buy a PC, they are cheaper.

Posted by: thumpr-j | November 12, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Actually, if you examine the Combo Updater .pkg with Pacifist, you'll find that it contains about 2.5 GB of data, including

- 158.7 MB worth of applications (19 apps are replaced)

- 1.1 GB worth for a new /System/Library/ folder

- 763.5 MB for Contents of SUBaseSystem10.6.5.pkg

Fortunately, most people only need the Delta Updater, and there's a lot of public wi-fi around these days from which to download it. Also fortunately, most browsers allow large files like this to be downloaded incrementally. Your other suggestions are also useful.

Posted by: breakingball | November 12, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Rob - I don't know if this is the sync issue that the patch fixes (it will probably take me a bit to figure it out), but I've had endless problems syncing the address book to Gmail in support of my Droid. First, the address book seems to sync with the Gmail "All Contacts" versus "My Contacts." That creates a whole lot of noise in the sync operation since Google saves every email address that you ever write to. It was only after my first sync that I found that I had thousands of contacts as a long-time Gmail user. Then, through some conversion, the sync merges contacts together, often incorrectly. I've had a lot of trouble with business phone numbers (from Address Book) getting merged with personal contacts (in Gmail), which led me to call unrelated business contacts on my Droid instead of my intended personal contact, sometimes at odd hours. After spending hours trying to clean up my contacts a year ago after getting my Droid, I recently disabled the Address Book sync when new problems cropped up.

Given your knack for finding solutions to these kinds of annoyances, it would be great if you could run this thing down. But, of course, maybe Apple already has. I suppose that I'll be running the update ASAP.

Posted by: figgy_va | November 12, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

The very large "combo" updater includes almost all the previous updates rolled into one. It is not simply a giant patch for the most current system.

For example, on my machine, when I check for new software the 10.6.5 update is only 497MB. That will take me from 10.6.4 to .5.

Apple makes the combo (combining most of the previous updates) available as a kind of trouble-shooting tool. Many problems can be solved by running the combo since it restores the system as a whole. It is not needed, however, if you just want to update to .5.

Posted by: Alarik | November 12, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

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