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how to remove the System Preferences Badge app icon (Catalina Upgrade)

If you’re not ready to upgrade to macOS Catalina yet – and there’s good reasons why you might want to hold off – you might also be tired of seeing the red update badge in the System Preference’s Dock icon in macOS Mojave and the ‘Upgrade Now’ advert in the Software Update pane. Also, there’s a similar badge polluting you with more unwanted visual noise every time you open System Preferences main view itself.

image of system preferences update badge

Unlike other applications in the Notifications preferences pane, there’s no entry for the System Preferences app itself where you can turn off the Badge app icon.

I know there are those that will deliberately run their Macs at least one major version behind the current version (though I can think of multiple security reasons why that’s not a good idea) and others who don’t want to update at all. Aside from those wanting to avoid the expense of their current 3rd party software demanding “pay-me for a new Catalina-compatible version”, there are those still using incompatible 3rd party kexts, 32-bit apps or who are just happy with the features and performance they’re currently enjoying.

Are they all condemned to having the annoying update notifications in their faces until they surrender to Apple’s will?

Fortunately not, but there are three different places the nags appear, and depending on how obsessive you are about not seeing the update and badge icons, you may or may not want to deploy some or all of the tricks described below. There’s a couple of things to watch out for, too, so if you do choose to implement any of these workarounds, remember to bookmark this page for future reference when you want to undo any of the changes you made.

1. Remove the Catalina Advert Inside Software Update

image of catalina upgrade advert

If all you want to do is stop Catalina appearing in the Software Update pane urging you to “Upgrade Now”, you can use this super tip from Macadmin guru Rich Trouton. It’ll require a trip to the Terminal.app (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app) and an administrator’s password.

From the command line, copy and paste the following:

sudo softwareupdate --ignore "macOS Catalina"

Hit ‘return’ and type your admin password, which will be invisible when you do so.

After completing this step, you’ll no longer see Catalina advertized, but you’ll still have the red number “1” badge in both System Preferences and the Dock.

Gotchas and How to Undo

The main gotcha to remember after doing this is you won’t see Catalina updates, and even if you go to the App Store and try to “get” it, it will fail to install.

To reverse the above step, go back to the Terminal and use:

sudo softwareupdate --reset-ignored

2. Remove the Badge on the Dock Icon

If you keep System Preferences in the Dock, you’ll notice that even after the previous step you still have the eye-catching red banner alert on the Dock.

I’ve seen some suggestions of using a defaults command to try to address this, but it appears to be a temporary fix and has to be repeated every time you open Software Update, so I don’t recommend this particular trick.

defaults write com.apple.systempreferences AttentionPrefBundleIDs 0; killall Dock

A better way to rid yourself of it is by replacing System Preferences in the Dock with an alias to the app instead.

image of making an alias

In the Finder, navigate to the /Applications folder, right-click on System Preferences and choose ‘Make Alias’. Now add the alias to the Dock by dragging it from the Finder into place on the Dock. Remove the original System Preferences Dock icon by dragging it from the Dock to the centre of your screen.

image of replace system preferences dock icon

Gotchas and How to Undo

The main gotcha with this one is that you won’t see the update badge for other updates that may be relevant to your current install, so you’re going to need to develop the habit of making a regular check. A weekly or fortnightly Reminder or Calendar alert could be useful here. While that might seem like you’re replacing one notification with another, at least it would be one that will leave you in peace during whatever interval you set between reminders.

Undoing the workaround is as simple as removing the alias from the Dock and replacing it with the original. Of course, if you’re done with the alias don’t forget to delete it from the Applications folder, too.

If you happened to try the defaults workaround, the way to reverse that is with the same command but replacing the 0 with a 1.

3. Removing the Badge Icon in System Preferences Pane

This is the trickiest one, as in fact there is no way to keep the icon in the pane without the badge. What we can do, however, is hide the icon entirely. That doesn’t mean we lose access to Software Update, however, as I’ll explain below.

To hide the icon, go to the View menu and choose “Customise”.

image of customise system preferences

Unclick the checkbox next to “Software Update” and click “Done” at the top. You’ll now see that the Software Update icon is no longer shown.

In order to run a check for new software, just begin typing “software” in the search filter and click on either “Software Update” or “Check for Software Updates”. Alternatively, you can go to System Preferences’ View menu at the top of the screen and choose ‘Software Update’ from the menu list.

image of check for software updates

Gotchas and How to Undo

The main “gotcha” here is that you might easily forget that you’ve hidden the pane and might also forget to check for updates. As always, it’s a good idea to have “Check for updates automatically” turned on with security updates set to install to avoid missing out on any important security and bug fixes.

To reverse, just go back to the Customise option in the View menu, and re-enable the checkbox.

Conclusion

If after reading all that you’re thinking: “my word, what a pallava, I’m not sure I’ll bother!” you may well be thinking exactly what Apple want you to think. Of course, Apple are heavily invested in ensuring users move up to the latest version of macOS as soon as possible, and the difficulty of avoiding that and the “nags” and nuisance badges is not accidental. Whether you decide to go along with Apple or hold out for your own reasons is entirely your choice, but the irritation or inconvenience you might experience with going with the latter option isn’t something Apple are going to lose sleep over, I’m afraid!

Enjoy! 🙂


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