The Truth About ‘Free’ Mac App Store Software Upgrades in OS X Mavericks

The Truth About ‘Free’ Mac App Store Software Upgrades in OS X Mavericks

There have been a number of reports lately revealing that OS X Mavericks seems to be allowing users to “upgrade illegal or trial version” Apple software obtained outside the Mac App Store. Notable examples of such software include versions of iWork, iLife, or Aperture obtained on a DVD disc, or trial versions of such apps (the defunct trial pages for iWork and Aperture still exist on

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 11.24.40 AM

Indeed, according to reports from The Verge, 9to5Mac, and others, users with trial or illegal versions of the software are finding that they are able to update to the recently-released new versions of each of these Apps (released alongside Apple’s event this Tuesday). I held off on reporting this myself until I could find some real information on the matter.

While updates for legit, paid versions of each app – even those obtained before the days of the Mac App Store – have always received updates through Software Update via the Mac App Store, the fact that trial versions were being converted into fully functioning paid versions of Apple’s software piqued my interest, so I decided to dig around and figure out exactly what was going on.

I initially spotted a tidbit related to Aperture after updating to the release version of Mavericks on Tuesday – namely that the update to Aperture 3.5 was not available for me through Software Update in the Mac App Store. After waiting several hours to no avail, I further found that the standalone Aperture 3.5 update was also not available through Apple’s support download site.

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After logging out and then back into the Mac App Store, the Aperture update finally appeared for me. So I installed it – and got a nice surprise in the process. First, the Mac App Store alerted me that it would associate the apps with my Apple ID, and asked me to sign in. After updating, Aperture began appearing in my Mac App Store purchase history – something that had never happened before. I tested the process with an old iLife ’09 DVD, and after upgrading through the Mac App Store, found the same to hold true for GarageBand, iPhoto, and iMovie.

Mac App Store Provisioning

I reached out to one of my contacts at Apple to find out what might be happening – and his response was very interesting:

It’s no coincidence that Apple’s support site doesn’t have downloads for the new Aperture, iWork, and iLife updates. They aren’t in our Software Update system either – and there’s a good reason for that. With Mavericks, we have changed the way we distribute updates for legacy versions of our apps

Rather than maintain separate updates for these in addition to the Mac App Store versions of each app, Apple has decided to eliminate their legacy software update system for apps entirely. Instead, when Mavericks discovers legacy apps installed on your Mac, it provisions them as a Mac App Store purchase using your Apple ID. It saves us a lot of time, effort, and bandwidth. After the provision is complete, it will appear in your Mac App Store history as though you have purchased the Mac App Store version of the app.

While we are aware that this enables piracy of our apps for unethical users, Apple has never taken a strong stance or action against piracy in the past. We like to believe that our users are honest, even if that belief is in vain.

While I received this information from a source within Apple’s software engineering team, the clues are abundantly available – anyone with a watchful eye could have easily discovered enough clues to reach the same conclusion. Indeed, even now, Tuesday’s updates to Aperture, the iLife apps, and the iWork suite remain absent from Apple’s support download site (links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), adding an additional level of confirmation.

Wrapping it Up

To conclude and reiterate – yes, OS X Mavericks will allow unethical users to update trial versions and illegal versions of Apple’s paid apps to fully-functioning versions in the Mac App Store. But unlike many have speculated, this isn’t a bug, a glitch, or an oversight. Instead, it is a feature, and a lingering sign that Apple continues to trust their customers not to steal software – and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing indeed.

  1. Ben Werdmuller says:

    It also converts pirated software into real, tracked, licensed software, which is kind of genius. And means that they’ll be locked into the store-centric upgrade cycle, because those new version downloads aren’t going to show up anywhere else – and at some point, I’m sure there’ll be a reason to pay for something. I don’t think pure dewey-eyed trust is what’s at work here.

    1. Mayav says:

      and Garage Band – free – with a $5 in app purchase for more instruments is the future staring us in the face. 🙂 Genius indeed.

      1. Idon't Know says:

        There has always been costs for additional instruments for Garageband. You can buy them from Apple or third parties.

        1. Bartman says:

          How does it work? My apps don’t show free updates in the Mac AppStore? I have the old box ILife Suite for example.

          1. BernSh says:

            Have you upgraded to Mavericks?

      2. garylapointe says:

        I was thinking that people complain that Numbers doesn’t have some advanced functions in it. Keep giving it away for free but have an in-app purchase to release the advanced options.

        Need more templates/backgrounds for Keynote? in-App purchase…!

    2. april eom says:

      I agree to some extent, I’m no geniusbar but if Apple wanted you to purchase an app, they’ll make sure their main task is to restrict any update via illegal/pirated app. like we see when it comes to jailbreaking on iOS. so allowing this..just pokes me and tells me they have something up their sleeves. bad thing? definitely not, it’s one thing apple “believes in our honesty” and allows it, but there’s definitely a marketing technique behind this and again i totally agree, it’s not kinda genius, it’s just genius.

      i might not have catch this in the article, but if we are to register via mac app store with our apple id and update an illegal app..wouldn’t all illegal piraters be registered under apple’s server anyways? 😀

      1. rob says:

        what about trialer’s, are they pirates as well??

    3. Idon't Know says:

      Many of these apps will never have a paid upgrade. Most in fact.

    4. BradBell says:

      There is a reason. They wanted to move the purchases to the App store. I can tell you from having purchased apps off-store which later appeared on-store, that this is preferable to being told if you want the convenience of the App Store you have to buy the software again, which has been a common experience with other companies. I name no names. (Plus, Apple is a hardware company. That’s where they make their money.)

    5. Ant says:

      Tracked as DRM. Apple could send DMCAs, terminate Apple ID accounts, etc. 🙁

    6. Paul Dooley says:

      Aye, Ben and at just about every Keynote event we are pretty quickly made aware of the outstanding figures of updated and or taken up softwares, which will be a more significant uptake since OS 9, perhaps. Added to this, is that the model locks in a lot more users than possibly ever before to the App Store!

  2. 123 says:

    Apple double standard hits again, I will never forget my iPhone 3GS iOS upgrade didn’t get all the features as the iPhone 44s5 (hot-spot, siri and so on)..
    Don’t sell me stories about hardware incompatibility, just pure greedy move to make ppl upgrade their iPhone
    I can’t understand apple fans.

    1. Todd Jolley says:

      That’s because your hardware was too old to use those features. Please educate yourself. It was nothing nefarious. You received multiple OS upgrades and received every new feature that your hardware could handle on the last upgrade available for the 3GS. If you like those features so much, upgrade your hardware to a version that supports them and stop whining.

    2. Mike Jone says:

      Well you could get a Samsung S3 or S4. They are still awaiting the latest version of Android. Android 4.4 is coming out soon. Existing Android users will get within the next decade.

    3. Marcus2012 says:

      Are you fucking kidding me?! the 3GS started out with iPhone OS 3, and got iOS 6… that phone was supported for longer than any other device, and it didn’t even have an AX processor, or a retina display, jesus you are incredibly retarded.

      1. PeevedInOntario says:

        The fact that the 3GS was supported through three cycles is impressive, however, Apple is giving Android a bit of a marketing gift. Andriod developers can develop for whatever version of the OS they want and they do.

        The thing to knock Apple on (a huge one IMNSHO) is that they actively turn older devices into bricks.

        They actively prevent developers from coding and distributing apps for iOS devices that are limited to version 4.2.1. This means that security flaws and bugs will be left permanently unfixed, EVEN IF THE DEVELOPER WOULD LIKE TO FIX THEM.

        I can agree wholeheartedly with Apple not providing their own software updates for older devices (e.g. iPod touch 2G) but I cannot in any way, shape or form agree with their decision to block developers from developing for older devices which they’ve done.

        They require developers to use a SDK that is only compatible with version 4.3 or later and they also prevent users from installing apps directly onto older iOS devices.

        So, in effect they have turned their own outdated computers into bricks. I wouldn’t be surprised if that practice runs afoul of consumer protection laws in some jurisdictions.

        1. Marcus2012 says:

          I never knew that, but that is a good point, that’s rather shitty tbh, thanks for the perspective. 🙂

  3. Chad Johnson says:

    FYI, it’s not signing out / signing in of the App Store that does the trick. It’s waiting for the Spotlight rebuild to complete. The App Store must use the Spotlight search to check for the apps you have installed. Until the rebuild is complete, it cannot do this check. Just reopen the App Store Application after the Spotlight index has been rebuilt.

    1. Simon B says:

      Hmmm – I can’t not get it to work. I have a iWork 09 installed on my Mac purchased in a bundle package before app store was introduced. It is paid and not a copy – I’ve made a re-index waited almost 2 hours while spotlight got re-indexed, but app store still doesn’t update my keynote, pages or numbers!!! My iPhoto, iMovie and Garageband have all been updated. I’ve tried to log in and out of app store, but that doesn’t help either….

  4. It’s nice to see Apple using such a method and approach to software distribution. I, like pretty much all of us, have pirated software at one point or another. In fact, Apple is well aware that I once pirated iWork 09 while I was on the trial. My trial had expired and I needed access to the file that night, so I had to pirate iWork 09 and use it. Later, of course, I went and purchased it at the store with a gift card they had given me for other matters.

    The biggest problem I have with most trial versions is they are always limited to too short a time or the main functions you wanna try are disabled anyway. I think this is a brilliant move by Apple. Everyone has their opinions and there will always be people who take advantage of this type of generosity. However, Apple learned one lesson that Steve Jobs learned years ago – the majority of people seek and strive to be good upstanding folks. Those are the kinds of people Apple wants as customers in the first place.

  5. Kyanar says:

    Of course, if you actually wanted to trial the software before buying it, now you’re screwed. Oh well I guess?

    1. garylapointe says:

      But from now on, that software will be free with computers so from now on, new computer owners won’t need a trial (other than Aperture, right?). iLife has been coming free for years, so iWork for older owners is the only issue (and it sounds like even if they tried the trial, they’ll get the update).

      I’m not sure how old of systems some of the new versions will even run (iMovie wouldn’t even update until I upgraded to Mavericks!).

  6. Kadir says:

    I have purchased iWork 5 days ago of launch date of mavericks.i paid 65 $ and it is free to all illegal users.
    Are there any ways to refund my money back ?

  7. Ryan says:

    LOL, it won’t happen on my brand – new mac book pro retina 8 gb ram intel core i7

    1. Marcus2012 says:

      Bullshit. works fine on my Retina Macbook.

  8. herpderp says:

    Does this also work with Final Cut Pro and Logic X?

    1. Marcus2012 says:

      No, this method won’t work.

  9. mbg says:

    Will This work for Logic Pro 8 or 9 or X ?

  10. rik says:

    I download cracked app, I sign outed, then signed in the app store, still not getting updated

  11. danwarne says:

    That’s awesome! Apple just converted everyone’s single licence for Aperture to a 10 licence pack… as with all apps in the App Store. (I vaguely recall that ‘professional’ apps can have a more limited number of installs but I’ve never run across it.)

  12. hambdiscus says:

    If Apple is allowing this process then how is it unethical? Should I not spend that dollar bill I found laying in the gutter?

    1. J. Glenn Künzler J. Glenn Kunzler says:

      It’s unethical if you use this process to steal software, because it is stealing. Just because they’re not blocking you from stealing doesn’t make it OK.

  13. ItsPaybackTime says:

    OS X Lion litterally fried a Mac of mine — the hardware quickly went to act like shit after the update to a point where I had to get the motherboard and a piece connecting the S.S.D. changed by Apple. After all that shit, I BOUGHT OS X Mountain Lion thinking it would finally improve the situation — stop this madness. It just made the situation worse than before.

    So basically, thanks to Apple and its lazy-as-fuck devs, I got a €1249,99 Mac that got fried and never replaced (since the Genius Bar guys never accepted to admit that my Mac indeed had a problem and did not even bothered to check the hardware) and I spent around €20 for an operating system that just made things even worse than before.

    So I App Store updated cracked copies of every single one of Apple’s apps. I still have around €1100 up my ass but… Well, that’s a start.

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