How to Deal with “Could not load Software Update Preference Pane” on Mac

Software Update Preference Pane

Mac’s System Preferences is the place where you can configure your Mac to function the way you want it to. Whether you want to create new user accounts, download updates to macOS or your apps, make changes to your network settings, or edit the notifications or permissions for your apps, everything is done via System Preferences.

What are preferences? These are configurations that either apply across your entire user account, or only for specific apps. Those settings that apply across your user account are configured in System Preferences while those that apply only to specific apps are set in the Preferences menu for that app.

Most of the time, the Preferences pane works just fine. But there are occasions when you may encounter error messages and some components of System Preferences refuse to work. For instance, there have been reports that some users could not load the Security & Privacy preferences pane while others could not load Software Update Preference pane.

Getting the Mac preference error message “Could not load Software Update Preference Pane” is quite inconvenient because this means that you won’t be able to access the System Preferences window. Since it is not working, you won’t be able to make changes to your settings.

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What Is “Could not load Software Update Preference Pane” on Mac

“Could not load Software Update Preference Pane” on Mac appears whenever the user tries to click the Software Update icon under the Apple menu. The Software Update preference pane contains options for you to install updates for macOS and the apps installed on your computer.

Mac users have also experienced this issue where System Preferences will not open properly or freeze when launching macOS. Users can only Force Quit the System Preferences window in order to access it.

When this happens, the user is unable to install the pending updates, which leaves his or her Mac vulnerable to risks associated with an outdated system.

Why You Could not load Software Update Preference Pane

One of the common reasons why you could not load Software Update Preference Pane is a corrupt .plist file. If the preferences file for the Software Update feature has been altered or corrupted, then it won’t be able to load properly. This is the first thing you should look at when you encounter this error.

Another reason you have to consider is that there is an important update that you have not installed, which caused the Software Update preference pane to be broken. This is quite problematic because how can you update something when the updater tool itself is not working. You don’t have to worry because there are other ways to install updates on your Mac.

It is also possible that a process or file is preventing Software Update from loading or functioning properly. It could be malware or a third-party app. There are also instances when the Mac preference error message “Could not load Software Update Preference Pane” is caused by a temporary bug on macOS, which can easily be fixed by restarting your computer.

How to Fix “Could not load Software Update Preference Pane” on Mac

When you encounter the “Could not load Software Update Preference Pane” error on macOS, the first thing you need to do is to restart your computer. Most errors like this are easily resolved by refreshing your system. You should also try closing and re-opening the System Preferences or Software Update preference window.

Here are other basic troubleshooting steps you can try:

But if doing a simple restart is not enough, check out the solutions outlined below designed to fix this error.

Solution 1. Update your Mac.

If your macOS has pending updates to be installed, the easiest way to install them is via the Software Update window. Just click Apple menu > About This Mac > Software Update. But if it turns up a “Could not load Software Update Preference Pane” error, then you need to find another way to install those critical updates. This should also hopefully fix the error along the way.

Take note that since updating software on any system is a core function, you’ll need your administrator password to proceed with any downloads and installations using Terminal.

Open Terminal on your Mac. You can do this by searching for it with Spotlight or by accessing Applications > Utilities > Terminal in Finder.

Type in the following command and press Enter: softwareupdate -l

This will search Apple’s servers for any available updates for your system. If there are no updates available, it’ll show “No updates available.” However, in the case there are available updates, Terminal will display the list of these updates along with the update file size.

Now, to download and install a particular update, use: sudo softwareupdate -i ‘NAME’

Here, replace NAME with the particular update you want to download and install. For example, if you want to install the macOS 10.14.5 update, type sudo softwareupdate -i ‘macOS 10.14.5 Update- ‘.

Solution 2. Delete the Preferences Cache.

Users experiencing this issue can delete the System Preferences preference pane cache file.

  1. Navigate to Library > Caches.
  2. Drag the file to your Trash.
  3. Empty your Trash and restart your Mac.

Should the issue still exist, return to the Library > Caches folder and click on the drill down triangle next to the file and drag the Cache.db file to the Trash. Empty the Trash and restart your Mac.

Also delete the files inside the following folders:

  • /Library/PreferencePanes
  • ~/Library/PreferencePanes

Drag them to the Trash, then empty it after.

Solution 3. Delete Corrupted Files from Your Mac.

If deleting the preferences file did not work, you should try deleting all the other corrupted files on your Mac using Mac repair app. Aside from sweeping your junk files clean, it also optimizes your processes to prevent other errors from cropping up.

Solution 4. Boot Into Safe Mode.

You should also try booting into Safe Mode to see if the problem is being caused by incompatibility with other third-party software. Go to Apple menu > About This Mac, and try clicking the Software Update button while in Safe Mode. If the preference pane opens, then you need to find the culprit software. If the error still persists, then you have a serious problem on your hand that requires reinstalling macOS.


The Mac preference error message “Could not load Software Update Preference Pane” can be quite troublesome because it prevents you from updating your apps and macOS itself. If you encounter this error during startup or when you’re opening the Software Update preference pane, the steps above should help you resolve the error.

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