You see it all the time – some program on your computer is nagging you to install an update. I get a lot of questions about updates, and so I’ve prepared this guide to help you navigate the tricky update waters.
Most legitimate updates are meant to either fix bugs, to patch security holes, or to provide additional features. Obviously you want to install updates that fix or patch your software as soon as possible. Installing additional feature updates is often optional, although eventually some programs will simply refuse to operate until you install the latest version.
Windows Operating System Updates
The most important updates to install are your operating system updates, which often close the holes that criminals use to gain access to your computer. Sometimes I see virus infected computers that have never installed a single update!
You should set your Windows system to perform automatic updates. Here is a link to a Microsoft page that describes how to set your updates to automatic and includes a free tool to do so.
However, even when your updates are set to automatic, you will sometimes be asked to accept terms and conditions, or to restart your system to complete update installation. Windows will alert you that you need to take action with an icon in the lower right of your screen, near the date and time. If you see one of those icons you should click on it and follow the actions suggested.
Adobe and Java
Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader, and Oracle’s Java are very common programs installed on most computers, and they will also nag you to update. You should listen to their nagging! These programs open documents or applications on the internet, therefore holes in these programs expose your computer to potential virus attack as well.
When updates are available for these programs you will be alerted with a pop-up. Install these updates but please, read what the installer says before you blindly click “yes” to everything on your screen. Often these updates will come bundled with unecessary security scanners, toolbars, or changes to your home page - check the picture for an example. You can opt out but only if you look and see what you are agreeing to. Here’s a link to a great article about this kind of sneakiness - don’t fall for it!
Other Legitimate Updates
Browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, entertainment programs such as Apple iTunes, messaging programs such as Yahoo Messenger or Skype – all of these programs will also require updates at one time or another. If you don’t use the program and it’s nagging you to update it, you can just go ahead and uninstall it. Often the updates to these programs are “feature” updates and the program will be significantly different after you install the update, so if you are happy with the program as it is, you can safely hold off on the update until you are forced to in order to continue to use the program. And just like the Java and Adobe updates, read the screen and uncheck options you don’t want or need.
Keeping your computer up to date is important, and it’s easy if you follow the above guidelines and use a little common sense!
Julie Marto, the ComputerMom, has been providing friendly and personal computer support and training in Medfield and neighboring communities for over 16 years. For more information visit http://www.thecomputermom.com/