Updates! Get Your Updates!

What's the big deal about computer updates anyway? Computer software, including the operating system itself (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux) is not perfect, and may be updated rather frequently in an effort to fix problems and to close security holes - the latter probably being the most important reason to update. It's a chore, and generally speaking the software makers will try to automate the process - but that's by no means always the case.

If Windows, Mac OS X and Linux are left to their own devices, the default behavior is to at least notify you when system updates (or patches) are available. Some may issue updates on a schedule, such as Microsoft's monthly so-called "Patch Tuesday", and others may do so as needed. Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 and 8 will by default download and install updates for you, unless you have fiddled with it and altered the Windows Updates behavior. See how to configure automatic updates here.

Now, very few people have only the operating system on their computer - almost everyone will have other software on there. Microsoft will also automatically provide patches for other Microsoft software, such as Microsoft Office, SQL Server, Security Essentials and so on via Windows Updates. Apple's Mac OS X will do much the same thing for software like iLife and so on. Linux users who have downloaded software from a supported repository should also get timely update notifications automatically.

Okay, so far so good - timely automatic updates!

Two pieces of software you hear a lot about as far as security updates are Oracle's Java and Adobe's Flash player. Again, unless you have fiddled with them, the default behavior is to automatically download updates and prompt you to install them. Adobe now coordinates it's updates with Microsoft's Patch Tuesday schedule.

What about other software? Well, it's very much a mixed bag - antivirus and other security products usually depend on frequent updates to remain effective, and will update themselves, often without any intervention. Other software may not - and for those cases, I would suggest using something like Secunia's free PSI software (Personal Software Inspector) for Windows PCs. It monitors your installed programs and can download and either automatically install patches, or offer to update for you. Easy-peasy. See below:

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