Computer Updates: Do You Need Them?
Without a doubt, anyone who uses a PC for longer than a week will at some point be asked by some piece of software to download an update. These moments can be a bit threatening, because we have all heard (or experienced) some PC horror story where someone performed an update only to have their computer subsequently crash or otherwise go insane as a result.
I would like to provide some insight into this. When a piece of software requests permission to update, pay attention to the window that appears. Ask yourself, What is asking for an update? Is it…
1) Adobe Reader or Flash
Honestly, these updates are not life-altering. Very rarely does Adobe push a patch that makes a noticeable difference in the performance of their software. You may safely disregard this update or choose to install it. Either way, expect little difference in your day-to-day computing.
Java updates are very similar to Adobe Reader or Flash updates. Again, they are not extremely important and may safely be disregarded or installed. Your PC is unlikely to explode or start winning PC performance awards either way.
EDIT: Our networking technician just informed me that an out-of-date version of Java can be a high-risk security issue. You learn something new every day. Do the Java updates.
3) Your antivirus
Antivirus updates are HUGELY important. Even if you are asked to update your antivirus every single day, do it. New viruses and other forms of malicious software become apparent every day. As annoying as it may seem at the time, the additional two minutes it takes to update your antivirus on a daily basis is a much less significant ordeal than if you were to become infected with something because you chose not to perform a particular update. Do yourself a favor, and download these.
4) Windows updates
Here’s where it gets tricky. As a rule, Windows updates operate much like antivirus updates. For all practical intents and purposes, you do want to download these. However, there are some things to keep in mind.
First, if your PC is an integral part of your business, Computer Depot recommends you turn off Automatic Updates. While Windows updates are normally important, they have a nasty way of installing and restarting your computer at the most inopportune times, even when you indicate to Windows that you want to install them later. It is a good idea to set your preferences in Automatic Updates to download updates only when you choose to. Do not allow them to download automatically. This way, you can download and install updates at your convenience, on your terms—when your business is closed, or at another time when the PC is not crucial to your hourly operations.
Second, Microsoft rolls out an update to Internet Explorer about once every 1-2 years. Currently, Internet Explorer 9 is the latest update. Microsoft is currently pushing it pretty hard—so hard that they include it as a “High Priority Update” and will download it automatically if your PC is set to download updates automatically. Computer Depot does not recommend Internet Explorer 9. While we still install it with fresh installations of Windows, we strongly urge you to abandon Internet Explorer all together and choose to use Google Chrome instead. It is, in fact, a faster and more secure browser. It may seem a bit strange at first if you are used to Internet Explorer, but stick with it. You will be glad you did.
Third, Microsoft engineers their updates to install and operate on billions of computer around the world. On occasion, a particular update will cause undesired performance in your machine. It may make things slower, or it may cause Windows to no longer boot or even cause it to crash. This most commonly occurs with PCs whose operating systems have not been reloaded in several years. In the majority of cases, Windows Update is not entirely at fault. There is normally a corrupted piece of software that conflicted with the update and caused it to foul up. If this occurs, you most likely already had several software issues you were unaware of. This is why it is a good idea A) to reload your operating system freshand install all available updates to it once every 1-2 years and B) to always keep a current back-up of your data.
Many users choose not to install Windows updates at all. This, however, is a risk too—because many Windows updates function as antivirus updates, patching security holes and improving the overall user experience. The average user can expect to download and install anywhere from 500 to 1,000 positive, experience-enhancing updates with no negative side-effects of any kind before he encounters a single update that does not jive. Computer Depot recommends that you do choose to download updates—whether automatically or at an interval of your choosing. Just remember to always keep a current backup of your most important data. You never know when a current backup will be necessary.
Hope this helps.