Update sites lend a hand [Cape Argus (South Africa)]
(Cape Argus (South Africa) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) If you've not used your computer for more than a few weeks, you should expect popular software such as Skype, Adobe Reader, Flash Player or Java to announce updates the next time they start. Programs will usually notify you of an available update via an on-screen pop-up, but that's not always the case. Sometimes, you'll need to go searching for updates yourself.
Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule about when an update is necessary, or even beneficial. There's no guarantee that you will like the latest Skype interface or Adobe Reader feature. An updated program might even make your computer run slower by consuming more system resources than the previous version did.
That's the price of progress. You could refuse to update and keep your PC at a static state, a happy baseline that just works. In the past, this approach was successful, but that all changed when we stopped using our PCs as glorified typewriters and plugged them full-time into the Internet.
Now, your computer is connected to a global network that carries many benefits, but many threats too. Your applications need to evolve to defend themselves.
If you really don't like a new version of a program that's perhaps had nothing more than a facelift, you can reinstall an older version. Whether it's safe to do so will depend on what any updates to the program addressed.
Many updates are nothing more than cosmetic, or add annoying adverts or other unwanted new "features". If you can't find earlier versions from the application vendor's website, several third-party sites provide these. One of the most well-known is www.old version.com .
Note: this website is legitimate and safe, but has some very annoying ad banners for software that can be confused with the actual product you are trying to download. The correct "Download" button to use is the smaller green one on the right, so click carefully.
Some programs will hardly ever have updates provided. That's not necessarily an issue. If a program does what it says on the tin and doesn't contain any major bugs or security issues, then there's no problem using it as long as you want to.
Opening and updating each of your applications individually is time-consuming, especially if you're asked to restart your computer to continue, which many updates require. One free tool makes the updating process much simpler.
Secunia's free Online Software Inspector (OSI), runs directly from the web at www.tinyurl.com/secosi . Simply click "Start Scanner" to scan your computer for outdated or insecure software, checked against an extensive list. The Online Software Inspector will provide a handy report of your system's missing updates, often with links to download the most recent versions.
The scanner runs automatically in most web browsers, but requires a free program called Java to make it work. Most computers already have this, but if you are prompted about missing Java, you can download it from www.java.com/getjava.
Once Java is installed, return to the Secunia site and try again. If you still have problems using the online scanner, try downloading and installing its stand-alone, off-line sibling instead. This is called Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) from www.tinyurl.com/secscan.
It does the same job as the online scanner, but if left installed has fairly regular alerts reminding you to update drivers and software. These can be annoying so you may wish to uninstall the PSI once you've used it. This you can do from Add/Remove Programs or "Programs and Features" in the Windows Control Panel.
l Andrew Parker is a corporate technology consultant originally from Durban, now living and working in the UK. Over two decades he has developed a passion for any technologies that enable a more fulfilling, useful and enjoyable life. Contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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