What do you do when you see those little icons and pop-up messages that appear in the system tray, indicating there is a new software update available for you to download and install? Most people find such notifications and the process of installing new software updates insignificant and disrupting. The truth is, people ignore such notifications for various reasons, such as, “Do I really need to install this update?” or “My computer is working just fine, I don’t think this update is for me!” or “I don’t have time to reboot my computer,” etc. If you are accustomed to dismissing those update notifications, you need to reconsider that practice. Applying software updates is one of the most important things you can do with your computer. In fact, if you don’t do it, you’re very likely going to get some kind of malware in your system and even get hijacked.
Your computer at UMB should already be on a regular patch cycle that updates the software automatically without you having to do anything, but it is extremely important for you to remember to do this for your personal computer at home.
What Are Software Updates, Anyway?
A software update, also known as a “patch” or a “service pack,” is a piece of software released by software vendors, mainly to address security vulnerabilities in their products. Software updates occasionally contain bug fixes and product enhancement. These updates are installed over the current installation and do not require uninstallation or re-installation of the software in question. In simple words, when you need to update a program, you don’t need to do anything other than let the updater do its thing.
A software update may contain:
- Security vulnerability fixes: More than 90 percent of software and operating system (OS) updates are to patch security vulnerabilities in programs. A software program with a security hole in it can allow very bad things to happen to the computer. Exploiting security vulnerabilities in programs to deliver malware is a common method employed by cybercriminals.
- Bug fixes and product enhancements: Although most software updates are developed mainly to address security holes in programs, you might come across software updates with bug fixes and product enhancements to improve program’s performance. A “bug” refers to unintended mistakes created by the programmer that cause the program to give unexpected results and errors.
Why Are Software Updates So Important for Your Computer?
To get the best performance from your computer and, most important, to stay protected against cyberattacks and malicious threats, it is very important that you do not neglect any critical software updates. Using an unpatched/outdated computer is like living in a house with no locks on the doors, inviting unwanted intruders. When you ignore updates on your computer, you are choosing to leave your computer open to infection. Cybercriminals depend on the apathy of users around software updates to keep their malicious endeavor running.
Downloading updates and installing them can sometimes be tedious, but the advantages you get from the updates are worth the time and effort to complete. The good news is you don’t even need to manually download and install most updates for each piece of software. Operating systems and a majority of programs installed on your computer can do the job for you with very little or no intervention. All you need to do is simply grant your consent when asked, by just the click of a button.
How to Manage Software Updates Efficiently
The best way to manage software updates on your computer is to let the software itself do it for you. Operating system and other software, such as your Antivirus program, can be configured to automatically download and install updates for you. However, not all software offers an automatic update feature. Widely used programs like Java and Adobe® Reader® will not update automatically, unfortunately these are typically the most frequently abused programs when they develop security vulnerabilities.
The icon will show in the bar near the clock indicating that the relevant program needs an update and requires you to activate them to start the update procedure. If you see such icons down near the clock, do the update as soon as you can.
It is important to mention that software updates are not limited to computers. Software updates also are available for mobile devices like your smartphone and other devices. The updates for such devices are usually known as “firmware updates.” In the case of smartphones, you also might receive updates for the applications installed on your phone, just the way you receive program updates on your computer. The bottom line is: Do not restrict yourself to just updating your computer. When you see updates for your other devices, make sure you install them as well for better performance and enhanced security.