To Update, or not to Update

For the average computer user, one of the banes of your existence is dealing with the plethora of “updates” your machine bugs you about. Here’s a bit of background, and some guiding principles.

Before broadband internet became widespread, updates to programs generally only came once a year or so, since the companies would have to distribute physical media to convey them. In fact, unless there was some critical problem, updates (corrections) would be usually be bundled in upgrades (new features).

Once companies could assume the majority of their customers had faster connections, systems were worked out to blend fixes into programs as they arose. The anti-virus programs now updated at least daily, trying to stay one-half step in front of the bad guys. Eventually, every program adopted this practice–including the operating systems themselves.

For many years, we PC people slowly became used to three main (visible) updates: anti-virus, Adobe Flash, and Java. At this point, Flash and Java are obsolete, and shouldn’t even be on newer machines. And the role of anti-virus programs is questionable, at this point; they offer a myriad of features, trying to justify their existence, but will slow a PC down to a crawl as it ages. The built-in Microsoft security features are good enough for most of us, and most harm comes in the form of “social engineering” (fooling you into answering emails or phone calls).

Internet box png sticker illustration

Average users knew enough to be vaguely aware that updates could be a security risk. Indeed, many think “if it’s working, don’t mess with it.” However, there are so many tweaks to the basic security of the internet constantly coming out that you’re in more danger by falling too far behind.

These days, only a handful of people in the world can assess whether, say, a Microsoft update is OK or questionable. So, we’re forced to trust. Indeed, we often aren’t even given a choice; operating system updates happen unannounced at times, only detectable via Task Manager to drilling down into Settings.

You can add minor delays to Microsoft updates (search for how), and you don’t have to apply program updates the first day they’re available.

But, in the end, the default mode is to accept any update offered for something already installed. Some things to watch for, though:

  • Don’t just click “OK” on each installation screen without reading it. Some sneak other programs in unless you uncheck a box.
  • Be wary of any new installation you didn’t knowingly ask for, particularly if it’s adding a “feature” to your browser. These are often malware.
  • Very few legitimate companies need remote access to your machine.

Leave a Comment