Keeping Software Updated Simply

Category: Software

Many computer problems can be avoided or cured simply by keeping all of your software up to date. Updates include patches for security vulnerabilities as well as fixes for bugs, new features, and improvements of existing features. Check out these free programs that will do the job for you...

Update Your Software: How and Why

An old version of any program may seem “good enough” but it is constantly getting worse in terms of vulnerability to hackers and conflicts with more recent software. It is essential to keep one’s software up to date.

Unfortunately, that’s no easy task. Sure, Windows Update can be set to download and install Windows security updates and enhancements automatically; optionally, you can include other Microsoft products such as Office. But you probably have other vendors’ software on your PC that also needs updating. Some vendors provide auto-updater utilities like Windows Update, others do not. Either way, you have a problem.

Software Updaters

If no auto-updater is provided you must remember to check for updates periodically. If an auto-updater is provided it may be loaded every time you start Windows, consuming system resources and providing another target for hackers; multiply that by a half-dozen or so auto-updaters and you have a big problem. The best auto-updaters, in my opinion, are coded into their applications and check for updates only when you start the application.

One Ring Updater to Rule Them All?

It would be nice to have one auto-updater for all software on your machine. Then you could disable all of the vendor-specific updaters to conserve system resources, reduce boot time, minimize conflicts and security risks. We aren’t quite at the “universal updater” stage yet, but a number of programs are getting close.

Patch My PC silently updates over 100 programs ranging from Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Adobe Flash Player to more obscure stuff such as ImgBurn and SandBoxie. It also installs important Windows updates. Even better, it strips the foistware out of installation packages before installing updates; no toolbars or browser hijackings! It also helps you manage startup programs so you can disable those other auto-updaters or uninstall them completely.

Patch My PC is free and only 500 KB in size. The user interface is a bit cluttered, but just keep in mind that outdated software will show in Red, and software that's already up to date will show in Green. You can scroll through the list of suggested updates in the left column and uncheck any items that you do not want to update.


The Personal Software Inspector (PSI) is a free utility is a free tool from Flexera (formerly Secunia). It scans your hard drive for executable files; reads the meta-data in each file to determine the program’s version number; transmits that info to PSI; compares the versions on your computer to PSI's database of programs and their current versions; and reports back to PSI what needs updating. PSI automatically installs updates when it can; if user action is required it provides helpful instructions such as the URL where updates can be found.


Ninite is a Web service that bundles updates into a single, foistware-free installer package. Just check boxes next to the programs that you want kept up to date; and click “Get Installer;” and Ninite does the rest. It fetches the latest updates, bundles them in a Ninite installer package, and downloads the installer to your computer. When the Ninite installer is run, it installs all the updates in the background, stripping the foistware out of each. And my favorite part, it eliminates all the Next, Next, Next button clicking during the installation.

The web version of Ninite lets you pick one or more software packages to download and install. When you want to update your software, you can return to the Ninite website to update your apps to the latest versions. Or you can download the Ninite Updater ($10/year) which runs on your computer and automates the process of checking for and installing the updates.


Anti-malware and Internet security suites such as Avast and PCMatic may include optional scans for outdated software and automated updates. Some of them don't actually update your software, though. Instead they give you links to the software download websites and you have to take over from there. Personally, I’d rather depend upon one of the dedicated updaters whose success or failure in the market depends on making this single function as easy and automatic as possible.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Keeping Software Updated Simply"

(See all 30 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Dave Roche
27 Jan 2015

I recently did an update for my VST Drummer software, and not only can I Not use it, but my VST Piano doesn't work either because of the same update. Since this is not the first time updates have made my life a misery you don't need me to tell you what I think of them!!

BTW, I am still using Win XP without ever updating it from 2008-2014, as my anti-virus software seems to be doing a reasonable job, thus far...fingers crossed.


Posted by:

Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries
27 Jan 2015

I looked for Secure Updater from Schrock Innovations. Pretty pricey. It has a 15-day free trial, then it's $49.99 for the initial purchase, followed by an annual renewal of $24.99. The list of software it covers is not extensive.


Posted by:

Sean
27 Jan 2015

I am a big player of Minecraft, and our updates,while not immediately applied, we receive a message when we launch it that asks to update. I think that more programs should adopt that.


Posted by:

Steven Latus
27 Jan 2015

Wow, Bob, thanks for the tip about Patch My PC. I've been using Filehippo Updater, but Patch My PC is much easier and even caught an update to Libre Office that Libre Office itself did not notify me about (4.2 branch to 4.3 branch).


Posted by:

Peter Weins
28 Jan 2015

Like Mark, I would like to know which of the three you prefer--based upon your experiences. Also, do I really need to load two or three of these? I used Ninite in the past but somehow lost it along the way when cleaning out during a rebuild. But it seemed fine. My biggest problem is having all these different things that boot at start up and hog my system resources, keeping me from doing what I intended to do and instead waiting while my computer scans, updates, restarts,rescans, etc. etc. Can I get by with just Ninite and feel safe that I'm getting 95% of the updates???

EDITOR'S NOTE: I use Ninite (free version) to install the occasional program on a one-off basis. I prefer Patch My PC for automatic updates because it has a more comprehensive list of software that it monitors.


Posted by:

Mark Hansen
28 Jan 2015

My only issue with several updaters is that they will update a paid version to a new major release for which an upgrade fee must be paid, leaving one with a trial version. Also, many are very inaccurate in keeping correct track of version numbers...many offer updates for software that is already the latest version.


Posted by:

Harish Dobhal
28 Jan 2015

Thanks for this wonderful information. Ninite is really great at doing this job of updating hassle free.


Posted by:

Prettydarkskinnedgirl
28 Jan 2015

There's a helpful software updater utility included with the many tools bundled into Glary Utilities which you posted about awhile back. It works well but I also have Secunia which I run as a double check sometimes.


Posted by:

IanG
28 Jan 2015

I don't use separate programs for updating at all. I have an aversion to automatic updating! All the programs I use (and there are many) all ask me whether I want to update to a newer version (if there is one) when I launch them.

I have a horror of finding (as I have in the past) that maybe one of the Windows patches is a rogue one and therefore I always choose to update manually, which I check for updates every Wednesday. Bob has been very good in warning us of these too.

But I do use occasionally Belarc Advisor which warns me of any security issues relating to programs which require updating.


Posted by:

Chris
28 Jan 2015

Hi Bob,

I always use the free browser plug-in from Qualys which reports on the need for MS updates as well as plugins for all installed browsers. It's at http://browsercheck.qualys.com.

Chris


Posted by:

DonC
28 Jan 2015

I tried the PSI once upon a time. It appeared to be too "buggy" at the time and usually required that I spend some time either manually updating (some applications)anyway or the PSI app required a little attention itself. Didn't want to make time for it EVERY day, so I uninstalled. That's not to say the latest version isn't better. What I'd like to see is a FREE or economical version that will update all my PCs on my LAN or in my home. Does this type of app exist?


Posted by:

Old Gobbo
29 Jan 2015

Thanks for another useful article. Briefly, some thoughts.
1. Secunia: I stopped using Secunia PSI years ago, because it didn't seem to work very well. I have just installed the current version and:
- 44 programs need updating: but in fact only 10 are shown in this section
- 4 of the programs needing updating are shaded out and labelled "Updating": I have no idea what this means, as I set the program simply to inform me, not to download (or install) updates. Incidentally they include Apple Quicktime which is not installed (i.e. has been uninstalled though there is a residual empty folder for it – no .exe, .ocx or .dll files).
- among programs which are described as up to date is CCleaner 4.x - however PatchMYPC correctly identifies this as needing updating to 5.01
- It missed my Antivirus (Panda) and 3 other programs (Ableword, Glasswire and Statpack), while including programs which are only in an old version of Windows on another disk.

However it did give a reasonably comprehensive list of programs - much fuller than Patch MyPC seems able to do. Overall, though, I cannot see that i can "trust" myself to Secunia.

2. PatchMyPC seems potentially useful for a limited range of programs, I will have to see how it goes.

3. Ninite also only covers a very li9mited range of programs, and like some others here I am unhappy about"invisible" operations on my PC.

4. I share the disappointment with FileHippo, which used to be excellent; and Cnet is too dangerous a site for me to want to use.

Hope this helps, og

PS have you found a good driver updater ? Windows does some but not all, and periodically makes false claims / sends me to a non-existent page / etc.
PPS. Could you provide a list of the permissions one must give NoScript to make your pages work properly, as I have to work them out each time (askbobrankin/ aweber are permanently trusted, but ...)


Posted by:

Don Shenton
30 Jan 2015

We do appreciate your articles, Bob. We have been using Linux (mainly Ubuntu and LXLE) for some time now. So far notices come regularly to update, without our prompting. Click install and a notice soon comes saying, "The software on this computer is up to date." Simple as that.

I am wondering if MS is catching on to the Open Source idea of free regular updating without major version changes and fees. Win 10 seems to be leaning that way. If they don't make some changes, Linux will take over.


Posted by:

Clairvaux
07 Feb 2015

I had been using Secunia for some time and had been happy with it. At some time, it stopped working properly, so I uninstalled it.

Also, blindingly upgrading might not be a very good idea. While, for instance, CC-Cleaner frequent upgrades never brought any nuisances to me (free version), I'm quite irritated by Foxit Reader change in behaviour.

First of all, upgrades erase the customisation of menus, which is a major irritant. Also, the publisher silently foists upon you something called Foxit Cloud, which somehow sends your own pdf documents into the cloud, without telling you about it, without any information about the privacy of your data, and without any obvious way to deselect this "feature". So you have to uninstall Foxit Cloud after each upgrade -- or so it was the last time I checked.

Many users were incensed by this incredibly rogue practice of Foxit when I researched the issue. As a result, I don't upgrade anymore this otherwise fine software -- which might be a security risk. Thank you, Foxit.


Posted by:

Alan M
09 Feb 2015

Nice article.
I regularly use Secunia PSI.
Works fine for me with one exception...
That being Adobe.
It seems that while trying to update Adobe it takes forever to update. This may be due to the popularity of Adobe and Secunia servers being busy. But I find that Adobe can be updated faster when going through Adobe.
Another issue I have is with the Adobie updater itself. Many times I will get a notification from Adobie of a new version available. I will click on the link and download it. When it comes to the instalation it will say "this version is already installed". I had either been informed of it earlier through Secunia or installed automaticaly by my Windows 8.1 automatic updater. Not sure if other versions of Windows include Adobie but 8.1 does.
I think Secunia PSI is great but haven't tried any of the others..........Alan


Posted by:

BAW30s
09 Feb 2015

I think I'm swimming against the tide here, Bob, but speaking as someone running a 2002 XP computer with Office 2003 and Outlook Express for e-mail, my experience tells me that updating programs can cause more problems than it solves!


Posted by:

Dave Cowger
10 Feb 2015

Patch my PC is.... GREAT!
Ya gotta look in the bottom right corner to get anything done.
It found 7 OK ones and 5 old apps.
Thanks and I will buy you a Snickers...

Dave in Seattle.


Posted by:

Jim Carr
18 Feb 2015

It is the same old story. You download the "free" software; you run it and it finds errors. It will then clean half of them. Then cleaning all of them requires a paid update or am I missing something?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, you're misssing the good ones that I've mentioned here before. CCleaner, Advanced System Care Free, and several other truly FREE tools are listed here: http://askbobrankin.com/seven_free_pc_maintenance_tools.html


Posted by:

Roger M
24 Feb 2015

I loaded Secunia PSI and it indicated I had a program that needed to be updated. But, it would not update it or let me input to do so!?


Posted by:

Sheri
31 Dec 2015

Thanks for the Best of 2015 email Bob because it prompted me to install PatchMyPC! And it updated 8 applications that I had failed to update manually!


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