[DOIT] Keeping Your 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…

Do You Need a Software Updater, Driver Updater, Both, or Neither?

Over the years, I have consistently exhorted readers to “keep your software up to date.” The efficiency of your computer system depends upon this basic maintenance chore. So does the security of your system, the information stored on it, your identity, your credit rating, your ability to rent or buy a home… well, let’s just say a lot of important things depend upon how well you keep your software up to date.

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. So it is essential to keep your all software up to date. Unfortunately, that’s no easy task.

Most important is your Windows operating system, and fortunately, that's taken care of by Windows Update, which runs automatically. Windows Update also auto-updates Microsoft Office and other Microsoft software. But you probably have other vendors’ software that also needs updating. Some vendors provide auto-update utilities similar to Windows Update, others do not.

Keeping software updated automatically

Some updaters are notorious resource hogs or may be so buggy that they disrupt normal operation of your system. It is not uncommon for users to disable problematic updaters, leaving the software they support vulnerable to hackers and the increasingly inferior performance of obsolete software. That’s where third-party “software updater” software can come in handy.

SUMo (Software Update Monitor) is one such program that was brought to my attention by an AskBob reader. Developed and supported by the French firm, KC Softwares, SUMo replaces all those one-trick software updater ponies with something akin to Windows Update. SUMo loads at startup, and consumes far fewer system resources than umpteen software updaters. SUMo learns what programs are on your system and checks for updates of them automatically or manually.

SUMo downloads and installs software updates so you don’t have to, and so that your system remains as secure as possible. You can even access DUMo, KC Sofwares’ Driver Update Monitor. (More on driver updates later.) But the free version of SUMo is effectively demo-ware; it will show you what needs updating but won’t update anything. A license to use SUMo on up to 4 machines per user, plus a 1-machine license for a second user, costs 14.99 EUR ($18.49) per year; a lifetime license costs 29.99 EUR ($36.98). Another (much more serious) problem with SUMo is that third-party crapware is bundled with the software updates.

One Ring Updater to Rule Them All?

That's unacceptable! Fortunately, there are software updaters that are free, and have the smarts to strip out those unwanted (and sometimes dangerous) extras. Let's take a look at two I believe are best of breed.

Patch My PC silently updates over 300 popular programs. I like that it downloads your updates directly from the software vendor websites, to ensure you're getting the official version from the most up-to-date source. It takes only a few seconds for it to identify any software that needs updating. Even better, it strips the foistware out of installation packages before installing updates; no toolbars or browser hijackings!

Also nice is that programs update silently, bypassing the "install wizards." There's an option to create a restore point before updating, and you can also use it to quickly uninstall any unwanted programs. Patch My PC is 100% free and downloads quickly. 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.

Ninite is a similar tool for software updates. It doesn't scan your system for outdated software, but instead focuses on simplifying the process of downloading, installing and updating your programs. Ninite bundles software installers and updates into a single, foistware-free package. Just check boxes next to the programs that you want to install or update, click “Get Your NInite” and Ninite does the rest.

It fetches the latest files from the vendor websites, bundles them in a Ninite installer package, and downloads just one file to your computer. When the Ninite installer is run, it installs and/or updates everything 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.

Aside from the fact that Ninite does not identify software in need of updates, there's one other issue to be aware of. The free web version of Ninite lets you easily select and install software, but there is no mechanism to keep things automatically updated. You must remember to re-run the installer that Ninite creates for you. To solve that problem, you can download the Ninite Updater ($10/year) which runs on your computer and automates the process of checking for and installing the updates.

What About Device Drivers?

Device drivers, more commonly called "drivers," are small programs that act as translators between your operating system and the hardware devices it uses. Every hardware device needs a driver. Your printer, scanner, mouse, keyboard, hard drive, graphics card and network adapter are all examples of devices that require a software driver in order to respond to commands from the operating system. For example, when you hit the Print button, Windows issues the generic command "print," and a device driver translates that command into the specific instructions needed to enable your Dell computer communicate with your Epson printer.

I'll keep this simple -- you do not need a third-party driver updater. Windows Update handles typically the task of updating drivers, pushing them out to users when hardware vendors make them available. Some devices have built-in driver update features that download from the vendor's website. The only time I've ever needed to manually update a device driver is when upgrading to a new version of the Windows operating system, and some hardware device was not working properly. See my article [SCAM?] Time to Update Your Drivers? to learn more about manual device driver updates, and the potential pitfalls of using third-party device driver updaters.

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

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Most recent comments on "[DOIT] Keeping Your Software Updated Simply"

(See all 21 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

23 Mar 2018

With Secunia Personal Software Inspector no longer working as of April 21, 2018 I will be looking for something else. Thanks for this information!

Posted by:

23 Mar 2018

I am a happy SUMO user. :)
SumoLite is free and no longer bundles any crapware.
The restriction is that updates must be obtained via the KC software website. Though once SumoLite has notified you that an update is available you can go direct yourself to the vendor's website if you prefer. One problem (that may affect other updater programs also) is that sometimes an update is available - but only for the 'paid-for' version and not for the free version that you might be using.
I don't load SumoLite automatically at startup. I just run it when I want to do updates, usually at least once a week.

Posted by:

Ken Dwight
23 Mar 2018

You might also want to mention that some Internet Security suites include a similar option to update third-party programs. That's one reason I've been using Vipre Advanced Security and its predecessors for the past few years, and recommending it to my clients as well. It's not free, but it is seamless and runs silently in the background.

Posted by:

23 Mar 2018

I have been using Patch My PC for years. It works very well. I now have Windows 10 and it works well for that and all previous versions.

Posted by:

Ryan James
23 Mar 2018

I have used PatchMyPC and Ninite for years and find both to be excellent!

Posted by:

23 Mar 2018

Have used Patch My PC for a few years now and found it invaluable. It works flawlessly and has helped to keep installed software up to date with minimal effort on my part. It would be nice if even more applications were covered, but since it knows about most of the popular stuff you can't really complain, especially when it's for free!

Posted by:

23 Mar 2018

For the more technical of us, check out 'Chocolatey' - a Linux style 'App-Get' for Windows. Currently supports 5,670 software packages.

Free, but not for the faint at heart - it involves the (gasp!) the command line!

Posted by:

Frank McCarthy
23 Mar 2018

Do these software updaters work on a Mac?

Posted by:

23 Mar 2018

I use Glary Utilities Pro. It does a good job of keeping my software up to date.

Posted by:

juris klavins
23 Mar 2018

Secunia PSI was fine, but will no longer be supported after 21 Apr 2018.
Belarc Advisor is a good all around utility that monitors your system and all of its installed programs and drivers - it will indicate which ones have available updates, but will not perform any actual updates.

Posted by:

Lady Fitzgerald
23 Mar 2018

Secunia PSI became Secunia PITA quite a few years ago and I got rid of it. I've found the free version of Glary Utilities works much better plus has other useful features.

Most programs do not need to be updated every time a new one comes out. Just because an update is the latest doesn't always mean it is the greatest. An example was the Nero Burning Rom. It has become so feature bloated, it is pretty much useless now.

Those that do need frequent updating due to newly discovered vulnerabilities often can be replaced with equivalent programs.

For example, I no longer have a single Adobe program on my computer. I simply dumped Adobe Flash. It's going the way of the dodo soon anyway and very few websites require it anymore. I replaced Adobe Acrobat Standard with Qoppa's PDF Studio Pro 12. I actually like it better than Acrobat. PDF Studio comes out with new versions roughly every two years but, unless a new version has one or more features you feel you cannot live without, you do not need to upgrade. The only downside to PDF Studio Pro is it doesn't have an add-on for IE11 for reading and downloading PDFs online. I installed the free Foxit Reader to take care of that.

I've replaced Microsoft Office with LibreOffice. It also doesn't require upgrading when a new version comes out. I'm eventually going to replace Win 7 with Linux.

Posted by:

23 Mar 2018

Went to pokerstars.com and downloaded what they require to play for fun.
Immediately I was asked to update the software. Then a window from pokerstars asked me to enter the admin Name and password-explicitly not the pokerstars name and password.
Is this fishy?

Posted by:

23 Mar 2018

First is '[DOIT]' pronounced to rhyme with 'Coit' (like in Coit Tower in San Francisco) or to rhyme with 'Stew it'? Just a question.

Second, for handling software updates, I have just used the standard Windows Update, plus the Software Updater built in to Avast! I use the free version, so I have to check every now and then to see if anything needs updating, but it updates the programs with out all the "next" responses and with no scamware.
I use MS Office, so it is updated with MS Windows Update.

Posted by:

23 Mar 2018

The Worse Updater of all and the only one that is a massive headache is the PITA POS known as Windows 10 Updates.

Posted by:

23 Mar 2018

I just read this out of curiosity having left Windows for PCLinuxOS a few years ago. Sure enough, PatchMyPC and Ninite are still the best. Nevertheless, There's nothing better than a Linux rolling release where the whole system is updated from one source and multiple systems such as a laptop and backup drive can be done with one download. Win 10 is not for those of us on metered mobile data.

Posted by:

24 Mar 2018

I’ve been using Heimdal Security (a Danish company) for years and it’s an excellent software.
The free version patches your PC and the Pro version is a very complete Security Software.
I already have the Pro version since one year ago and I like it a lot.
If you wait for the regular promotions they do, it gets really very cheap to buy it.

Posted by:

24 Mar 2018

Does either Patach My PC or NInite work better on
Windows 7?

Posted by:

24 Mar 2018


I'm the developper of SUMo, software updater recommended by Bob.

THANK YOU very much for this very nice review.
Just to mention that a detail is wrong "Another (much more serious) problem with SUMo is that third-party crapware is bundled with the software updates. " : That's not true, we no longer have any sponsors and SUMo is 100% clean !

Give it a try, and come to me for support or feedback :)

Bob : May i link back from our site to yours ?

Posted by:

Geoff S
24 Mar 2018

Has anyone any experience/comments re. FileHippo App Manager?

Posted by:

24 Mar 2018

We have not been officially introduced but I am with LadyFitzgerald on this topic. Especially her second paragraph.
I even have apprehension of using Microsoft auto-updater, regularly and only do so with some delay built-in to avert any possible problems that may surface during initial update(s) roll-out.
I use FoxIt Phantom for my all my PDF needs, and I said my farewells to Adobe, as mentioned by that wise LadyF.

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