Here's Why You Must Keep Your Software Updated (and how to do it for free)

Category: Security , Software

The most common computer problems can be fixed or avoided altogether, 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 help you keep all your software updated, with just a few clicks...

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 may be constantly getting worse in terms of vulnerability to hackers and conflicts with more recent software. So it is essential to keep all your software up to date. Unfortunately, that’s no easy task, unless you have some help, which we’ll get to in just a minute.

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.

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 some I believe are best of breed.

One Ring Updater to Rule Them All?

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. Patch My PC works on Windows 7 and higher.


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. Ninite works on Windows 7 and higher.

Other Software Updaters

In my research for this article, I came across a few other free software updaters that seemed promising, but didn't quite make the cut. Ucheck was one of those, which claims to support hundreds of programs. I downloaded UCheck and it scanned my system quickly to see if updates were needed for any installed programs. It found several, but not all the ones that Patch My PC identified. On the plus side, it did find find a few that Patch My PC didn't flag. One thing it flagged was an older version of Zoom, but when I tried to update it, the only option available was to download the update, find the download, and install it manually. It also grabbed the 32-bit version, when I had the 64-bit version installed. UCheck downloaded and installed an update for Notepad++, but it takes you through all the installation steps (Next, Next, Next...) instead of silently updating. With UCheck, updating is a two-step process. You need to click the Download link for a program, wait for the download to complete, then click the Install link.

If you want the ability to click and auto-update, you must upgrade to the Premium version, which costs $13/year. UCheck Premium does scheduled scans, can install new software, and has PUP Protection. PUPs are "potentially unwanted programs", also known as foistware. (Patch My PC strips out foistware in the free version.)

SUMo (Software Update Monitor) is another program that was brought to my attention by an AskBob reader. Developed and supported by the French firm, KC Softwares, SUMo does an impressive job of scanning your installed software for any needed updates. It identified several programs that Patch My PC and UCheck didn't flag for updates. SUMo uses color coding to indicate if a needed update is major (red) or minor (orange). Unfortunately, the free version (SUMo-Lite) is effectively demo-ware; it will show you what needs updating but won’t update anything. When you click to update, it loads a web page that offers you the option to upgrade to SUMo Pro ($29) or search online for the needed update. A related app, DUMo, is KC Softwares’ Driver Update Monitor. (More on driver updates later.)

Some anti-malware suites include software updaters as well. The Avast software updater is one example.

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 [TIP] 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 "Here's Why You Must Keep Your Software Updated (and how to do it for free)"

(See all 22 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Craig
14 Apr 2022

I ran Patch My PC. It was easy to use but for some reason it does not appear on my Windows 10 list of programs (even after restarting the computer). Suggestions ?


Posted by:

Bob Ginn
14 Apr 2022

This is in reference to your recommendation of iDrive backup software for cloud backup. I got IDrive and started to set up the schedule for a complete system image for my 3 main computers, two of which contain hundreds of CAD drawings in the form of G-codes for cutting silhouettes. Then I found that they don't support Win7 systems unless I do a local and then upload that but apparently not with operating system recovery, etc. By the time I had to talk to support multiple times just to try to understand procedure I decided that their software was in competition with Microsoft to write the most unintuitive software possible. I'm no tech genius but have run many programs, most of which were multiple times more direct with directions than IDrive. I'm not giving up yet but I will be open to checking out other vendors in the future.


Posted by:

mike
14 Apr 2022

Glary Utilities identifies apps needing updates and will statr the update process for you. It also offers several good clean-up utilities. It is powerful, free, and also offers its Pro version free if you have obtained the code. It is one of the basic apps our large computer club recommends to our members to maintain their devices.


Posted by:

Sharon C Scian
14 Apr 2022

I clicked on patch my pc in your article and it says Free trial...and get a quote. So, this appears not to be free after the trial..

EDITOR'S NOTE: There is no free trial or any payment required. Try again, look for the link that says "Download Patch My PC Home Updater 4.2.0.5"


Posted by:

Brian B
14 Apr 2022

@mike. Glary Utilities appear to be a bit iffy in my view. A Chinese firm with poor support all in Chinglish, and this from AskWoody forum:-

"The Terms of Use found on their site says (in part):

GOVERNING LAW AND DISPUTE RESOLUTION: These terms and conditions hereof will be governed by the laws of the People’s Republic of China."

That was enough for me to uninstall.


Posted by:

Bobsie
15 Apr 2022

Bob,

If people use PC Matic and schedule scans, it will also update software (some) and drivers. I am surprised you missed that. I schedule my scans on my PC weekly and often see that it updates my browsers and other software when new releases/updates are available. Same with drivers.


Posted by:

Charley
15 Apr 2022

Generally I agree you don't need a third party driver updater. By the way, CCLEANER (even the free version) will tell you about out of date drivers. I just ran it and it identified a few drivers that are "out of date". But since everything works I am not going to update them.

Recently my HP printer stopped working. Everything said I had the latest driver. The only way I could get it working again was to reinstall the software from the HP site.


Posted by:

Charley
15 Apr 2022

So since CCLEANER said my Brother printer driver was out of date, I went to the Brother site and ran its software update checker. It said I needed to update the driver. So Windows update doesn't always keep things up to date.


Posted by:

mike
15 Apr 2022

Brian B: I bet you do not realize just how many items you use are made in China and outside the USA. Sounds like you are listening to advice from someone a bit paranoid or who is trying to sell subscriptions..


Posted by:

Brian B
15 Apr 2022

I find your reply to be off topic as well as offensive. You imply that I am a bit simple not knowing the amount of Chinese second rate products are being used, and that I am listening to paranoids.
I was merely pointing out that The Chinese government has not got a very good record in the world of cyber spying, and that I was not interested in using Chinese software for that reason, and a few others. I did point out that it was my view, and if you want to use Glarysoft utilities, that is your decision and I have no objection to that.
Have a nice day.


Posted by:

Karen Poff
15 Apr 2022

Brian B - I appreciate your comment about Glary Utilities being Chinese software and am uninstalling it from my computer. The issue in this case is TRUST (or specifically lack thereof). I'll switch to one of the other good options in the article, thank you!


Posted by:

Karen S
15 Apr 2022

Are there versions of Patch My PC for Apple products or Chrome?


Posted by:

bb
15 Apr 2022

Craig: the reason PatchMyPC does not appear in the program lists is that it is not *installed*, it is just run. Move the downloaded file to any folder and run it from there, even the desktop. Or create a shortcut and drop it on the start menu.

Not mentioned, but should be, is that PatchPyPC isn't just an updater, one can use it to *install* any of the 300 programs it supports. I use it to download and install the common free programs I like on new, or newly reset, PCs.

Sharon: There is a paid version of PatchMyPC, you must have clicked on that. The Home updater version is 100% free and not even ad- or nag-ware.

Highly recommended. It's the first program I add to any new PC. (I can't say 'install' because it's not installed!)


Posted by:

Frances
15 Apr 2022

Does Windows Update for drivers work for Windows 7?

Because I'm using Win 7.


Posted by:

Kyle
16 Apr 2022

I'm the developper of SUMo. Thank you Bob !
Let me know if you have feedback to share or suggestion for improvement but generally, SUMo detects MUCH MORE Software and Updates than any other competitors you mention here.

We also have DUMo for Drivers Update Monitor

SUMo : https://www.kcsoftwares.com/?sumo
DUMo : https://www.kcsoftwares.com/?dumo


Posted by:

Steve
16 Apr 2022

I have experienced issues at times with software updates have bugs or issues that later need patching. I can recall having unknown computer problems following software updates. This is why, except for security software, I will often delay downloading the latest uopdate.


Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr.
18 Apr 2022

I had been using Glary Utilities for several years until this week. I did not realize that Glary is a Chinese based company. Even though I have had no trouble with their software, I do not want to have anything on my computer that is provided by a Russian or Chinese based/associated company. From this day forward, I will attempt to check the nation of origin for any software I install on my computers in order to avoid getting software from companies based in nations I do not trust.

I just don't think doing so is worth the risk,

Ernie


Posted by:

John
18 Apr 2022

Bob and All - This is a great article, and the comments keep me informed about some of the strange things our there.

There is one application I will not update however - QuickBooks. QB updates seems to be for the sole purpose of pushing more Intuit products onto you machine. They don't provide even the vaguest explanation about the updates. QB is enough of a resource hog that I don't want to invite more problems in.


Posted by:

cyberjunkie
22 Apr 2022

If it weren't for Chinese hardware and software you wouldn't be reading this page.


Posted by:

Bertha TYerry
29 Apr 2022

I want to give you a password for the new email address.


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