Keep Your Software Up To Date (or else…)

Category: Security , Software

Many 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 is 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 two 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.

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.

Other Software Updaters

In my research for this article, I came across a few other free software updaters that seemed promising, but didn't make the cut. Ucheck was one of those, which claims to support 160 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 as many as Patch My PC. One thing it flagged was an old version of Firefox, but when I tried to update it, the only option available was to download the update and install it manually. If you want the ability to click and auto-update, you must upgrade to the Premium version, which costs $13/year.

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 didn't flag for updates. The reason for that is SUMo uses color coding to indicate if an 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 [ALERT] 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 "Keep Your Software Up To Date (or else…)"

Posted by:

20 Aug 2020

The latest Microsoft Windows 10 feature update has damaged two of my computers. So sometimes "keeping software up to date" means having a good chance of damaging it too. Update at your own peril appears to be the name of the game.

Posted by:

Henry Peck
20 Aug 2020

Every manufacturer has a program for updating their equipment. Examples are:

HP Support Assistant
Intel Driver & Support Assistant

Posted by:

20 Aug 2020

I use "PatchMyPC". It is fast and simple to use. I also have HP computers that come with HP Support Assistant, which is as slow as molasses in January and needs your constant input, but are worthy for troubleshooting problems.

Posted by:

20 Aug 2020

Hi Bob! What about the software update feature of PC Matic? I know that you are a fan of PC Matic. Do you think we need a separate updater beyond what PC Matic does?

Posted by:

20 Aug 2020

Two comments.
1. Regarding Windows updates, I usually wait a couple days to see whether there are any reported problems. Also I do a full system backup first so that I can be sure I can restore things if I have a problem.

2. Regarding Patch My PC, the colors they used to show up to date vs out of date programs was difficult for me to see, like 8% of men that have color vision anomalies (incorrectly called color blindness). So I contacted them and the added an option to allow you to change the colors used. I found that very responsive.

Posted by:

20 Aug 2020

Several points:
The last Windows 10 cumulative update (NOT one of the major updates) caused one of my computers, a Dell desktop, to display the dreaded BSOD if left unused for more than a minute or two. A reinstall (keeping my settings and apps) using the Media Creation Tool fixed that.
For updates, Glary Utilities works quite well for many things. CCleaner, Advanced SystemCare, and IOBIT Uninstaller help some, but only VERY rarely. Also, all of them tend to list updates for a few things when I already have the newest version. I've tried Patch My PC and been totally confused by the several hundred things listed. Many apps simply pop up a notification or send an email when there's a new version, and others I just check every so often.
Drivers are extremely difficult for me to check and keep track of. Driver Updater (which is one of the things Bob and others say not to use) helps some. (I know, I know, please don't berate me. I use it just occasionally and so far no computers have been turned into doorstops.)
All in all, I have several operating systems, the two MAIN ones being Windows 10 and Linux Mint, ten browsers and I don't want to know how many apps on several computers. Maybe I should just shut my eyes and cross my fingers.

Posted by:

rick neeman
20 Aug 2020

thanks for the info it was very informative. Keep up the good work

Posted by:

20 Aug 2020

I have always been unsure about such "shotgun approach" automation/updater utility tools for a variety of reasons. My top 2 concerns follow:
1. How do these utilities go around the elevated privilege requirements (sys.admin.) for updating system-level changes that are sometimes required?
2. If my memory serves me well; at least one such updater utility was found to be a conduit for pilfering user-related information/data.
I usually will not do any type of update to any of my installed programs unless I first screen out the reasons and relevancy for the update.
I also will not commence an update unless I can first download the update; allowing me to perform a 'local' update.
In the case of Windows Updates; I have been able to train my Win10Pro to stop automatic updates; yet to warn me of available updates.
Twice bitten: Thrice shy!

Posted by:

20 Aug 2020

I have tried several software updaters but I will only comment on two that you mentioned in this article. Patch My PC has been sitting at version forever so I never know if PMPC is up to date as there are a larger number of programs that it can check. I have also found that when I do manually update a software program on my pooter,for some reason PMPC does not recognize that the program is at a newer version and shows that it needs to be updated by listing it in Red. For example PDF Editor has been successfully been updated to 8.0.341, yet PMPC shows it at 8.0.340.
SUMo in my opinion is not demoware and is my goto updater. It does takes a little work on the user's part to actually find and download a newer version of any software program update, unless as you mention you buy the Pro version. This is not a big deal as you can control excatly what gets downloaded and installed on your machine. The only complaint I have is SUMo do not let you block BETA updates from showing up. Thanks for listening

Posted by:

David Serfass
21 Aug 2020

PatchMyPc can be run as a portable. It doesn't actually install as most programs do.

Posted by:

Jim Seiler
21 Aug 2020

Checked out your recommendation for "Patch My PC" ... I gotta lot of stuff on my main system, but was pleased to see that only one installed app wasn't up to date (incidentally, an app I don't use) ... guess sombody's doing something right, my PC maker (Lenovo), my OS provider (MS), and hopefully maybe ME! All we can do is try as best we can ...


Posted by:

Norman Rosen
22 Aug 2020

I use PC Matic and it regularly updates programs which need updating.

Posted by:

Earl J (Maui Boy)
22 Aug 2020

Aloha all y'all...
Most excellent article (what else is NEW?) (wink)
* * *
I'm with Tim ... I'm also curious about your views on PC Matic updating... thumbs up? thumbs down?
I've narrowed all my selections and alternatives over the decades down to PC Matic.
* * *
I'm never sure which ones are legitimate... your knowledge of all things computer sure makes it much easier for the vast majority of us who may use computers daily, but have no real understanding of computers OR how they run and jump. (wink)
* * *

Until that time. . .

Posted by:

13 Sep 2021

I use Win Care 365, it is good, very fast.

Posted by:

13 Sep 2021

Another great article, Bob.

I've been using CCleaner for years but have opted to use it in Custom Cleaning mode as I found that the default Health Check mode sometimes deleted saved logins from my browsers.

Having read your opinion of the Glary Utilities I may give them a try.

PatchMyPC is excellent - I schedule it to run once a week and it rarely fails.

Regarding device drivers, I generally do a clean installation of Windows once or twice a month on various PCs for people and invariably find that some device drivers are missed by the Windows installation process. I used to find them the hard way by looking at the properties of each missing device and then googling the VEN and DEV codes in the Events tab to discover the missing drivers.

Nowadays I use the free trial version of Driver Easy - it quickly lists the missing drivers and the paid version will install them for you automatically. Saves me a lot of time.

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