Keep Your Software Updated (or else...)

Category: Software

Many computer problems can be avoided or fixed 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 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 (SUMo-Lite) is effectively demo-ware; it will show you what needs updating but won’t update anything. A license to use SUMo costs $29.99. In the past, third-party crapware was sometimes bundled with the software updates provided by SUMo, but the developers have assured me that this is no longer the case.

One Ring Updater to Rule Them All?

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.

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 [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 "Keep Your Software Updated (or else...)"

(See all 23 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

12 Mar 2019

I forgot to mention sometime windows update doesn't work if this is the case use the windows creation tool. create a usb iso and upgrade that way

Posted by:

12 Mar 2019

I have my Win 10 Pro set to delay major updates, versions, for 90 days to allow time for them to fix the mess they inevitably roll out the first time. I have routine updates delayed for three week for the same reason.

I do use Patch My PC, on your recommendation and like it a lot. I only update drivers through either Windows or the manufacturer. So far (nearing 30 years) so good. :^)

Posted by:

12 Mar 2019

SUMo has some difficulty with character sizes on my display. Height of some text is clipped,, and overall characters are too small. (I don't want to fiddle with Windows display settings.)
Other than that, it reported 67 OK's, 58 Minors and 36 Majors. some of the Majors are for paid software, e.g Dragon.

Posted by:

David Lagesse
12 Mar 2019

Why is it that you buy a NEW CAR and it NEVER gets its software updated. Are car manufactures PERFECT in their original issue software?

Posted by:

12 Mar 2019

Thanks for the informative article on ways to keep programs current. I have found that Glary Utilities does a very good job of identifying apps in need of updating and offers a good path to do so.

Posted by:

12 Mar 2019

As for the comment that new car software never gets updated, well it does if you take the car to the dealer for scheduled maintainance. And there too things don't always go as expected. Our Ford Focus ST ended up having the computer in the car being bricked during a software update and the car sat in the shop for a month totally inoperative before Ford came up with a fix. And it only affected the ST model, not others. They did provide us with a loaner whle the car sat shoved into a corner of the dealer's shop.

Posted by:

12 Mar 2019

This is not an article comment.

This page was using 3.4gigs of memory in firefox just now. I stopped the process and firefox said the tab crashed. Thought I should let you know and wasn't sure how to email you. Figured you'd get this. The tab had been open for an hour. I generally just open them so I'll remember to read them when I get a chance.

Posted by:

12 Mar 2019

I just updated 38 out of 38 apps using PatchMyPC without a hitch. I've used quite a few different update apps over the years and this is the most trouble free I have experienced especially with so many, one after the other. I have tried Sumo and that is just impossible to use efficiently. I also take under advisement the other caveats from our other commenters and appreciate them.

Thank you to all.

Posted by:

12 Mar 2019

If you want to get geeky, try Whereas Ninite has ~50 programs in it's list and Patch My PC, 300; Chocolatey currently has 16,212 user-submitted packages/programs. For Linux people, it's like 'app-get'.

It's all command line driven, but simple. After chocolatey is installed just give:
"C:/choco install {programname}.install -y" to install a program. Install as many as you want.
"C:/choco upgrade all -y" updates all programs installed by chocolatey in one command.

Posted by:

Stuart Berg
12 Mar 2019

I disagree with your statement "But the free version (SUMo-Lite) is effectively demo-ware". I prefer the free (SUMo-Lite) version to the paid version because 95% of the battle of updating programs is finding the ones that need updates AND I don't want ANY extra programs running all the time. The free SUMo version checks 177 of my installed programs and in a couple of minutes tells me which ones have updates available. I run it once a day. The couple of programs that it finds each day are easy to find the updates and install them. This "demo-ware" (as you call it) is very effective and useful software.

Posted by:

John S
12 Mar 2019

Has anybody tried "Windows Update Mini Tool"? I kind of like it, but it only seems to update Microsoft programs. I use the free version, and I suspect it is written by Russians. But it seems to work.

Posted by:

13 Mar 2019

Thanks for recommending SUMo (I'm the developper). Good feedback from Bob and users here. Please contact me if you need help with SUMo.

Posted by:

13 Mar 2019

Thanks for writing about Patch My PC ... I see that you have recommended this software previously, I just didn't see it. I downloaded it and it is wonderful!

It got all of the apps that needed updating, downloaded and installed in excellent timing, very short and it was done!!! I know that I am going to enjoy this program. Plus, all of the apps I use ... Are listed. It even reminded me of a couple of apps that I haven't installed, since I had to re-do my computer. Things like a Zip app and a Free Anti-Virus/Malware program.

I know, how could I miss the Anti-Virus/Malware program. I have Malwarebytes and Windows Security stuff installed, so I know that I am "safe" for the moment. But now, it is time to install a good Anti-Virus/Malware program.

This article was great Bob. I found a new program to brag about and to enjoy which will save me time and energy.

Posted by:

jill burt
13 Mar 2019

I downloaded and ran "Patch My PC" and while it mostly did a good job in the background, I had problems with 2 of my apps. I ended up with 2 versions of "Skype", and it somehow gave me a trial pro version of "Malwarebytes" when the version I had was the free version.

Posted by:

13 Mar 2019

I have used PatchMyPC but it changed several settings within various applications back to their defaults. I now only use PatchMyPC to notify me of what needs to be updated.

Posted by:

13 Mar 2019

The same thing happened with Malwarebytes as happened to jill burt. Since I expect it will revert back to the free version, I just got the Pro version free for ten days.

Posted by:

Herb Klug
14 Mar 2019

Bob, I find myself in an uncomfortable spot - I disagree with something you wrote, and that is "You do not need a third party driver updater." (I don't remember that I have ever disagreed with you.) My desktop checks for Windows updates daily, but just for the heck of it -- after I read what you wrote -- I ran the IObit Driver Booster app. It found nine out-of-date drivers on my desktop. I think I'd feel very uncomfortable letting Microsoft decide when I need driver updates.

Posted by:

Ken Heikkila
15 Mar 2019

Just tried out PatchMyPC and I love it. So simple to use. I forget the name of my previous updater that I think was recommended by Bob years ago, possibly on the Internet Tourbus, but It seemed to be unable to update so many programs that I just deleted it even before I switched to Win10. I can't find it listed anywhere so I suppose they went out of business &/or changed their name.

Posted by:

14 Sep 2019

I use FileHippo update checker, also called FileHippo App Manager.
It's easy to use, it keeps my laptop up to date, and it's free.

Posted by:

11 Jan 2020

I used to use FileHippo App Manager; however, 2-3 years ago it stopped working in my Google Chrome browser.
From time-to-time, I have uninstalled and reinstalled it but to no avail.
Today, I installed it again and it just won't open.
I am going to try Patch My PC which I seem to recall using "back in the day".

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