Thursday, June 30, 2011

Don't Ignore "Updates are ready to install"!

Everybody has seen them. The pop-up balloon in the right hand corner of the screen, down near the clock: “Updates are ready to be installed”. And, every one of us has done the same thing at one point or another, click “Remind me later”.
You’re busy. This email needs to be sent out before 4. The spreadsheet needs to be updated before the next customer. The phone is ringing. I can’t restart my computer right now. The dog is barking. The sun’s rays are too dim during the vernal equinox. Delaying patches or updates to computer software can happen for any number of reasons. It is natural to delay it for a minute.
It is important to remember that those minute delays cannot turn in to days or weeks or months. Whether the patches are for Windows itself, or FireFox, or Anti-Virus definitions, or Adobe Reader, or any number of other software programs, it is imperative that everyone stays on top of them. New software updates can be introduced for a whole host of reasons, including:
- Closes and fixes security holes and exploits
- Fixes possible compatibility issues with new software and operating systems
- Introduces new features while removing outdated features
- Protects AV software against newest viruses and trojans
All of these reasons can improve your computer experience while helping to keep your computer safe and secure from threats, such as hackers and viruses.
Anyone that owns a car will recognize the importance of proactive maintenance. It would be insane to leave an oil change for 15,000 miles or to drive your car until the tires are completely bald. For the same reasons, it would be insanity to use a computer for months without downloading and installing software updates. The damage to your car could lead to catastrophic failure that may open yourself up to injury.
Now, I’m not going to say that failure to run Windows Update will cause injury, but the danger to your personal information or your important documents can be just as real as a broken wrist or a seized engine. And, the computer security community feels the same way. As can be seen in this article from, keeping your computer up-to-date is no different from eating right and exercising.
When undertaking the process of updating all of your software, there are several steps that need to be taken. The most important step is to make sure Windows has its most up-to-date patches. Microsoft is constantly releasing security patches along with patches to improve compatibility and performance.
To keep Windows updated:
- Make sure Automatic updates is enabled. In Windows 7, this is done by going to Start >> Control Panel >> System and Security >> Turn Automatic Updating on or off. You can change the settings to download and install updates during the middle of the day or the middle of the night if there is a need to avoid peak usage times.
- Check Windows Update regularly. This can be done by clicking Start >> All Programs >> Windows Update. In later versions of Windows, this should help give you updates for the operating system itself along with updates for other Microsoft programs, like Microsoft Office.
After covering updates needed for just Windows or Microsoft, it is important to realize that there are dozens of programs on your computer that need updating. Many of these programs have features that you can select during the installation that allow for auto-updating. These can be quite a benefit in case you have trouble remembering to check for updates.
If you need to check for updates, many programs allow for a quick and easy way to do such things. Many programs, like FireFox and Adobe Reader, allow for a “Check for Updates” feature in their help or tools section. With Adobe Reader open, click on “Help” in the toolbar and then select “Check for Updates”. It only takes a few moments and, once it is done, your computer will be more secure than 15 minutes ago.
Outside of software updates and patches, the next most important updates are the definitions for your anti-virus software. I’m going to take a leap of faith and assume that you have an effective and current anti-virus subscription. However, even if you have that subscription, you need to keep the program up-to-date. For best results, make sure that the anti-virus program is setup for regular definition updates and regular scans.
Viruses, spy-ware, and Trojans are constantly being created. There are always security holes that people attempt to capitalize on with a new threat. For your installed Anti-virus program, constant definition updates are required for optimum performance. Without them, an anti-virus program is, essentially, worthless.
When investigating computer problems, one of the first issues to check on is whether the system is up-to-date. And, one of the very first things to do when ensuring computer security is to make sure all software is patched and updated. It can be considered just as important as password security. A little preventative maintenance from time to time will go a long way in keeping your computer operating securely and efficiently.

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