Do I Need to Install All Those Annoying Updates?

by Roberta Piket on June 20, 2013

in News, Tech Thoughts and Tips

A Valued Client recently asked whether all the software updates offered to PC users are really necessary.

“Do I really want or need version 5.2.1.1.1 ???? Every single time? Windows, Adobe, Apple, Java, Office, etc. etc… And why does my computer want to tie up bandwidth/disk spinning time at the most inopportune moments? Can’t I just have it set up to do once a week on Monday lunchtime or something? I know you offer a service for maintaining Windows machines, but what are the rest of us poor blokes supposed to do?”

Well said, Valued Client.

Most of the updates are important to protect the security and stability of your machine. So the short answer is yes, there is good reason to install critical updates. While most updates should be installed promptly, that doesn’t mean you need to install them all the second they pop up on your screen. In fact, it can be a good idea to wait a week or two, to confirm that the updates do not have bugs that will hose your system. (In fact, this happened with a recent Windows update, which damaged many Windows 7 installations.)

For most residential users, “Optional” Windows updates can be avoided unless there’s a compelling reason to install them. For example, if you’re having drop-outs with your wireless internet and you see an optional update for your wifi card, then it might make sense to install that optional update. Of course, any time you install an update, it’s best to create a system restore point so that if the update causes problems, you can restore your system to the way it was before you installed the update.

You can schedule a time for Windows updates by going to the Window Updates settings. For some third-party updates, such as Google desktop updates, you will see a list of scheduled tasks in the Windows task scheduler which can be edited. For other updates, such as Adobe and Oracle (Java), there is seemingly no schedule; they just show up with annoying frequency.

Determining when to install updates and when not to install them is called “patch management” and it’s one of the important functions of the IT departments at large companies.

There can be other unforeseen issues when updating. For example, recently a client’s machine automatically accepted an update from Internet Explorer 9 to Internet Explorer 10, and as a result her web-based email, using Outlook.com, stopped working properly. We had to roll her machine back to IE 9 to resolve the problem. That client is now very relieved to have signed up for one of our subscription plans, so this sort of thing is much less likely to happen because we will be providing patch management.

As you may have surmised by now, it can be difficult for the layperson to know which updates to install, whether optional or “critical”. That is why a good computer tech tracks patches as they are released, so she can know which ones may cause issues, and which are really urgent.

We do offer very reasonably priced managed services plans which include patch management. So whether you are a business or just an individual who needs to optimally maintain your computer and/or wants to avoid the headaches of managing your own updates, you may wish to consider asking about our affordable MSA plans.

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