Don't forget to update your machine

Posted on July 21, 2003

I hope you made it to my column today in one piece.

Surely there was no traffic on the trip to work, no wrecks to get in your way and no coffee to spill on that new "Dukes of Hazzard" tie your grandmother gave you for Christmas. Just like any other day, I bet you walked into your office or computer room, started up your computer and immediately accessed the Web, right?

OK, so maybe something did go wrong. Perhaps your computer was frozen and you had to restart. Possibly your Internet connection was down. Worse yet, maybe someone has been using your system to store old TV sitcom episodes, and your computer is running out of space.

It doesn't matter what kind of computer you have. At some point, you will have minor glitches within your operating system. The only way to avoid this is to stop using your computer altogether. I would highly recommend not doing this, mainly because it would be difficult to do anything on your computer if you didn't use it. Also, it would be difficult to read my column, at least until I finished developing a program to send it out via Morse Code.

Fortunately, our friends at (fill in the company who made your operating system) are working diligently at correcting bugs. Well, who knows if they are working diligently, but at the very least, they are working at it. What most people don't realize, though, is that many of these operating system fixes are easy to implement almost immediately on their computers.

For Windows users, there should be a link in your Start menu for Windows Update. At this juncture, you have the ability to scan for new updates based on your current operating system. The list is divided into three categories: Critical Updates and Service Packs, Windows (your OS) and Driver Updates. The Critical Updates (hence the name) are the most important to perform. Usually these include items regarding security or patches in regularly used software, like Internet Explorer.

If the computer recommends I perform an update, I usually do it. Especially when it comes to Microsoft and security, it seems as if there are updates fairly often. For instance, I found out Wednesday that Microsoft plugged three more security holes. Coincidentally, Cisco announced Thursday the company found a serious networking flaw its software. They are trying awfully hard to not allow people to store old sitcoms on other people's computers, but "Dukes of Hazzard" fans don't give up that easily.

Software Update in OS X on a Mac works similarly, as the system fetches the appropriate additions to your operating system and applications. The cool thing about Software Update is you can schedule it to search for updates on a regular basis, instead of having to remember to do it by yourself.

But for both Macs and PCs, not all updates are good. In fact, many times companies issue an update, then release an update to that update a couple of days later. Luckily for us, there are plenty of guinea pigs out there to tell us if running particular updates actually go the way the are planned. If you are not sure if a specific update, whether it's hardware- or software-based, is right for you, just check your favorite computer news site or message board.

It's good to know that system providers are making strides each day to make your day go a little smoother. You'll probably still run into problems almost on a daily basis, but by keeping your computer up to date, you stand a greater chance of surviving another week in the tech world. Now getting back home from the office, that's a different story. Hopefully Boss Hogg has already made his daily rounds near your area.