Making sure your computer software is updated

Next time you have 10 or 15 minutes to sit down at your computer – I want you to make a list. You can use a sheet of paper or a computerized word processing document.

What are the programs other than your operating system (Mac OS X or Windows) that you must make sure are updated on a regular basis? As I’ve probably told you already, Mac OS is very safe and Windows is safer than ever before. However, viruses, now commonly expressed under the category of “malware” attack our computers through out of date programs that we use on our computer other than the operating system.

Let your computer teacher help you fill in a couple of blanks…..
1. Operating System: At the top you should have your operating system – Windows or Mac OS (a few of my clients use Linux as well). Your operating system should be set to auto-update on your computer and for all of you I’m certain that’s how I have left your computers. Mac users may want to check the App Store to see if there are any pending updates.
2. Operating System Covered: In the next category you have — application updates that are swept in with the updates to your operating system. On a Mac this would include apps that come from your Mac App Store, for example Pages, iPhoto, iTunes and any others you may have gotten from there. On Windows, you should be getting your Microsoft Office updates along with your Windows updates
3. Applications / Programs: In the next category you should include applications (programs) that are important to you, but NOT automatically updated with your Windows / Mac updates. This may include Microsoft Office for Mac, iTunes for Windows, a non-Microsoft photo app that you really like, Adobe Reader, or a program you regularly use for work or enjoyment that is NOT part of #1 and 2.
4. Browsers: as long as you have modern versions of the major browsers, they can be automatically updated. Internet Explorer (Windows) and Safari (Mac) will fall under #1 on this checklist. However, many of you including yours truly prefer the Firefox and Chrome browsers. If you have these on your computer, open them and use them for a while once a month so that new versions can be automatically updated for you.
5. Helpers: these are tools like Java and Flash that make other programs on your computer do something that you need. You may not need Java and Flash. More of you probably use Flash. If you are running the Chrome browser, Flash will update automatically when Chrome updates itself. However, you may have Flash installed separately in Windows or Mac as well. These updates SHOULD be automatic but you may be prompted to do a Flash update now and then. If you use it DO IT. If you don’t use Flash outside of Chrome, REMOVE IT. The same goes for Java. If you know you use Java, keep it updated when you are prompted. It is NEVER automatic. However if you don’t use it – then remove it. An out of date version of Java is like using a screen door only in a bad neighborhood.
6. Outdated Operating System: finally you have to be using an operating system that is up to date and getting security patches. Windows Vista, 7 and 8 (8.1) are still fine. Support is ending for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. All but one of the clients I have do not use Windows XP. It’s had a nearly 12 year run. It’s time to move on. If you have a friend, colleague or family member still running Windows XP (which was sold up until Oct 2009 by the way), pass on my warning. Mac users – if you can run Mac OS 10.9 on your Mac (as flawed as it has been for some), you need to use it. Apple is giving it away for free! If you are still on Mac OSX 10.8, you need 10.9. To my knowledge there are no 10.8 Macs that cannot update to the FREE 10.9. If you have Mac OS 10.7 or 10.6 – Hartford we have a problem! Those Macs should not be online. They are no longer getting all security patches from Apple. ** I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Being a Mac owner (for better or worse) is no longer a buy an hold strategy. If Apple puts out an update for a Mac OS, grab it. If they update your iPhone or iPad, install it. Apple is waiting for no one and putting out the updates to protect their customers. If you want a computer environment that is going to be stable until 2020 with no major updates – then Windows 7 is your best choice.**

So then, I’m sure you want to ask – is it possible to have a computer where I don’t have to worry about updates?? We are getting there, but this may be too limiting for you.
1. A Mac using Pages for Word processing, Numbers for Spreadsheet, and Keynote for PowerPoint, along with Safari and Chrome as your browsers.
2. A Windows computer using Microsoft Office and Chrome and Internet Explorer as your browsers.
3. One of the Google Chromebook laptops that go for $200 to $300 – good for basic needs – that update everything automatically.
–>> The more custom programs you use, the more you will need to keep tabs on updates.