Are You Up to Date?


If you own a computer, or a smartphone, or a tablet – really, any modern electronic device, including Smart TVs – you have been peppered to UPDATE. The update might be for the operating system of your device, or an application, or something you don’t have a clue about. Modern software is amazingly complex, frequently incorporating millions of lines of programming code. It’s not surprising that bugs creep in, and also that obscure security holes also become known.

Should you do these updates? If everything on your device is working just fine, what’s the point of possibly having it go haywire? Is this just another way for the tech companies to make money off you?

To better answer these questions, you need to know that there are different kinds of updates.

The first category is the feature update. With these, for applications, your device’s operating system or your TV, you get new capabilities your electronics may not have had before. For instance, on your smartphone, an app upgrade might give you the opportunity to reserve seats in a theater, when previously all you could do was buy tickets to a performance.

The second category is the security update. With this kind of update, problems with your devices that could cause hacking get fixed. For example, if your smartphone would allow anyone to access your contacts list without first entering the passcode, a security update would plug that vulnerability.

The last category is the version update. This one may, though not always, cost money. With this, you get a whole new environment. An example of this is the upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

Frequently these categories get combined. Feature updates may include security updates; version updates almost always include security and feature updates.

For those reasons, it is almost always a good idea to do the first and second categories of update (feature and security). Most smartphones have an “automatic update” setting, so that these two groups happen without your intervention. Macs and some Windows machines can do this as well. The likelihood that these will generate bigger problems is very small, so leaving the auto-update setting on is good.

The third category, the version update, is usually a good idea with two caveats. 

First, when the operating system (smartphone, Windows or Mac) first gets updated, there may very well be bugs. A good rule of thumb is to allow for two iterations of the update to happen before going ahead. For example, when the iPhone’s operating system (iOS) was updated to version 13 last year, several quick updates followed as initial bugs were quashed. Now at version 13.3, it’s solid and the new features are stable.

Second, the version update may not be available for your hardware. When Windows 10 was first released, some older computers running Windows 7 didn’t have the technical capabilities to run Win 10. Microsoft, Apple and Android usually have a compatibility checker utility you can run to make sure your system can handle the new software, so that’s a good idea.

Overall, most upgrades and updates are beneficial, can help keep bad stuff from happening, and may even provide new innovations you can really use. 


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