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Easy Software Updates

Contributor:
David Silversmith
David Silversmith

Most computer users install software and forget.  Unless the software automatically updates itself, without any prompts, most users are still running the same version they once downloaded.  However, there are some easy ways to update and secure your PC.

One of the biggest security risks for viruses and spyware is outdated software that has been out for so long that the bad guys have found the holes.  Insecure software is currently the greatest risk for all users on the Internet, whether they are private individuals, small businesses, large enterprises, or governments, Rather than waiting around for your software to notify you of updates there are several easy to use tools that will keep an eye on your software and then alert you when an update's available.  They will even streamline the updating process once it identifies the software you need to update.

FileHippo.com is a software download site that hosts tons of both freeware and shareware.  They have added on the the FileHippo Update Checker which is a very small application (the download is 155kb) that scans your computer for installed applications in just seconds and then compares your installed version with the FileHippo.com database to check for new releases.

As you can see above, you get a list of all the detected updates in a list in your browser along with links to download your updates.  They have a clear privacy policy "The Update Checker will not send any personal information back to FileHippo.com. The only information collected is a list of programs and their versions, along with the operating system details to help with processing. Additionally none of this is linked to your IP address and the logs are deleted after processing."

FileHippo Update Checker is a free download that is designed for any Windows PC running Vista, XP, 2003, 2000, ME or 98.  Macintosh users should check out Appfreshand Linux users can try Synaptic.

Windows users who want to be doubly sure should also consider Secunia Personal Software Inspector which has a far more security-focused approach to software updating. Secunia reports that you are at risk of being part of a sad statistic in that the average user without Secunia PSI has 12 insecure programs installed on their PC!

When you run your first scan after installing Secunia, you'll be presented with a list of insecure apps that have available updates. You also learn about "end-of-life" applications which means that the application is no longer being supported by the developer.  Secunia is for the more serious customer as it is not as user friendly or as cutesy as FileHippo.  That said, Secunia is packed with information and tools for making sure your installed software is running the latest and greatest security updates.

Firefox users might also consider the new Plugin Check.  In the future, Firefox will update plugins for you just as it does with extensions. But until then, you can use their free plugin check.  It is far less comprehensive than Secunia, but it is also much easier to use.  Essentially - the Plugin Check is not as good as Secunia - but much better than nothing!

With regular use of these tools you can be more certain that your computers will be safe and that you are taking advantage of the latest and greatest features in all the software that you are using.

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