Almost everyone these days relies on software for one purpose or another, whether you’ve got a suite of programs to keep your business operating efficiently or a single app to help you organize your personal photos. Whatever the case, it’s important to keep your software upgraded—yet many consumers and business owners fail to keep their software up-to-date, or neglect best practices that ensure their upgrades go smoothly.
Why You Should Always Update When Possible
You might be reluctant to upgrade an app or software program on your device because you aren’t sure what it contains, or because the last upgrade had an annoying new layout, or even because you’re feeling lazy and you just don’t want to update. However, it’s important that you keep all your software as up-to-date as possible, at all times, for several reasons:
- Security. One of the most common motivations for issuing a software update is security. When a developer discovers a vulnerability in their work, they find a solution to fix it, then issue that solution to their customers in the form of a patch. If you neglect these upgrades, the vulnerability will remain on your instance.
- Developer support. Over time, developers gradually stop supporting older versions of their software. They can’t (and shouldn’t) be held responsible for issues that arise on obsolete versions of the app. Avoid this problem by staying up-to-date.
- Features and UI. Even if you don’t personally like them, most new features and UI changes issued to an app have been thoroughly researched and tested. They’re designed to be improvements, so they probably are—even if you don’t immediately “get” them.
- Proximal vulnerabilities. Viruses and malware tend to spread like the flu, so any time your computer is infected, it’s putting other devices on your network at risk. If you don’t care about your own security, at least make the upgrade for the sake of your network.
Best Practices for Software Updates
Understanding that, there are some best practices you can follow to maximize your chances of success with new software updates:
- Enable automatic updates. In most cases, automatic updates are the way to go. If you’ve had issues with being interrupted with automatic updates in the past, you may prefer manual updates. However, it’s hard to stay personally updated on the latest patch releases—and even if you get notifications from the apps that need updating, if you have the power to procrastinate updating, you’ll probably use it. Turn on automatic updates for every app you can.
- Search for manual updates periodically. Even with automatic updates turned on, there’s a chance your machine isn’t scanning for new updates frequently enough, or the automatic update may not function as intended. Occasionally look for manual updating opportunities, and check to ensure all your updates are being installed properly.
- Back up your information. Rarely, but occasionally, a new update could compromise your data. Accordingly, it’s a good idea to back up your information in multiple locations. Depending on what kind of data you’re storing, that could mean using a separate third-party app to store your information, exporting the data to local servers, or simply enabling cloud backups on your main platform. In any case, try not to issue any updates with your personal data on the line.
- Read the patch notes. When developers issue a new patch or software release, they usually include some notes about what they’ve fixed, what they’ve upgraded, and what they’ve changed. In many cases, these are tedious; there will be many lines about upgrading things you’ve never even noticed, or eliminating bugs you never experienced. But it’s still an important way to learn about why this update exists—and what, exactly, it’s supposed to change.
- Test the update. After updating your software, give it a test. You may need to reset your device, or at least restart the app, to fully realize the changes. Experiment with a few features to see what’s different, and make sure it works as intended.
- Report bugs you encounter. If you encounter any bugs or unexpected issues, make sure you report them. Developers rely on user-submitted bug reports to direct their attention and prioritize needs, so issue them where necessary, and provide as many details as possible to expedite a fix.
- Help others get updated. If you’re working within a team, or if you and your family members share access to the same software, help the people around you get up-to-date.
Try to follow these best practices as closely as possible if you want to keep your systems secure. You may not always be able to follow them precisely, but you can always prioritize updates for your devices and the apps they run regularly.