Are you a Mac or a PC? A Firefox? An Explorer? A Safariist? A Chromer?? Well, no matter what your allegiances, you have at least one thing in common with your personal computing brethren. Any piece of computer software needs to be regularly updated in order to work properly in an ever-evolving and updating software world.
Let’s take a look at an example scenario. You are preparing for a class tomorrow using the popular presentation software, Prezi. This software runs inside of a web browser but it also requires the most up to date Flash plugin be installed on your computer. You are preparing the presentation at your office where you regularly update your desktop computer, but you plan to run the presentation from your laptop. You only use this laptop occasionally and have neglected a few prompts to update your software. You save the presentation, bookmark the site, send yourself an email and you think to yourself, “yep, I’m covered.” But when you get to the class, you pull up your presentation on your laptop and something is wrong. What could it be?
The software you are using for the presentation is running in a plugin in a browser that is running in your operating system. Each of these pieces of software relies on the others to properly function. If one of them is not up-to-date, it could affect the functionality of another. Now this may sound a bit complicated, but don’t worry… it’s not! Most software will prompt you to update and some will update almost automatically. But it does require you as a user to take a few extra minutes to allow these important processes to happen on any machine that you use.
So for instance, if you are using Firefox as a browser, you may receive a prompt that says “A new version of Firefox is available, please restart your browser to update”. At this point, you should click “Ok” to allow this process to happen. That way the next time you go to a website that requires a newer version of a plugin (like Flash Player or Java) it will be able to properly update because you have the latest version of the browser, which is the environment in which that plugin functions. To take this one step further, you can understand that in the same way a browser is the environment in which a plugin functions, the Operating System (Mac OS or Windows) is the environment in which the browser functions. The same is true for any other type of software (Word, Excel, Photoshop, Mail applications, etc).
Now that we’ve discussed the concept and importance of these updates, let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of making sure that YOU are up to date! As I mentioned previously, most of these updates will prompt you but if they have been neglected for a period of time, it’s a great idea to do some manual checks to make sure that everything is in ship shape. In the following two videos, I’ll explain how to manually check for updates to some of your most important software on your Mac or PC. At the end of the article you’ll also find a set of links to check for updates to other common software.
Keeping Your Software Up To Date – on Mac OSX
Keeping Your Software Up To Date – on Windows 7
The following links have more information about updating popular software.
On a Mac:
On a PC: