To Update Or Not To Update

When deciding whether to update or not, users often don’t take major factors into consideration—which could end up costing them a lot of time, money, and their personal data in a worst case scenario, all to dodge the inconvenience of learning a new piece of software. Updating is, in fact, essential to good business practice and good system security.

update needed box

It’s not just older folk that tend to get this wrong, either. While the stereotype of grandma not running her updates on her device because the tools she uses “just work” are justified, you’d be surprised at how far down the chain that goes or just how many holdouts are out there. For instance, you might be surprised to know that as of April 2014, 26.29% of computers are still on Windows XP—a computer system that is officially not receiving any more major updates or security patches. Still more are running Windows 7—almost half of all computers in operation—an older system that is, thankfully, still receiving support. But, why update from something that works? Why change the tool?

The Machine Is More Than Its Design

The furor over Windows 8 (and 8.1) are some of the design choices that it’s made. In response to criticism and market pressure from rival Apple, Windows undertook a massive redesign project that was meant to make it more attractive, more useful, and better adapted to work on touch-based devices like smartphones and tablets. And, when used in that environment, it’s a pretty good system. (Even on a standard desktop, it’s not so bad—we here at Hillsborough Title run the equivalent of Windows 8.1 and we’ve not encountered too many problems.) But, the massively changed interface is confusing people and turning them away from these new systems because they don’t like how it looks.

But, if the computer was only how it looked, then there would be more artists and designers and fewer programmers. The computer is a tool, and the paint is only so important. Would you want to be tasked with selling a home that’s beautiful and luxurious on the exterior, fresh paint, beautiful view, the right location, but had no way to put locks on the doors and windows and had damage from previous burglaries? No—and that’s exactly what older systems represent.

The takeaway: a machine is a tool, and a tool is always more than what it looks like. Don’t let your computer be a beautiful but non-functioning device 

Click The Update Button

So, if you’re serious about security and having the best system that you can, click the update button, both for security updates (like Mac OS X’s 10.9.x updates and Windows’ 8.1 and other security packs) and for major operating system upgrades (like going from Windows 7 to Windows 8; OS X 10.8 to 10.9). If you don’t do these upgrades, you might be left with security holes in the system that allow others to get into your machine, find your personal data (including those things that are private and confidential by nature), and possibly use it for illicit purposes.

If the design is holding you back, be sure to understand: by not clicking the button you assume the risk of those security flaws and holes being used against you. Worst case scenario is data loss and theft, but viruses and malware sneak in through those holes and slow down your computer, as well. Don’t let the paint sway your purchase; the paint can change but the strength of the structure is what you should be concerned with.

The takeaway: Updates are almost always worth it, whether you like the design or not—if you’re concerned about security.

When Shouldn’t I Update?

There are a few instances where updating is not practical—usually if you’re in the IT field and you’re managing a network of computers that must work together. Updates change code and your programs might rely on the old code to work properly (or at all). If your business relies on a tool, be sure that tool is also updated to use the new code or else you might find yourself in a bind regarding your business. If your tools all operate offline and do not require any connection to the internet, you should be safe and won’t need an update (for now, anyway—there are viruses that can communicate through sound these days and infect computers not connected to a network).

Be careful about how you use your computer and make sure to apply all the updates necessary to keep your computer running at top shape and as securely as you possibly can. Maintaining good updates is a great way to defeat bugs and problems like Heartbleed—as the big companies running outdated software quickly found out.

The takeaway: You can ignore updates safely only if you know your computer well enough to not update or if you’re completely disconnected from the internet.