How-To Geek

Ask The Readers: How Do You Manage Updates?

Note: This article is part of our archive and is likely out of date.
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Your operating system, your apps, your phone, even the GPS unit in your car: these days just about everything needs updates and patches. How do you track and stay on top of all the updates?

This week we’re interested in hearing your tips and tricks for keeping atop the myriad of updates and patches that seem to come at us non-stop. Do you automate it? Set reminders? Use programs or web-apps to stay on top of it for you? Whatever your on-top-of-updates workflow, we want to hear all about it.

Sound off in the comments with your update-centered advice and then check back on Friday for the What You Said roundup.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/18/12

Comments (49)

  1. brunlea

    mine is always set for auto update for windows.

  2. Que

    ♥ Package managers! My current desktop is Arch, which is rolling release. Unless there is a particular update I need, I just do a full system update with my monthly computer clean (slightly OCD when it comes to computers).
    Tips would be to check the web for any major update bugs and make backups of important docs. It can also pay to back up some of your config files.

  3. Tomas

    I do the occational ‘sudo yum update’ :)

  4. r

    On any particular server I usually check for all of its updates once I’m prompted or obligated to update something in particular. On my mobile workstation I update when I need, or come across an available update,…mostly all directly through Dell, easy stuff.

  5. Usman

    Manage updates? They manage me. =/

    Installing update (1 of 500)
    Do not turn off or unplug your computer


  6. megageektutorials

    I check to see what they are, usually uncheck the stupid Microsoft office live 2012 word add on software, and click download. As for iOS. Check to make sure it will work with my device, and click update all. I have major OCD when it comes to notifications.

  7. Grant

    I am using the Debian package manager. It is set through the anacron daily to check for updates and download, but not install them. If there is anything, I get email. The first thing I do is check what happens if I remove the package, especially if it is a security patch. If it can have a security hole, and it is not supporting anything I need, good bye. Then I allow it to do the updates. I have only ever had it break things once, a Ubuntu machine broke X. About 3 hours later, the fix came out, so I ran the updates again, and everything worked.

  8. Asgaro

    I use
    It’s brilliant! Because a lot of stuff I have installed is actually available on that site!

    And occasionally also

  9. LadyFitzgerald

    I set MS to automatically download updates but I manually install them. I like to wait two or three days to make sure no problems are reported, then install at my convenience.

    Major applications are also set to automatically download updates but I manually install them when it’s convenient.

    I use Secunia PSI to check all of my applications to make sure they are up to date. It automatically scans my computer about once a week and notifies me if anything needs updating.

  10. Ryan

    I let windows automatically check for updates and notify my for approval when they are available. I use FileHippo’s update checker on demand since a lot of the software I get is from them. Anything else I just allow it to automatically check for updates so I can be notified of it.

    I manually check Google Play around once a day to check for new app updates and only allow the ones I want to update. I have one or two apps that I don’t wish to upgrade because the most recent version does not live up to the older version in my opinion.

  11. indianacarnie

    I use Secunia. It tracks all major and most of the minor programs on my machine and tells me when any particular one has an update available. Been using it for couple of years now and am very happy with it.

  12. TechGeek01

    For most of my programs, like CCleaner, I can turn on autoupdate. That way, They’ll update themselves (or at least tell me to update). For everything else, I use the built-in Windows Update. However, that will not cover my ROM of CyanogenMod 9 for my Kindle Fire. Lucky me, I know people, and can comtact a friend to see if he has an updated ROM. It’s not the easiest solution in the world, and it may not be the most practical, but it gets the job done, and it doesn’t require me to install any third-party software on any of my devices to manage updates.

    However, I do have two Windows ME and Windows 98 computers. Those, being so old, will probably never be upgraded, unless it involves replacing parts and upgradingthe entire OS. However, they still work beautifully for their age, and are a great way to test new software, and figure out what I’m doing whem it comes to digging into a computer withoutg destroying my good computers.

  13. williewillus

    sudo pacman -Syu

  14. oktboer

    sudo yum update && sudo yum upgrade

  15. Ben

    Filehippo scanner around once a month to make sure everything’s up to date.

  16. rOBzUC

    For Windows => Windows Update.
    For most of my programs => I turn on autoupdate
    For my beloved portable apps => I visit page every day.

  17. gr8geek

    I update when something is slow (on windows). On ubuntu machine I use the upgrade manager.

  18. starfury6
  19. coolkid3245

    Use windows updates every 1 week. LOL that was easy.

  20. IT-Guy

    I use, it helps with browser plugin updates and windows update is set to automatic, AND I reboot when it needs to reboot, some people fail to do that. : )

  21. Dado

    sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade -y

  22. lizbit

    WSUS offline, it downloads to one spot (hard drive) all the latest released updates, copy to flash drive and spend an entire Saturday at work every 6 months and do everyone one shot. I turn off all automatic updates on the PC’s, it hardly works half the time anyway. Then everyone gets a cleanup and a defrag, if they treat the PC’s with respect then thats about all maintanence needed, unless ofcourse hardware or program failure.

  23. Clarence

    I have e-mail that alerts me to updates and I then download and install them. Some updates are just installed automatically. (Windows, etc.) and others are set to notify me and then I install them. On some things, I may leave as is. (Some drivers that have caused me trouble as an example and some apps that I like that you can’t get updates for.

  24. TBOD

    Most software today ask for permission to automatically check for updates periodically and I always allow them, but never let them automatically install since if they do, and something breaks, it takes too long to figure out why. So, I do the install manually.

    About once a month I check manually for BIOS and driver updates. Intel and AMD for example now doth auto-detect your hardware and provide a list of updates.

  25. Saeed Iranzad

    Briefly speaking, I use File Hippo update checker for application softwares and Slim Drivers for updating my laptop drivers.
    And windows update itself automatically.

  26. deno

    I mostly use windows auto update, some time it can be annoying because all of sudden you see windows restarting, I select the option, download updates but dont install until them until I select them..

    Also for GPS updates, usually I connect my tomtom navigation device to my PC, and if there are updates the tomtom software usually tells me If there are pending updates ,also I have the via 1405 with lifetime maps and traffic updates so I have to update maps as well.. so every 6 months I need to plugin for more updates and features, now it even tells speed on local roads not only highways.. its great

    Regarding other updates I have a basic phone so far so dont need any updates.. lol, planning the Iphone 5

    Is it necessary for us to alwways download update on every piece of software with very little changes? For ex I use ccleaner every 10 days it has new update?


  27. motang

    I manage my devices the best I can, but I do auto updates on my phone, and I have auto update setup on my father’s computer.

  28. Stephanie

    Living in South Africa where the internet is super expensive comparing to US and Europe. Can’t enable auto updates and have to be really selective. I’ve become pro in finding all possible updates and getting rid of notifications though

  29. Gian-Luigi Valle

    I leave ubuntu to do it itself. I get a window, type in my sudo password and that keeps everything up to date. One thing that makes me love linux.

  30. PTR

    Tried TechTracker from CNET, but got a lot of false positives. Plus its a hassle to download sometimes through CNET.

    I’ve been using Secunia PSI for years and its great. Does everything I need it to.

  31. George

    Windows Update: Turn off updates, AVG: Turn on updates, Funny Chrome Notification Extension: Notify me of [website that lists good windows updates]

  32. TheFu

    To the Windows people thinking that automatic updates covers you – it does not. That is just OS patches, not Adobe, Firefox, email program, and those 500 other programs that you loaded, tried 5 times and never use again. Even the commercial programs have issues and need to be patched. The best answer I’ve seen for this is to use ninite and re-run the installer weekly. According to a principle there, this will reinstall the latest versions of those tools for you. I think there are other solutions like this.

    To all the Apple people thinking they are patched. Even if you load all the updates from Apple every day, Apple will be 2 years behind on some *bsd or F/LOSS package updates, so you are screwed. It is really very scary how far behind Apple/OSX is.

    To all the smug Linux people saying …. $ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
    I’m with you. We should be smug. ;) OTOH, another Debian openssh-server bug could be introduced at any time by any of the 500 F/LOSS teams, so our smugness should really only be around package management, not real security.

    Patching and updates really are easier on Linux, but only if you don’t stray too far off the reservation and stay with trusted PPAs and repositories.

  33. TheFu

    Coincidentally, just saw CVE-2012-2110 for openssl

    Can’t be too smug. This probably impacts anyone using OpenSSL for any purpose – ssh, https, apache, VPNs, OSX, Linux, BSD, Solaris, AIX, …. . You get the idea.

    Look for updates to all our browsers, email programs, etc in the next few days.

  34. Anonymous

    Windows is easy. I never activate it and after 3 months it’s so clogged up with old junk (like .NET patches) I just do a clean re-install. (Yes, you can run Windows Vista/7 for 3 months without activating since you can just reset the 30-day countdown 3 times, therefore 30 times 3 equals 90 days.) And in the interim I will let Windows update when there’s an update to be had. But that’s about it.

    As far as my cell phone goes, I just use a plain old (cheap) flip phone that never needs updating. And since it’s illegal to text and drive or allow one’s self to be distracted while driving in my State it doesn’t make much sense to get anything more capable. And if I have to get on the Internet I’ll probably be using a tablet or netbook anyway – not my phone.

    GPS device updates might make sense if I had one! I’m pretty old school and use cheap maps or just “Google” what I’m looking for before I leave.

    What else is there?

  35. jarcmaster

    virtualbox witqh Windows xp :Automatically until Microsoft decides to stops its updates.
    Virtualbox with Windows 7 : Automatically by windows update.
    ubuntu 10 : Manually I hate Trinity so I update only security packages and that, ubuntu messed really up by imposing trinity, hope they retract back that mistake
    Htc Android phone: Manually on most of apps, many times updates remove a particular well made feature or impost banners and that.
    Gps: everytime I got a turn on a bad direction or one way street.
    Ipad: automatically
    Apple tv : last time i was to sleep I put it and was surprised by the dramatic change on the Gui

  36. danmeyer

    I use Secunia PSI and CNET Tech tracker. I disable all startup programs that automatically checks for updates in the system configuration (msconfig) for a faster boot time and less CPU usage.

  37. Ramona

    I use Secunia, it’s a neat little program that keeps on top of everything and lets you know when you need to update and directs you to the update as well. =)

  38. D

    I use aptitude

  39. philippe mommaerts

    Iuse secunia…’s the best….checkitout…its free

  40. Joseph

    Auto Windows updates on Windows desktops whenever I can. I check for updates on my Android Galaxy S II phone 2 or 3 times a week, my wife’s iPhone my iPod Touch and our iPads, check once a week at least.
    It is a pain to get behind due to all those little files becoming BIG files if too far behind like happened with all the app updates for the iPads with the intro of the new model. 78 updates? and they just keep coming!
    Forget the OCD on playing games, for me OCD is keeping everything updated and current!

  41. LadyFitzgerald

    @ leno. You asked, “Is it necessary for us to alwways download update on every piece of software with very little changes?”

    Excellent question. the answer is, it depends. Some updates are security updates, designed to correct design flaws that could cause the program to make your computer more vulnerable to attack. Those updates should be installed or the program uninstalled.

    Another form of update is to add new or additional definitions to anti-malware programs. Those are essential to insure the programs they update will properly do their job.

    Other updates are intended to improve functionality or add new features to a program. Those do not always need to be installed. Often, program changes may render a program less desireable to the user. In those cases, you are better off to not update and keep on using the earlier version.

    The trick is know which updates are security related and which are just program enhancements. Often, the program itself will tell you what the update is for. Another way is to let a program like Secunia PSI check to see if a program has any security related updates.

  42. sudobash

    If I ever update I compile the new updates from source and install them. Slackware is a rather do-it-yourself distro. Because of this I only update when I want something, I never do arbitrary updates.

  43. MMJ

    All I can say is I wish I handled them better. I’ve been booting with Hiren’s Boot CD because another of MS updates deleted or corrupted my boot sequence—the third or fourth time. The time before last, a boot partition was installed. That worked great until an update last August knocked out that out. I still have the partition, but the machine won’t boot to that or the main.

    I finally used Hiren’s (still looking for my misplaced XP disks) and have been booting from the hard drive using Hiren’s help. Once the system is up and running—though now booting takes about 20 minutes from power on to login screen—I have no issues. I can access the files on both partitions, etc. I just can’t kick start the boot without the CD.

    Maybe MS updates aren’t to blame, but it’s too coincidental that each time the boot sequence is screwed up, it’s been after an update.

  44. Paul Blodgett

    Hi; I use Secunia PSI ,Try it you’ll like it!

  45. Joseph

    Windows 7 is on auto-update, unless the notification center decides to bug me for some reason. Windows XP sorta just sits there; I don’t really use it every since I got a new laptop. I let Windows programs update when needed, which usually ends up to be when I use them after leaving them sit for a while. Ubuntu and Ubuntu applications I update at the end of every month using the update manager, duh, or when something new and exciting comes out. My Zune HD receives no firmware updates, because for the most part Zune, as a device, is dead. So there’s no need for concern there. My Samsung Flash Focus updates whenever it decides to nag me about it getting old and senile as a smart phone.

  46. Bill Pendleton

    Auto windows updates *seems* to be safe. A recommendation I heard, that may be credible is “Never accept the popup update, ALWAYS go the the site and download the avaliable update(s).”

  47. Alex M

    package manager on linux obviously and filehippo’s update checker covers me on windows

  48. Ollivierre

    I manage them by turning them off. They are just a waste of time,space and bandwidth

  49. Pirahnya

    UPDATES. The bane of our existence. A pox on them, I say. I turn off every single update I am able to. Windows… please, really? Every friggin’ day, all day? Wait for an SP release. Some apps I wait months before updating. Found out that you HAVE to update Adobe Flash or your streaming video won’t work. DivX updates reassign ALL video files to DivX Player. I dread updates. I am frightened because their ways are strange to me.

    Really. Updates. Societies will fall. Maybe they missed that last update.

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