by Fred Langa for Windows Secrets Newsletter
Auto-Update Your Software with Caution
The promise and perils of effortless updating
The theory is great: general-purpose automatic software updaters work to keep your entire PC up to date with minimal hassle.
Typical auto-updaters scan your system to learn the version numbers of the software you’ve installed. Then they compare those version numbers against their databases of current version numbers. If a given piece of installed software isn’t current, the updater software either notifies you that a newer version is available or (if you authorize it) automatically downloads and installs the new version for you.
But there can be problems.
For one thing, a higher version number shouldn’t be an automatic green light for updating because newer versions aren’t always better than the old. Sometimes a patch or an update creates new problems that are worse than whatever issue the update was designed to correct.
This is especially true with experimental or unfinished alpha and beta software releases and with drivers (software that Windows uses to control a system’s hardware).
Why newer versions aren’t always better
For example, in recent years hardware vendors have tried to simplify their driver libraries with unified driver architectures, where one driver package may support a wide range of hardware products and versions.
A new release of the driver package may be intended to correct a bug or glitch within any one of the many products and versions the package supports. But the new driver version might have absolutely nothing to do with your specific setup. If you constantly chase the newest driver versions, you could be churning your system to no purpose. You risk introducing new bugs, instabilities, and other trouble for no good reason.
This kind of problem illustrates why all update tools (including Windows Update) need to be approached and used with caution. In that regard, Susan Bradley’s regular Patch Watch column here in Windows Secrets can be a godsend.