New Year a good time to update software


Published: Monday, January 24, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 5:49 p.m.
As a consultant, I see a lot of computers during the course of a year. And in better than nine out of 10 cases, those computers are in need of software updates, and in most cases, a lot of updates. Staying on top of software updates can seem daunting, but developing a system of staying updated can save a lot of headaches in the longer term and help keep your computer closer to like-new performance.
For most PC users, the first place to start is www.windowsupdate.com. This is Microsoft's central Web site to provide security and other updates for the Windows operating system. If your computer uses the Windows XP operating system, it's likely time to bite the bullet and download XP Service Pack 2, as long as you have a high-speed connection. Otherwise, you many find it takes days to download an update that may end up being corrupted anyway.
A Windows XP Service Pack 2 update usually consists of 75-120MB of data, depending on how long it has been since you did major updates. If you have a dial-up connection, it's best to order the update on a CD.
XP Service Pack 2 is a major update, and includes a large number of security upgrades, including a built-in pop-up blocker in Windows Explorer. However, Web surfers who frequently use sites that offer useful content in pop-ups may find numerous features require extra clicks to get through the pop-up blocker. XP Service Pack 2 also includes other security upgrades designed to stop Active X controls and other possible sources of viruses from being downloaded to your computer. However, since sites like www.microsoft.com offer a lot of content and especially software downloads this way, it can be a little annoying to find yourself on Microsoft's own site using Microsoft software which is blocking Microsoft from delivering desired content, especially software updates.
A suggestion for the folks from Redmond - if you're going to be this aggressive about security, give users a chance to list "trusted Web sites" where they don't have to fight to get content. Otherwise, users will be tempted to start switching off security protections trying to stop the annoyances, and end up even less protected as a result.
The next place to look for software updates is at the home page of your computer manufacturer. Many makers have software on their PCs, or Web sites, that can automatically determine your computer's current configuration and suggest the appropriate upgrades. However, it's also a good idea to look around a manufacturer's site for other upgrades that may not be offered through the automated process.
Microsoft Office users should make a visit to www.officeupdate.com. All Microsoft Office products have numerous software updates released on an ongoing basis, and this is the place to get them. Be prepared to spend a long time here on a dial-up connection, as some of the updates can be in excess of 25MB of data. Also be prepared to have your original Office CDs handy, or most of the updates will not install. And of course, updating the latest definitions for anti-virus and adware/spyware programs is always a must. Be sure your programs are set to automatically update whenever possible, if not, make sure to update and run full system scans at least once a week.
Tom Meek is a computer and media consultant whose column appears on Mondays in WorkLife. He can be reached at webgator@bellsouth.net or via www.tvccs.com. His columns also are available at www.gainesvillesun.com.

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