Updates can be the bane of your life sometimes. They pop up on your phone, tablet and computer and demand to be installed. Sometimes this means restarting your device, which is just another annoyance, and sometimes (particularly with phones) they seem to do more harm than good. This opinion has stopped several people from installing updates and security patches on their computers, for fear of inconvenience. But really, a security patch isn’t just a developer trying to interrupt your day – it’s actually an incredibly important part of keeping your devices and your data safe from viruses and malware, all of which could cause you much more trouble than the patch itself.
Patches (also known as a software updates) are released by developers for a variety of reasons. Most often, they are designed to upgrade your software to the latest versions, install new features, improve performance and to fix bugs and problems that have been discovered in previous versions. Sometimes an update will improve the stability of a programme, or to fix a gap in security within your system. All kinds of patches are important for their own reasons, but the security patch is arguably one of the most important – as it protects your computer and keeps it running.
Now, in our last post we talked about the benefits of not installing Windows 10 right away, and instead leaving it a while until all of the bugs have shaken out. So it might seem a bit odd that we are telling you to install updates straight away. But there is a fundamental difference between waiting to install a brand new operating system and keeping the one you have installed updated.
Recent research shows that installing system and software updates is the best defence against the most common viruses and malware online. But they are also great for protecting against new, and less common viruses. You might think that a software company would design their software to be secure, and make sure it was safe to use before selling it, and that is exactly what they do. But new viruses are being written every day, and it’s a constant battle to plug up the loopholes these viruses use before they can get there. So software creators release updates and patches which address these specific threats when they come to their attention. By downloading these patches and installing them, you are protecting your computer and patching the vulnerabilities that virus writers rely on to infect it.
There are 2 kinds of updates you need to be on the lookout for during day-to-day use. The first is an operating system update, and the second is more specific to software and applications. For Windows and OS X, the process for updating your operating system is very simple. Both operating systems deliver regular updates, notifying you with a pop up message on your screen. All you need to do is click a few times, possibly restart your computer, and you are done. If you don’t want to wait for the update notification, you can run an update check instead. For Macs, just click the Apple menu in the top left corner of your screen and select ‘software update’ and the checks will run automatically and tell you if updates are required. For a Windows PC, run the Windows Update programme and follow the installation instructions for any new updates or patches.
Keeping your general operating system up to date is essential to protect your computer and keep it performing well, but individual software applications may require updates as well. In particular, programmes such as Adobe Flash, Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Office require regular security and performance updates, and these are almost as important as your main operating system. Usually these programmes will run checks for updates while they are open, and will notify you when updates are made available. This does mean that you should periodically run all of your applications – especially the ones you don’t use often, to check for updates and security patches.
And there you have it. Patches and updates, particularly when they relate to security, should be a part of your day-to-day computer maintenance. It might seem like a trivial thing, but these security patches are the cement that secures your computer against viruses, hackers and other unwanted visitors. You wouldn’t build your house and just leave holes where the doors and windows should be, so why would you leave gaps in your computer security?