Dymin Blog

How Often Should I Update My Computer Software?

Posted by Mike Hurt on Mar 7, 2017 10:58:00 AM


Nothing lasts forever, and in the world of computers and electronics, lifespans seem to be getting shorter and shorter. New versions of devices and programs come out so frequently that it’s almost impossible to keep everything completely up-to-date. But there’s good news: you don’t always have to.

This may seem counterintuitive, but you really don’t need to worry about updating your programs as much as all the internet tipsters make you think you do.


Operating System Software

Operating system (OS) software such as Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X should generally be kept up-to-date, but these programs actually do a great job at keeping themselves updated with minor patches and fixes as they are released without the need for a complete upgrade. You should run an OS version that is absolutely no older than two versions prior to the latest. The latest Windows OS release is Windows 10, so you shouldn’t run anything older than the two prior versions, Windows 8/8.1 or Windows 7; the current Mac OS X is called Sierra, and the prior two versions are El Capitan and Yosemite. In practical terms, this means you can generally skip a generation of two of total OS upgrades.  


Productivity Software

Software that you use for day-to-day productivity like reading and creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations (e.g, Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat Professional, Adobe PhotoShop, etc.) can generally go longer without being updated. Updates to these kinds of programs typically add new features and functionality but don't make massive, significant changes. This means that you are less likely to run the risk of having critical compatibility issues if you’re still using older versions of the programs, but you do need to make sure the version of the program is still supported by your Operating System. Because newer OS versions typically limit the versions of software that can be installed, it’s a good rule of thumb to use versions that are no older than the last three releases (currently Office 2016, 2013, or 2010).


Business Management Software

On the other hand, it’s vital that you keep programs that you use to run your business, like QuickBooks, Sage Peachtree, ACT!, and GoldMine, up to date. Programs like these typically have regular minor updates and then major updates every 1-2 years. You shouldn’t run a version older than one prior to the latest. "Cloud software" or "software-as-a-service" (SaaS) products are one way to ensure that you always have the most up to date versions of your programs. These options require no on-premise servers and no installation or manual updating, and the software is automatically and constantly kept current.


Virus & Malware Protection Software

All "paid" protection software and most "free" virus and malware protection software will keep themselves automatically up to date. However, if you're using a paid product, this only happens for as long as you have a subscription! Make sure you take care of renewal as soon as you get a notification. Many virus infections happen because a user lets their protection software lapse. Make sure you have the right software to protect your system from malware, spyware, viruses, and other security threats; contact an IT professional to design a protection program that’s perfect for you.


Games & Entertainment Software

While it’s not usually necessary to update games and other entertainment software, older games will have difficulty running on operating system software that is significantly newer that when the game was released. These problems can not only impair your enjoyment but can also impede the general functionality of your system and the performance of other programs. Upgrading your favorite games and entertainment software when you update your OS is probably a good idea.


What if I let my software get too outdated?

Running extremely outdated software can actually cause major problems, but you're generally not running a significant risk unless you’re using software that is 8-10+ years old. Aside from missing out on new features that can really save time and enhance your experience in using your programs, a lot of programs that use "databases" can have major issues in preserving your years of data from a very old version of software when you do decide to finally upgrade.

An excellent example is one experienced by a Dymin customer who was using Quicken software to manage her personal finances. This customer was using the 2003 version of the software—at the time the year was 2015—and had financial records going all the way back to the 80s. When she needed to purchase a new computer, the 2003 version of the software was no longer compatible with the Windows 10 operating system. Purchasing the new 2015 version of the software was no problem, but the data from the 2003 version could not be imported into the computer running the 2015 version because the versions were so different. In the end, she wound up purchasing an extra copy of the 2008 version of the Quicken software and paying for several hours of technician support time; despite this, she still had lost some data and had to spend hours re-entering records manually. Don't let this happen to you!


If you’re unsure whether you should upgrade or replace your computer systems or software, give the experienced Dymin tech team a call. Our professionals can help you with all of your Des Moines computer cleaning services, computer repair, software upgrade, and computer set up services. Visit our Urbandale showroom for the best selection of computer parts and accessories in the area or contact us to find out about our in home computer repair services today.

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Topics: computer repair, business information, computer maintenance

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