1. An update is a software file that contains fixes for problems found by other users or the software developer. Installing an update fixes the code and prevents the problems from happening on your computer. Because updates fix problems with a program, they are almost always free and available through the program or the companies website.
Why do I need to update?
As mentioned above, updates are necessary to fix any problems with a software program or hardware device that were not detected before the product was released to the public.
How to update a program
Unfortunately, there is no standard for how software programs can be updated on your computer. However, we've listed the general guidelines that can be followed when looking to update a program.
- Online programs - Any program that connects to the Internet should automatically check for updates when it is first run.
- Help menu - Pressing the F1 key or accessing the help menu from the File menu should have the option to check for updates.
- Operating system - All operating systems today are updated using software included with the operating system.
- OEM program - An OEM computer (e.g. Dell or HP) often include assistant programs to assist with checking and downloading any updates for the pre-installed programs included with the computer. For example, HP includes the HP support assistant program for managing updates.
What happens if I don't update?
There are several things that can happen if you do not update, below are the most common symptoms you would encounter if you do not update.
- Fix errors - Most updates fix errors and if you don't update you'll get those errors.
- Security vulnerabilities - Updates also patch security holes, if you don't update your personal information may be compromised.
- Fix conflicts - It is not uncommon to discover conflicts with other programs and hardware. If you don't update, conflicts may happen and cause problems with other programs.
What are update versions?
To help categorize the unique states of computer software as it is developed and released, each update has a version number (e.g. version 1.0 being the first version of a program). When a software program is updated, it changes the version of the program to help identify the fixes that have been applied. See our version page for further information on this term.
Differences between software upgrades and updates
An update and upgrade are two different things. Updates are usually free and typically very small. An upgrade is usually not free and much larger. For example, if you have Windows XP and want Windows 7 you would "upgrade" to Windows 7. However, if you had Windows 7 and needed to install fixes for security vulnerabilities or other problems you would "update" Windows. See the upgrade definition for information on this term.
2. The process of running an update on the computer that installs the latest up-to-date code and fixes. For example, Computer Hope may recommend updating your software to resolve an issue you may be experiencing.