How to Keep Applications Up-to-Date

Operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS X come with large complements of application programs. Nonetheless, most people will install other applications besides those that came with the operating system: web browsers, word processors, spreadsheets, music managers, media players, games, ... the list is endless. Although the makers of these applications try to produce quality products, it's a fact of life that, from time to time, defects, or "bugs," will be discovered. Although some application software includes functionality that checks for bug fixes (usually called security patches) and installs them automatically, most doesn't. Instead, the application creators release new versions of the software, which you have to download and install to obtain the fixes. Keeping your applications up-to-date is just as important as updating your operating system; if you don't, it's much more likely that your computer could be infected with malicious software (viruses, worms, etc.) or accessed by a hacker. This is especially true of web browsers and streaming media players such as Flash and Quicktime.

Note: This page describes how to keep third party application software up-to-date. For information on keeping operating system software up-to-date, see How to Enable Operating System Updates.

Updating Your Applications

Follow the steps below to keep your application software up-to-date.

  1. Configure your web browser for automatic updates (if you have more than one web browser installed, make sure to configure all of them):
    1. Internet Explorer (Windows) and Safari (Mac OS X) are updated as part of the operating system.
    2. Google Chrome checks for updates and applies them automatically every time the browser is started.
    3. Mozilla Firefox includes automatic updates beginning with Firefox 12 (released in April 2012). If you're using an earlier version of Firefox, upgrade to the latest version.
    4. Opera checks for updates and installs them automatically every time the browser is started.
  2. Enable automatic updates for other applications that offer them. Some applications will both check for updates and install them automatically; other applications will check for updates or new versions and let you know when they're available, but you have to install the updates manually.
    1. Microsoft Office updates are installed automatically on Windows 7 and Windows Vista if operating system updates have been enabled. On Windows XP, the Microsoft Updates utility will also install Office updates, but the older Windows Update utility will not.
  3. If you're using Windows, consider installing the Secunia Personal Software Inspector, a free tool that identifies the applications on your computer that need updates, and can also automatically download and install them. See http://secunia.com/vulnerability_scanning/personal/ for more information.
  4. If you're using Windows, consider using the FileHippo.com Update Checker, a free tool that identifies applications on your computer that have new versions available, and helps you download and install them. See http://filehippo.com/updatechecker/  for more information.
  5. If you're using Mac OS X, consider installing metaquark AppFresh, a free tool that helps you to keep all applications, widgets, preference panes, and application plug-ins installed on your Mac up to date. See
     http://metaquark.de/appfresh/mac for more information.

Applicability

The New School recommends that all application software, whether installed on computers owned by the university or computers owned by individual faculty, staff, and students, be kept up-to-date.

Responsibility

The Office of Information Technology is responsible for ensuring that IT-installed applications on university-owned computers are kept up-to-date. The New School Information Resource Acceptable Use Policy prohibits interfering with this process.

Individual faculty and staff are responsible for ensuring that personally-installed applications on university-owned computers are kept up-to-date.

Individual faculty, staff, and students are responsible for ensuring that applications installed on their personally-owned computers are kept up-to-date.

References