Keeping your computer up to date

Once you’ve worked with computers for even a moderate amount of time, there’s one thing that you’ll notice time and time again - Software never works correctly the first around.If you were to buy a car from Audi, you wouldn’t expect to have to take it back to the garage every couple of months to have it updated for numerous glitches, for example to stop a bug that makes the car become unstable when used in conjunction with a certain type of stereo.Computers are a different kettle of fish however.

A typical version of Microsoft Windows when it is released contains tens of thousands of bugs, some of which they know about and some of which they are yet to discover.If they were to wait until every last one had been rectified then we’d be waiting for an eternity for the product to be released which is why dynamic updating has become so popular in todays Internet society.

The manufacturers of most computing products now make a list of any bugs and defects that have been discovered in their software since the launch date and set about correcting them.Once a solution to a particular problem has been discovered, the correction is often put onto their website for members of the public to download for free.

Microsoft is probably the best example of a company that uses such a piece of technology.If you connect to the Internet and then open up Internet Explorer in the usual way then do the following: Go to ‘Tools’ and then ‘Windows Update’, after a short delay a web page will appear, now click on ‘Scan for updates’ and Internet Explorer will now go off looking for specific updates for your computer to fix known issues that have been discovered.After a minute or so, you should now select any updates that you wish to apply (if you have free Internet access then I suggest you download them all) and then click download.They will all now install onto your machine automatically, and who knows, that annoying glitch you’ve been experiencing for a while may be a widely documented problem that Microsoft corrected a long time ago.

Microsoft Office can be updated in the same way by clicking on ‘Office Update’ on the web page that first appears.Probably the best thing about both of these updates is that no information is sent to Microsoft whatsoever and so they are unable to determine anything about your computer or any personal information.Even if you are not experiencing any difficulties then I suggest you still update your machine anyway as there may be a potentially serious problem of which you are currently unaware (an Internet security vulnerability, for example).

Other, non-Microsoft software can benefit from these kinds of updates as well.For example, the Norton range of products use a program called ‘Live Update’ which does pretty much the same thing.

In addition, if you have any form of Anti-Virus software then I suggest you update this every month or so that your computer can detect the newest viruses that are continually being released.Even if the program in question doesn’t have an update program then try going to the manufactures website and having a look around to see if you can spot anything to update your software.

Finally, hardware devices (e.g. scanner, graphics card, modem etc.) are the things that benefit most from having their controlling software (known as a driver) updated.A driver is a program that lets the computer know how to control a piece of hardware that is interfacing with it; imagine it like your dad giving you instructions on how to use your legs to walk or how to use your arms to throw a ball when you were a kid.Without a driver, you could have the printer quite happily connected to your computer although the machine wouldn’t have a clue how to even start using it.The easiest way to go about updating these drivers, which will allow your hardware to run with more stability and often at a greater speed is to find out who makes individual components of your computer and their particular model numbers (the people you bought it off will be able to tell you).Once again, you can now go surfing the websites of these manufacturers looking for the updated software or head to

To summarise, don’t underestimate how much of a change can be gained from updating all the software on your computer.Last year, when I used to live back in Devon I’d often take a customers hardware away for a couple of hours and update all the drivers and software over the Internet and if they’d never done it before, the resultant increase in stability and speed was staggering for something that you could do completely free of charge.Updating isn’t for the light-hearted however, so if in doubt please read a more detailed guide from the Internet or write in and I’ll do a more detailed follow-up in the forthcoming weeks.

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.