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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Every time I turn on my computer, something is updating or upgrading…

“Should I upgrade to Vista?”
“…Microsoft Office 2007?”
“What are all these Windows Updates about?”
“My old programs aren’t working right, what do I do?”
“My favorite program is offering an upgrade…should I?”
“What’s the difference between an update and an upgrade?”

The number of updates and upgrades you are offered every week is overwhelming! There are three major reasons for these:

1) To fix a flaw, or security hole, in your existing software;
2) To add features or functionality; or…
3) To sell more software!

It’s up to you, with a little help from me, to figure out which reason applies to the updates you are being offered.

Quick definition: An update is a revision to an existing version of a program; an upgrade is a completely new version of a program.

Vista vs Windows XP

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If you’re currently running Windows XP, you like your computer, are happy with its speed and capabilities, it rarely crashes – why mess with it? Operating systems (Windows XP, Vista) are notoriously finicky, and once you have one working properly you wouldn’t want to change it. You never know what’s going to happen with an upgrade.

However, if your Windows XP machine is crashing often, Vista might be your answer – just make sure your current machine meets the requirements to run Vista, and not just the minimums. If it’s an older machine, though, and needs too many upgrades to meet the requirements – consider buying a new computer. They are not expensive, and a standalone copy of Vista costs quite a bit!

If you are buying a new computer, don’t be afraid to buy Vista – a machine sold with Vista should already meet the hardware requirements and be configured to run Vista with no problems.

One more wrinkle: Microsoft is currently getting ready to release yet another operating system, called Windows 7. Originally scheduled for release in 2010, there are now murmurings that it may be released as early as next year (2009). This accelerated release date could be in response to the heavily negative response to Vista…or reminiscent of the very short lifespan of Windows ME several years back.

Upgrading Applications

While trying to decide whether to upgrade to a newer version of one of your programs (Office 2000 to Office 2007, Nero 7 to 8, etc.) consider this:

a) Does the new version have new features you need or want?
b) Is the current version not running as well as it used to?
c) Do you need a new version because you’re upgrading to Vista and the old version doesn’t work with it?

Those considerations also apply to upgrades such as printer drivers, video card drivers and “system updates” such as those offered by computer manufacturers (HP, Dell, Gateway, etc).

Security Updates and Windows Updates

This one’s easy! If Windows wants to do an update, do it! Most Windows Updates are for your protection, to prevent your system from being compromised.

If your antivirus program wants to update your virus definitions, do it. It’s important to keep up-to-date since new viruses are being written every day. However, if your antivirus company wants you to upgrade to a different version of the actual program or add new features – check it out before you do it. Many newer versions or suites can slow down your computer significantly while they are “protecting” you – making it easy to forget that the first level of protection is your own good sense.

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