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  PC-Net's PC News - September, 1999
 
Don Watkins

To Update or Not to Update?

By Don Watkins

 
 
 

 

September 1999--I'm a firm believer in the old adage that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," but that begs the question, what do you do if you can't tell it's broke?

There's no question that we operate in a complex environment and with that comes a possibility of breakdown that often doesn't make it possible to fully identify the miscreant. Not being able to point a finger makes informed update decisions almost impossible. So if you can't tell that something is broken, when can you tell if you should at least update?

No easy answers
The answer is: there are no answers. I don't subscribe to updating just because it's there. Often, I've installed new versions of drivers only to find that they cause problems with other programs. Or the update just doesn't work as well as the prior version. Or, horrors! It adds memory-hungry features I don't need.

Critical updates
Therefore, I've come to the policy of identifying my critical updates. These are system components that an update has almost always helped and rarely hurt. Your list may vary but my "must update" list includes the following:
 

  • Applications. I'll almost always update such application as Office, Quicken, Norton, or data files (a virus signature file, for instance). These updates are rarely resident software (such as a video driver) and they usually come with documentation identifying exactly what it is they do. I view these as safe updates, but I still make sure that I have a good backup before I apply them.
  • Video drivers. I've had good luck with my video driver updates. Each one I've applied has helped my system performance or given me added functionality. Unfortunately, I've not found a good way to back up just video drivers short of a full system backup. So I've taken to saving the install file for each version I've downloaded, just in case a new version gives me problems. I've never had to do this and I hope it works, but I still hold my breath.
  • Windows. I always apply Windows updates from Microsoft's Windows Update site. I use the Critical Update Notification feature (available from the site) to alert me to new updates. I try to visit the site at least once a month to check for other goodies.

     

Other updates
I don't use a Winmodem, but if I did I'd consider updating drivers for that device as they were released. Otherwise, I'm very conservative about changing anything and I'll not automatically update anything else.

What's your take?
As best as I can figure, there's no right or wrong way to handle updates. I'd be interested in hearing about your approach or suggestions on a better way to do it. Drop by the message boards and tell us about it.

Tip of the month
See a Web site graphic you really dig? Right click on it in your browser and select "Set as wallpaper." That will set it up as your default desktop wallpaper. Go into your video properties (Start, Settings, Control Panel, Display), and select "stretch" in the display options box to make the image fill the desktop.

Thanks and a special tip of the hat to Alfredo Azula for this great tip.

Until next month, best in computing.

 

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