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
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.
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
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
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
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.