Keeping up to date

Keeping up to date

By Richard Heller

Keeping up to date

In the past, I have pointed out the importance of keeping your anti-virus software updated. There are still people writing viruses and Trojans, though with everything else going on in the world today, they are not making the news as often. I still see people running anti-virus programs that are three or four years old. This may not be a problem if you aren’t on the Internet or never have others give you floppy disks with programs or data files, but to everyone else, the old anti-virus program is useless.

It is just as important to keep the programs and your Windows version current. After a program is written and distributed, users start discovering problems and “bugs” that were not caught as the program was being developed. Usually a program is “beta tested” before it is released for sale. During this testing, the bugs are worked out, but some will get through. Depending on the number of testers involved, there may be many or just a few bugs that get into the final product.

Because of this, it is important for you to check the software publisher’s web site to see if they have released any updates or patches. They may have also released updates that add additional features. The word processing or photo-editing program may have added support for additional printers or scanners.

Hardware manufacturers also release updated drivers for their products. The video card makers release updated drivers every few months to correct problems that appear as new software, such as games, is introduced. Games have a habit of pushing the cards to their limits, revealing bugs that were never known before.

Microsoft has a web site for program updates that is available with the click of the mouse button and an Internet connection. If you click on the Windows Update icon on the Start menu of Windows 98/ME, you will be taken to the Windows Update site. The site will check your computer and determine what updates are available and necessary for your Windows installation and allow you to download and install them.

The updates available include security updates to prevent others from accessing your files due to bugs in the Windows program. There are also updated drivers for hard drives along with support for foreign languages, additional fonts, and games, new screen savers and backgrounds.

If you update your computer to a new operating system such as Windows XP, you may find that you will have to update your drivers. Hewlett Packard has rewritten the drivers for their multi-function scanner, requiring you to do a 25-MB download. Using a dial-up Internet connection such as AOL may take three hours or more to get the update. This makes a good overnight project.

By keeping the software and drivers on your computer current, you will find that software will function better, and for most systems, you will experience fewer lock-ups and reboots. All it takes is a few minutes online at the manufacturer’s web site every month or so.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail

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