How often are you getting messages on your computer that your Operating System (OS) is in need of an update? Those little pop-ups – triggered by your current OS – are more than just a nuisance. They're warnings of a sort. Warnings you say? Yep… truth is, they are. Why? Lots of reasons.

Regardless of what computer you own – a Windows based PC, a Mac, laptop or desktop – the manufacturers of those computers are constantly bumping up the performance of their software and hardware to meet the demands of today's technology. Sometimes that entails minor patches to current systems. Other times it means a whole host of updates and upgrades to both software and hardware. Keeping your system up to date is one of the most important things you can do to keep your machine running at its peak.


Both Windows and Mac computers are set up to automatically look for updates and patches. They do so by first knowing what OS you're currently on then they match uninstalled patches that are available for that OS. Many of those patches were created to close vulnerabilities that have crept up since the initial launch of the OS version you're on. Some are simply upgrades that allow the OS to take full advantage of new technology, be they new features in Internet Browsers, Social Media or Apps. Either way, patches play a big role in your systems health.

Not updating opens the door to trouble. Security issues remain the top reason manufacturers put out these patches. A system that has not been updated is subject to viruses, malware or hacking of all types. Should you not know for sure if your system has available updates, look for a "Check for Updates" option in your Help menu. That's something you'll need to do if you've unchecked the "automatic updates" feature in your operating system's preferences.

These types of updates are easily done... usually just a click and follow instructions routine. Once the update is done you'll be prompted to restart and voila.... you are done!


This one gets a little trickier for the layman. It may have been years and years since you've upgraded, and considering that most systems see completely new OS's every two or three years, you might find yourself a couple of upgrades behind. Often that means you'll need to purchase upgrades from one version to the next to get to the next highest level – and yes, that means you may have to upgrade a couple of times to get to where you want to be. That in itself can be a daunting task for the average computer user.

There's also the fact that some OS upgrades were in fact considered a mistake. Many users panned Windows 8 as being a huge step backward in speed, reliability and usability. When preparing to upgrade your OS it's best to do your homework and choose to upgrade to a version that has definite benefits with few or no drawbacks.

The most commonly used computer operating systems today are Microsoft's Windows and Apple's Macintosh OS 10. Both have different versions of the OS (for example: 8, 7, Vista and XP for Windows and 10.9 or "Mavericks" and 10.8 or "Mountain Lion" for Macintosh) so you may find that some updates only affect specific versions.

Things to know about updating your computer software

What you use your computer for dictates what software you've installed. Sure, every system comes with standard software like text editors, calendars, basic imaging programs and the like. However, most of us have some specific tasks that require more robust programs like Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDemand and Dreamweaver) or even more advanced software like CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) and animation programs like Maya or 3D Studio Max. When those programs go out of date you'll certainly miss out on the latest and greatest tools of the trade.

While most updates/upgrades are fairly straightforward, many are not. Take for example the issue of a new version of your favorite software being incompatible with your current Operating System. You can't upgrade until you upgrade your OS to a level that supports the features of that new software.

Should you have thousands of dollars invested in software that still does the job for you but would like to upgrade just a couple of programs, it may be wise to partition your hard drive (HDD) before you upgrade to a newer OS. Why? Because you can in fact run two different OS's on one computer – the old OS your current programs run on and the new OS for the new programs you'd like to be using. For most people, partitioning drives is outside their comfort zone. If that's you, think about having a professional do the work for you.

Patches for software like those mentioned above are common and are pretty easy to handle. Don't dismiss the importance of completing those updates/fixes. A prime example is the ever popular Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat Reader for PDF files. PDF's are here perhaps the most common document saving/sharing format. As such, Acrobat sees more than its fair share of targeted hacking. Don't update and you may end up with big problems. If anything, disable the "Enable Acrobat JavaScript" option as that's the most common component of Acrobat targeted by hackers.

Upgrading computer hardware

Hardware updates are usually meant to increase system speed, storage space, video playback quality and speed. Other upgrades include adding BlueRay drives, video cards to allow for multiple displays and host of peripherals like printers, scanners and drawing tablets like Wacom. Many are plug and play, some require a bit more technical knowledge to install and get running. Where most people get into trouble is in trying to upgrade with hardware that's not compatible with the OS and/or current versions of software used.

Hard drive upgrades are perhaps the scariest for the average user. Knowing what to do to back up all your data before you pull the old drive can get complex. We've seen plenty of folks who thought they could do it. In the end they lose important files. When in doubt, call a pro.


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