Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Keeping Mac Software Up-to-Date

There are two schools of thought when it comes to updating software:
  1. If it's not bust, don't fix it! and
  2. Gotta have the latest-greatest
Now having the most up-to-date software is important when you're talking about system software as vulnerabilities are fixed (yes, they even exist for the mac). The easiest way to ensure this is to use the built in Software Update function (Apple -> Software Update). This route just updates Apple software but I think that every mac user should at least perform this update.

If you're like me, you'll like to keep all your software up-to-date. To update non-Apple software, there are two routes:
  1. Manually. There are a number of web sites that list updates to Mac software. The one I use is MacUpdate but others prefer VersionTracker. The main problem using this route is that you update each program, one at a time.
  2. Semi-Automatically. I call this semi-automatic rather than automatic as you still need to do something to make the update happen. VersionTracker has a pro version that allows you to set-up a listing of just the software you own. However, I'm cheap and prefer an easier option. So I use Metaquark's AppFresh. My guess is that this is software that they'll eventually charge for but right now, it's free. With Appfresh, you run the program, it looks at what software you have, compares it to known latest versions, and lets you know which programs have upgrades. You can also automatically download and install the updates from within the program. The only downside I see is that it relies on it's database (although it ties in to the iusethis database also) which is occasionally a day or so behind. However, it also ties into the Apple software updates so using this eliminates the need to also check what Apple is offering.
Finally, most programs have the ability to check for updates built into them. These functions are typically in the preferences or under the help pull-down. The main problem here is, again, you are forced to update program-by-program.

As an added bonus for any PC user that stumbled into this Mac Blog, do yourself a favor and look at the free software that FileHippo created. It does much the same thing as AppFresh does but a little better in my opinion. Instead of having to launch the software, it sits in the system tray and notifies the user automatically if there is an update available.

And a final piece of advice, PC or mac user, remember to always back-up first.

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