I find that many applications (and the operating system itself) want to automatically update themselves.
Trouble is, if your use of your computer is for more than just frivolous entertainment, auto-updating behavior can happen at a bad time and really throw a monkey wrench into things.
For example, let's say you really need to get some work done right away, and at the moment you boot up your computer you find Windows Updates start going in, delaying the bootup. Or once you're up and running Office updates itself. Or maybe Windows Update delivers a printer driver that unexpectedly leaves you unable to print - or your monitor color profile was updated unexpectedly and now your colors in your photo editing software are messed up. The list goes on.
The worst time to have to deal with the side effects of an unexpected update is right when you need your computer the most.
The best answer seems to be: Set everything so that you're notified of available updates, but they're not installed automatically without your giving the go ahead.
Unfortunately, software makers are catering more and more to the "computing for dummies" audience, who really don't want to be bothered with computer maintenance chores. Or maybe the "lazy" audience who somehow never gets around to applying updates unless they're forced.
Whatever the reason, I know I find automatically applied updates exactly wrong, and prefer to choose when to apply them. Right now the only thing that auto-updates on my system without my go-ahead is my anti-malware database.
Trouble is, setting up a system to work this way this isn't trivial, so I thought maybe a thread on how to manage update behavior would be good. Let's discuss everything from Windows Updates to application updates here.
Here's an initial suggestion...
- Set Windows Update to use one of the alternate settings other than "Install updates automatically (recommended)". I personally use the "Never check for updates (not recommended)" setting.
- Optionally, use a 3rd party tool such as WUNotify to check for updates and notify you in a less intrusive fashion when updates become available. WUNotify tells me via a System Tray notification when updates are available; I never get a complete screen overlay warning me to install updates from Microsoft.
- When notified of an available set of updates, look over the number of them and their sizes to give you an idea of about how long and intrusive the process is likely to be. Maybe it's not appropriate right now, since you have work to do, or maybe your backup isn't up to date. So you can plan when to apply them.
- I also suggest, when notified, that you use the "More Information" links provided for each update to know what's going in for each update. It's good to know when you're getting a whole block of bugfixes or a security fix or a new version of a component like the browser, and you may choose to exclude some (e.g., a display driver release where you know you're up to date from the video card maker's web site already). Some knowledge is always better than guessing what they're updating.
Similar things can be done for most every application, though setting this up can be non-trivial in some cases. I'll put more in subsequent posts about how to manage updates for browser add-ons, desktop accessories, etc.