Guest feature by Jeremy Kolko, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

You've probably seen a prompt on your computer regarding software updates. The updates could be from various software packages, or from the operating system itself.  This article is to help explain why software updates are needed, and how to ensure the update is legitimate.

Software updates often occur for a few reasons:

  • Security fixes, where an exploit has been discovered must be patched. 
  • Bug fixes, where something is fixed which previous did not work properly. 
  • New features, or enhancements, to improve the software.
  • Driver updates for hardware.  Drivers are a bit different than software packages as drivers are used by the operating system to work properly with hardware components, such as a video card or a printer. 

Software can include components, such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Reader, and can also include the Operating system itself, such as Windows 8 or Linux.

Since most PCs are Windows based, this article will focus on Windows updates, and the common software updates that occur in a Windows environment. 

Windows Operation System

Automatic updates are enabled by default for Windows.  This helps protect users from security exploits that have been discovered.  This also keeps built-in components, like the built-in web browser Internet Explorer updated. 

Microsoft typically releases patches on "Patch Tuesday", the second Tuesday of every month.  In the case of a critical patch, or a fix to a previous update, an "out of band" update can occur. This indicates a security patch needed immediate release, or a recent update needs additional patches applied on a date other than ‘Patch Tuesday’.  

Since the updates are often related to security, you may be prompted to reboot your PC.  This is essential for the update to be implemented.  If ‘old’ versions of a components are running with an exploit that has been discovered, you are not truly protected until the update has been fully applied, including a reboot.

Windows updates can also include new driver updates, which may improve compatibility or performance fixes for hardware devices, such as video cards or printers. 

Common Software Packages in Windows that are updated

  • Adobe Reader – used for PDF document types.
  • Adobe Flash – used for website animations and functionality. 
  • Java – used for running applications written in the java programming language.  Example – ADP e-time. 
  • Microsoft Office – applications such as Word, PowerPoint, Outlook
  • Third party browsers – Chrome, Firefox. 

How software is updated

Many software packages, including the operating system, automatically-update based on a schedule. Windows Operating systems are also generally updated on "Patch Tuesday."  Depending on the number of updates applied, the update process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.  In most cases, Windows updates will require a computer to restart.  A restart is required to ensure that any running processes or programs using the older version of a program have been stopped and started. 

Other packages, such as Java, are typically released on an as-needed basis as security flaws are found, or as new features are added. These programs typically have a built in process that checks if an update is available, and if so, will either automatically apply or prompt the user to have the update installed. 

What does this all mean for me?

There are cases where software is prompting to be installed or updated, and the update is not a legitimate update, but instead is disguised malware or a virus-related program.  This is one reason why we require an admin login to allow updates to occur – it helps protect the computer and protect you from getting unwanted programs installed. 

There are several ‘spoofed’ messages, such as the following, which are not legitimate and may install malware or viruses:



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