Non-Critical Software Upgrades: Yes or No?

Software UpdateI usually want the latest software update or upgrade. In this, I must be a typical nerd. Why? Because I get all excited about new tech features and tools! But I don’t always need the latest. In fact, I’m often cynical. Is the “latest and greatest” really those things? Do I need more functionality in software I may have been happily using for years? Is the vendor in question just trying to drum up more sales?

Everything considered, one of the questions that always enters my mind – and certainly, companies like Microsoft can be very forthcoming in this respect – is this one: would installing an update or upgrade in any way be ‘risky’? That question is typically followed by a host of similar and related ones. For example:

  • Will my computer restart?
  • Will my legacy (existing) programs or apps work?
  • Is program X compatible with my existing operating system (OS), or browsers?

These, and more, are unimportant questions.

I’ve been very fortunate over the years in that I’ve gotten paid for testing educational textbooks against new software, and more recently, in writing about new software. Combined with the fact that I’ve taught end-users how to use software for 25 years, there’s a compelling case for me to go ahead and do the new update or upgrade. Depending on compatibility issues, as hinted at above, and on price, my customary answer to the next update/upgrade is usually “yes”.

When Windows Vista came out, I was on it. Same with Windows 7, and Windows 8/8.1. It’s not that I felt anything was wrong with Windows XP – in fact, I mourned the day Microsoft stopped supporting XP, as it had been performing well on our ageing desktop computer for years. Less than two weeks ago, Microsoft rolled out their Technical Preview for Windows 10, their new OS. As previously stated, and true in this case, they were very open about the potential for untoward issues for those who decided to take the plunge. I think it was three days later that I took said plunge and installed Windows 10. Call me an early adopter, or call me crazy, but whatever else you call me, call me someone who is now running Windows 10 on his primary laptop.

Should you jump on the update or upgrade bandwagon? Here are a few points to weigh out:

  1. Is the update or upgrade critical or not? Most vendors will flat out tell you. Example: while Windows 10 is not a critical upgrade and in fact does pose risks to users, the latest version of Adobe Reader or Mozilla Firefox might be. These and other programs might have fixes that deal with security. Windows updates are usually quite good in informing you what’s critical, important, or recommended.
  2. Is the update or upgrade compatible with some of the programs it may rely on, that may rely on it, or that it might work with? Every time a new version of the many Web browsers I work with come out, I have to ask myself if the current add-ons will work. I depend on some of my browser add-ons.
  3. What does the new update/upgrade offer? Do you get improved performance? Will you end up with new bells and whistles? Ask yourself if you need, if you really need, what the new software offers.
  4. Does it cost? The bottom line isn’t my main criteria, but I fully understand if it’s yours. When Microsoft has perfected, refined, and released to the public Windows 10, I will have to pay for it like everyone else. Here’s another example: is it worth a few dollars a month to have a premium or more feature-rich version of the software? I have said yes in many cases (Hootsuite and Evernote come to mind.)
  5. Are there implications in not updating or upgrading? In terms of Windows XP, while I had other computers already running more recent versions of Microsoft’s OS, I didn’t feel I could ‘go it on my own’ in terms of leaving that machine with XP. So I moved forward to Windows 7. In terms of, say, the latest version of my time-keeping software, I can probably wait it out, without repercussions.

If you’re the tech-savvy type, and if you’re sure you are comfortable with some possible trouble-shooting in terms of a non-critical software update or upgrade, I say … go for it! If the latest and greatest isn’t critical, or doesn’t quite have what you want or need right now, wait until the early adopters run it through its paces.


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