When you’re home visiting the family, often times you’ll find yourself updating a few computers that have fallen behind. While updating software isn’t hard to do, you’ve probably run into a family member or two who have yet to learn how. This guide is for them.
To help you out in your tech support role, we’re offering easy-to-email guides to teach beginners the basics of using a computer. You can find all of the guides here. Today we’re going to take a look at keeping system software and third-party applications up-to-date. You’ll find the instructions below, but the same instructions are also available in video form above.
System Software Updates
First, let’s look at updating system software. You always want to keep your system updated as much as possible as updates most often focus on bug fixes, so your system will run better, and additional security, so your computer doesn’t end up with a virus or something like that. To update system software on a Mac, just follow these steps:
- Click the Apple menu (up in the top left corner of your screen) and choose “Software Update.”
- Software Update will load and check for updates. When it finishes, it’ll let you know if there are any updates to install. Click “Show Details” to see any updates Software Update wants to install, or just click the “Install” button to install them.
The process is similar on Windows computers. To update your system software on Windows, just follow these steps:
- Click the Windows icon in your task bar to open up the Start menu. (If you don’t already know, this icon is in the bottom left corner of your screen.)
- Click “All Programs.”
- Click, “Windows Update.”
- After Windows Update opens, click “Check for Updates” on the top left side of the window.
- Once Windows finishes checking for updates, click the “Install” button.
- When the updates have finished installing, restart your computer (if prompted).
Software Update (Mac) and Windows Update (Windows) will periodically run all by themselves and ask you to update. Nonetheless, you may not notice this or ignore it from time to time, so it’s good to check yourself once in a while.
Note: If you’re worried about messing up your computer, don’t. It’s very hard to make a mistake when updating your software nowadays, and Windows Update even creates a restore point for you in case an update goes south. If you’re on a Mac and already backing up with Time Machine, you’ll be able to restore as well. The chances of something going wrong are pretty slim, however, so as long as you don’t turn off your machine during an update you have nothing to worry about.
Third-Party Software Updates
Third-party software describes any software created by a third party and did not come with your computer’s operating system. This primarily includes any software you, yourself, have installed on your machine. Because third-party software is created by different people, the way you update it varies.
Web browsers, such as Firefox and Google Chrome, update themselves. You don’t have to do anything at all. Other software may also update itself, or notify you of an update so you can choose whether to install it or not. Most software will allow you to check for updates manually. The location varies, but you’ll almost always find a “Check for Updates” option in one of the program’s menus. Some software will not notify you of updates and you’ll have to visit the software’s web site in order to find out if a new version is available. If it is, just download the available update or the most recent version and install it like it’s a new program. If it asks you to replace the previous version, it’s okay to allow that. Finally, if you downloaded an application from the Mac App Store, simply open the Mac App Store, click the “Updates” tab, and install any available updates.
Those are the basics of updating software. It’s a good idea to set a day and time each week to check for new updates to make sure you don’t forget. It only takes a few minutes and your computer will be better off for it.
Emailable Tech Support is a tri-weekly series of easy-to-share guides for the less tech savvy people in your life. Got a beginner tech support question you constantly answer? Let us know at [email protected] Remember, when you’re just starting out computing, there’s very little that’s too basic to learn.