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Updating your computer is one of the three essential components to keeping it and your data safe from hackers and viruses.

Updates fix holes in the software that make it easy for hackers and viruses to get in. They also (usually) make things work better.

There are two kinds of updates you need to do: Operating system updates, and application updates.

Fortunately, with a little guidance, updating your computer is pretty easy.

Here are instructions for Windows operating systems:

Update Windows XP

If you’re running XP, stop here. Upgrade your operating system to at least Windows 7.

Really.

I know it’s going to be painful. I know it’s going to be a few days of “Well, this thing doesn’t work the same way.” But it’s critical.

When an attacker sees you running XP, they actually get a little mopey; it’s that easy to break in.

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Update Windows Vista or Windows 7

  • Open the start menu
  • Type in “Windows update”
  • Click on the “Windows update” program
  • Set the update options to automatically download and install updates
  • Choose search for updates now
  • Select all the optional updates, unless you know better. (For instance, you don’t need to install “Skype for Windows,” but it can be handy to have.)
  • Click on “Install now.”
  • Wait. It’s probably going to take a while for your computer to download and install these updates. You’ll probably have to reboot your computer, so make sure you’ve saved all your work!
  • Look for more updates. Repeat this process until Windows Update doesn’t find any more updates.

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Update Windows 10

  • Open the Start menu.
  • Click on the Settings icon. It’s the one that looks like a gear.
  • Click on “Updates & security”
  • Click on “Check for pdates.”
  • Your computer will download and install updates. You may need to restart your machine, so make sure you’ve saved all your work!

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Update Mac OS X

  • Open the Apple menu.
  • Click on “System preferences.”
  • Choose the App Store.
  • Check the “Automatically check for updates” box.
  • Check all four boxes underneat “Automatically check for updates,” too.
  • Click “Check now” to download and install any available updates

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Update your applications

In both the windows and Mac worlds, some of your applications will get updated along with your operating system when you follow the steps above. But there are going to be other programs you’ve installed on your computer that don’t get patched.

Taking care of these applications is a two-step process:

  • First, use an automated installer (like Ninite for Windows, or Mas for Macs) to take care of the low-hanging fruit (like Java, your web browsers, Spotify, Flash, etc.)
  • Next, go to all your other apps — all the stuff you’ve downloaded and installed over the years — and look for updates for each one. Usually, you can find an update function in the “Help” menu.

Good to Go

Now that you’ve brought your computer up to date, the only trick is to keep it there. You’ll want to do this process at least monthly.

Want to stay safe without all the hassle? Give me a shout to talk about how I can help!