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Speeding Up Your PC, Part 3: Getting Crucial Updates

Speeding Up Your PC, Part 3: Getting Crucial Updates

Updates may seem like a hassle -- a bit of housekeeping that's more trouble than it's worth. However, keeping a properly updated system improves its performance and speed. That's not to mention the fact that updates are also essential for sound security. Best yet, they're often free. Here's how to keep a handful of popular programs fresh and secure.

By Chris Cope
08/25/12 5:00 AM PT

Speeding Up Your PC, Part 2: Clean Up Your Hard Drive

Lots of people think that updates aren't really that important. In the past, updating a program often involved implementing small features or fixes that, most of the time, didn't seem worth the bother. While this may still be true for some applications, there's no doubt that updates are crucial for much of the software running on your computer.

Programs need updates not only to fix problems and install new features, but also to speed up overall performance. This installment of Five Free Steps to a Faster PC will take you through the update process for three central applications, each of which uses the updating process as a way to better the performance of a computer and Internet browser. Better yet, each of these update procedures are provided to you absolutely free by their respective manufacturers.

Adobe Updates

The Adobe software company makes a host of media-viewing and media-editing software, including Flash, the video medium that's responsible for online streaming content on YouTube. They also make the Adobe Reader, the program you likely use to open PDF files.

It's important to get routine updates from Adobe because Reader is more than just program on your hard-drive. Like Flash, it's integrated with your browser in the form of an active-X object (if you use Internet Explorer) or an add-on (if you use Firefox, Chrome or other browsers). Updates to these programs allow for better communication between media content on the Web and the programs housed on your PC, and they also provide vital security patches. Better communication means faster interactions, less download time and faster resolution of video and PDFs.

  • To update Adobe Reader:

    Open Adobe Reader by going to the programs menu. There might even be a link to it on your desktop. Once it's open:

    1. Click Help in the top menu
    2. Click on Check for Updates
    3. This gives Reader permission to check for updates online and it will tell you if any are available.

  • To update Adobe Flash:

    Go to this website in your browser. There, they'll tell you if you have Flash installed, which version, and whether there are updates available.

Keeping Java Hot

Java is one of those applications that you never see, but you likely rely on it every day. When people refer to it, they're usually talking about a special program called the "Java Runtime Environment." This is what's known as a "virtual environment." It is responsible for running applications that are coded in Java, which is a very popular programming language used on many websites. This is why updating the Java Runtime Environment is so important. More updates mean better security and faster performance.

  1. To see if you have the latest version of Java, check this website.
  2. Here you can click on the button that says, "Verify Java Version"
  3. This will give the website permission to check your Java installation and see which version you're running. If there is a newer version available, it will give you the option to download and install it.

Microsoft Updates

Arguably one of the most important updates you can make, Windows Update is designed to better the look, feel and the responsiveness of Windows, as well as provide crucial security updates. Published by Microsoft, these updates are divided into categories.

  • Security updates close security holes that could be abused by hackers.
  • Program updates improve the performance of integrated applications like Windows Explorer, Windows Active Search, etc.
  • IE Updates deliver all of the latest functionality built into the latest version of Internet Explorer, not to mention the latest versions of Internet Explorer itself.

All of the updates available through Microsoft are sorted by their priority; you can program Windows to only download high-priority data, or get everything. Either way, Windows Update does all of the work for you; you just tell it what you want and it will install it for free. To open Windows Update in

  1. Click Start
  2. Click on Programs
  3. Find the link that says "Windows Update"
  4. In XP, clicking the link will take you to this webpage.

There, Windows will do an assessment of your machine and suggest updates for you to get. Remember that you can choose the updates you want by choosing the appropriate level of importance.

In Windows 7, clicking the link will open the Updates dialog. There you can see if you have the latest updates from Microsoft and also adjust the controls for updating, setting it to look for new data automatically or to wait for you to do another manual update.

Stay tuned for Part 4: Drivers


Chris Cope is CEO of SlimWare Utilities.


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