I work as a computer technician and half of my battle is keeping computers running happily. The other half is keeping them updated and secure against potential threats. There is a triumvirate of software I’ve found and employed throughout the years to make keeping Windows installations up to date painless.
The first is Ninite. This fantastic little site is perfect for fresh computer builds. It saves time having to download and install the latest versions of browsers, media players and plugins.
The idea could not be easier. Go to the web site on your Windows or Linux computer and select the applications you want to install. Download the single, small installer.
The installer is small because when it runs, it goes out to the web sites of the application’s you’ve selected and downloads the newest versions. This assure you always get the newest version of the software every time.
Ninite will install software that’s not already present or update existing software to the newest version. If it detects the software is already updated, it will skip the application and move to the next one on the list.
The installer is small and perfect for thumb drives or network shares if you’re using a standard computer build. It saves me from having to remember exactly which applications I need to install and which I haven’t. I run Ninite and when it finishes, I know I am up to date and ready to move on.
If you have a large organization, then Ninite Pro is your go-to tool. It offers the same trouble-free updates along with silent installs, no nag screens, centralized management and a pile of other great features.
I was introduced to FileHippo by a friend and my life has never been the same. FileHippo is a repository of nearly any free application you could ever need.
I used it recently to retrieve an older version of Safari when I encountered a bug in Windows XP with the Safari 5.1.x versions. It’s been an invaluable resource for rolling back software updates to combat bugs, incompatibilities or if a customer simply upgraded and didn’t mean or want to.
In addition to hosting older versions of thousands of applications, they have a free Update Checker that can be installed or run standalone from a USB key. The Update Checker will scan the computer and present a list of all the software out of date that FileHippo support and provides links to the latest versions.
FileHippo will not automatically download the applications like Ninite will, but it supports a larger number of applications.
PatchMyPC is a new tool in my kit I recently found via the excellent Technibble. This application can be installed or run off a USB key and will scan the computer for the updates to the most vulnerable and often updated applications and install their updates silently in the background with a single click. This means keeping Flash, Acrobat Reader, Skype, Java and around 50 other applications up to date with little effort.
Along with keeping vulnerable software up to date, it can also install other applications and keep them up to date in the future. It is possible to always ignore a certain application and it will never be checked nor updated. This is particularly useful if an important application uses a specific version of Java or another application that can’t be updated or changed.
PatchMyPC combines the auto-checking of FileHippo with Ninite’s auto-installation for the best of both worlds. It will even check Windows Updates for available updates and include those in the update making it nearly perfect. The trade-off being a smaller list of applications supported but the developers are adding applications as they go so it will get even better as time goes on.
I spend a lot of my time updating software, patching vulnerabilities and making sure my customers are running the most up to date software and this can be very tedious and time-consuming. These three applications make my job easier and allow me to dig through error logs or perform other research or maintenance while the applications are updating.
Anything I can do to save time is a benefit to myself and my customers because it’s my job to get them up and running again as quickly as possible so they can get the work done they need to do.
I am constantly in the pursuit of better tools to get my job done faster, and correctly every time so I can offer better service to my customers. These three applications allow me to do that and they are indispensable parts of my toolkit.