Tech Tip of the Week: Updates vs. Upgrades

As we warned people this week of a potential Apple security risk, we were reminded of the distinction between minor updates and major upgrades. Install updates promptly but wait for more information on upgrades.

Updates are relatively minor changes to software, usually addressing security flaws as well as feature enhancements. Upgrades are major revisions–perhaps complete rewrites–of software.

On a Mac, updates come through regularly and are often listed as separate items: printer updates, iTunes updates, security updates, etc. These are all minor enhancements to the components of the system. When the core part of the operating system is updated it is given a number in the third place, such as 10.6.8 or 10.8.2. These updates generally require user acceptance, and we recommend that you accept them as they appear.

On Windows, updates are also distributed regularly–often weekly. Most Windows computers are set up to automatically install system updates. The numbers associated with the Windows updates aren’t as clear as they are on the Mac. Occasionally one will come through as a “Service Pack” with a number after it (Windows XP Service Pack 2, for instance); these are in between routine updates and upgrades in terms of content, but you should install them.

An example of an upgrade on the Mac is the Mavericks OS, system 10.9. It’s available for free and is front and center when you look at pending updates. This is a major operating system upgrade and we do not recommend it for most users. It is bigger and slower than previous systems and unless your computer is new or high end you will notice the decrease in performance.

As always, contact the help desk if you have any questions.