How to upgrade software and device drivers – Windows XP/Vista/7/8.1/10
As everyone must have noticed, most software, including operating systems (Windows, Apple’s OS X for desktops and iOS for mobile devices, distributions of Linux, etc) and the device drivers that they use, are upgraded or updated regularly. This article deals with the best ways to upgrade software and device drivers.
I hate to think of how much time I have wasted while waiting for Windows Update to update Windows. The updates are necessary to patch bugs, security holes and can add new features and improvements. The Adobe Flash Player that most websites use to provide video content is full of holes and gets patched several times a month.
The Adobe Flash Player control panel
The Adobe Flash Player control panel is placed in the Windows Control Panel. It has default settings that allow websites to store information on your computer (under Storage), make use of your connection bandwidth (the peer-assisted networking option under Playback) and even use your computer’s camera and microphone (under Camera and Mic). I disable all of those invasive settings without having any problems. I use the online Flash Player’s Global Settings Manager to set it instead of its control panel in the Windows Control Panel. I have noticed that the settings can be re-enabled after updates have been installed or by websites that want them enabled, so check the settings regularly if you don’t want your bandwidth stolen or your privacy invaded or your use of the web tracked.
Global Security Settings panel –
Web browsers, such as Firefox, prevent online videos from playing if the Flash Player is out of date. Malware scanners have to be updated on a daily basis in order to remain effective. Other free software provides frequent updates, mostly in order to advertise the fact that they have a more effective paid-for version.
The best way to upgrade device drivers and software
The best way to upgrade device drivers and software is to visit the device manufacturer’s support website for drivers and BIOS/UEFI updates and the software developers’ sites for application updates. (Note that it is not advisable to update the BIOS/UEFI unless there is a good reason for doing so, such as making it possible to use new hardware, such as a new processor not supported by the existing BIOS.) Most software has an automatic update feature that can be disabled and/or provides a manual option, usually placed under its Help or Tools menu, called “Check for updates now”. The Firefox web browser used to have a manual update option but now only updates automatically.
Component manufacturers will only provide drivers for supported operating systems. It is April 2016 and I have just visited the motherboard and computer manufacturer’s website, msi.com, to find out which drivers are provided for versions of Windows for one of its latest motherboards. Windows Vista/Win7/Win8.1/10 are available, but soon after Microsoft ends the extended support for Vista in November 2017, the drivers for new MSI motherboards will be dropped.
Every major brand-name computer manufacturer and computer-component manufacturer that I have used provides device driver updates from the support part of its website. Here are the driver support links for the five top computer manufacturers:
- Dell Drivers and Downloads
- HP Support and Drivers
- Lenovo Support and Drivers
- Acer Drivers and Manuals
- Toshiba Product Support and Downloads
It is possible to get an old desktop or laptop PC that is running Windows XP running Windows 7, 8.1 or 10 if the computer has the minimum system specifications – 1GHz or faster processor, 1GB RAM (32-bit version of Win10 Home or Pro), 2GB (64-bit version of Win10 Home or Pro), graphics card that supports DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver – but a clean installation is required for the XP and Vista upgrades.
The free upgrade to Windows 10 that ended on July 29, 2016 was not available to WinXP and Vista users, so Win10 had to be purchased for those versions, but now has to be purchased for all versions, including Windows 7 and 8.1. The Windows 10/8.1/7/XP section of this site provides information on upgrading Windows from one version to a later version.
The free upgrade to Windows 10 from versions 7 and 8.1 has ended –
Software-updating sites are available that provide tools that scan a PC for updates and either take you to the relevant websites for updates or download them for the user.
Secunia PSI security software
Secunia PSI security software is probably the most well know of them. It detects and updates software that it determines is insecure. Secunia has been acquired by Flexera, but still provides the Personal Software Inspector (PSI) free of charge.
“Personal Software Inspector is a free computer security solution that identifies vulnerabilities in applications on your private PC. Vulnerable programs can leave your PC open to attacks, against which your antivirus solution may not be effective. Simply put, it scans software on your system and identifies programs in need of security updates to safeguard your PC against cyber-criminals. It then supplies your computer with the necessary software security updates to keep it safe.”
The download was still free in June 2016.
There are several websites that provide software and driver update tools. Here is a review of six of them:
6 software and driver update utilities compared [March 2013] –
Note well that device-driver update sites can be a waste of time and money. They can also be a cause of problems if they update a driver with a wrong update, etc.Read the following article for more information on why that can be the case:
Never Download a Driver-Updating Utility; They’re Worse Than Useless –