One of the features I really like on the Debian based Linux distribution Ubuntu, is the ability to keep both your operating system files and your locally installed software updated, through a common interface. The Update Manager scans your selected repositories (basically sites which provide listings of current versions of software), and will notify you if updated packages have been found, at which point you can do a complete update / upgrade of both system and application files. Windows of course has Windows Update, which handles Microsoft provided system files, applications (such as Office), and approved drivers, but this entirely leaves out third party applications. This leads to three situations:
1) An application from a third party source may never be updated, if the end user does not specifically go online to find an update.
2) The application has a built-in auto check, which warns a user when an updated version is pushed out (requiring the user to open the application, and confirm the need to update, for each application with this functionality).
3) The application installs some system start-up based update checker, which runs on each computer bootup (jusched for Java updating, for example). This leads to many applications creating start-up entries, just to see if they have updates available – certainly not ideal.
The Ubuntu Update Manager
Here’s an example of how the Ubuntu Update Manager Works (images taken from techtopia):
Step 1: Search Repositories, provide user with a list of updates (system and application), allow user to select which updates are installed.
Step 2: Download updates from various repositories.
Step 3: Handle the grunt work of actually installing the updates, without requiring the user to run executables manually.
This definitely feels like a superior way to handle updates, reducing requirements on the user to go out of their way, to keep both software and system up-to-date.
Windows Update Tools
There’s little reason why a similar solution doesn’t exist for the Windows platform, short of lack of cooperation between Microsoft and third party application vendors. If Microsoft provided a framework, where repositories could be added to an “update center” of sorts, I’m sure many of the computers out there would be running up-to-date applications, minimizing a potential vector for computer compromise (of course, this is assuming “trusted repositories” are used).
There are currently a couple of applications I’ve found, which you can use to keep your windows application-land software up-to-date:
When you run the program, you’re provided with a list of updates, which you can manually download, one by one. In comparison to the Ubuntu Linux solution, which batch downloads and installs for you, while this solution is helpful, it doesn’t really compare.
CNet Tech Tracker provides very similar functionality to the File Hippo Updater, but actually requires you to register, in order to download updates. They also don’t provide a means to batch update your installed applications, meaning you have to click on each update, one by one, download them, then manually install them.
Windows update management could use some improvement – the present situation requires a combination of a Microsoft system update tool, and some other user driven means of updating applications, if a user truly wishes to keep their software updated. Let’s face it, most users aren’t going to make the effort to keep their applications up-to-date, allowing security vulnerabilities and bugs to continue locally. A push towards some integrated solution, similar to how Ubuntu Linux handles updates, seems from my standpoint to be a step in the right direction.