Why is Updating your Mac so Important?

If you haven’t noticed, this week both Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox were updated. Just last month, Apple released their seventh security update of the year. Java was updated in September and rumor has it that Leopard will be updated to 10.5.6 very soon.

Have you ever wondered why updating your Mac and its applications was important? Did you ever ask yourself, “Why should I care”?

The Importance of Updating OS X – Correcting their mistakes:

As great and wonderful as OS X is, its not perfect. Sometimes the software engineers at Apple make mistakes. Often these mistakes are caught before the system is released to the public. With a large project like OS X, sometimes these mistakes slip through the cracks, only to be found out later by an unsuspecting user.

Rather than just leaving the system broken, Apple works hard to fix these errors. When they have them repaired, the next step is to make sure your Mac gets fixed. Apple fixes your OS X system through Software Update.

The Importance of Updating OS X – Keeping you safe:

Let’s face it, the internet is not a safe place. Clicking on the wrong email, opening the wrong program, watching the wrong video, visiting the wrong website, and sometimes visiting the right website that has been tainted all could lead your Mac into trouble.

While OS X is not as heavily targeted as a Windows system, the ability is still there. What this means is that both Windows and OS X have security holes (called vulnerabilities) that can be taken advantage of to install all sorts of nasty things onto your system.

Sure, you can fool yourself into thinking there’s never been a virus for OS X and Apple is wonderfully safe – until OS X reaches a large enough user base to make it worth a malicious organization’s time. Put it this way, if the people who create viruses, spyware, trojans, keyloggers and botnets focused on OS X instead of Windows, it would be the other way around – where Windows would be the “safer” OS.

How do you protect OS X from all this nastiness? Software Update!

Apple engineers will find out about weaknesses in OS X and work on fixing them. Sometimes they are quick, and other times, well let’s just say we’re lucky OS X isn’t heavily targeted. When they do have a fix for OS X, it is released as a Security Update.

How important are they? Extremely. Since January 1st, there’s been seven of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s one more before the year ends, about six weeks from now.

In addition to OS X, it is important to know that other Applications like Firefox, Flashplayer, Microsoft Office, Quicktime and Adobe’s Acrobat Reader all have security problems as well. You fix them the same way, by updating them.

The Importance of Updating OS X – Adding new features:

Lastly, Apple doesn’t just fix problems and security weaknesses in updates. Sometimes they even add in a new feature or two for OS X. Other applications do the same as well. For example, Apple will add new drivers for newer printers via Software Update. Whenever Apple adds a new feature to the iTunes Store, you can be sure iTunes will be updated to take advantage of this. Also, many updates address performance issues which will improve the speed of both the general experience of OS X and specific programs.

The Painless Way to Keep OS X Updated:

There is a simple way to keep OS X up to date without driving you crazy and without having to think about it. Just set Software Update to automatically check and download updates in the background.

To set up Software Update:

- Go to System Preferences.
- Choose Software Update.
- Check the checkbox next to “Check for updates”.
- Select “Monthly” in the drop down box.
- Check the checkbox next to “Download important updates automatically”.

You can set Software Update to check every week if you like and you can always click on the “Check Now” button to check whenever you want.

Updating other Applications:

Other Applications have their own updaters, be sure to look in their preferences and turn them on. Here are some common updaters:

Firefox and Thunderbird:
- Go to the Firefox Preferences Menu.
- Click on the Advanced Tab.
- Click on the Update Tab.
- Make sure the “Automatically check for updates” checkboxes are checked.
- Check the “Automatically download and install” checkbox.

Microsoft Office has its own updater program that will handle updates. To activate it:
- Open a program such as Word
- Choose “Check for Updates” under the Help menu.
- Click the “Automatically” button.
- Change the “Weekly” drop down menu to “Monthly”.

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