Wednesday, December 10, 2014

To Update Or Not To Update

Since writers today must use a computer to write, keeping the computer in working trim matters. Sure, you may scratch out your first draft on a yellow pad using a pencil sharpened with your Bowie knife, but eventually you have to put your prose into a program on your computer. Which means you have to keep that computer running in the way that's comfortable for you. Our question today: should you update your system or not update your system?

Bad things can happen either way. If you don't update, your operating system becomes a bigger and softer target for malware of all kinds, because most updates fix at least a few security holes. But if you do update, there's always the small risk of turning your critically-important computer into a box of metal and components of more use as a boat anchor. It's happened to me before: run an update and suddenly your computer is worthless. Long hours of hard work can revive such a system, but it's painful.

Let's compare the odds: Do update, and keep your security holes to a minimum at least as far as Microsoft or Apple knows. There will still be ways for miscreants to slip malware into your system, but they will be forced to find new ways. When your system is updated, the older and easier security holes have been patched. Your system is as safe as Microsoft of Apple can make it, and is bolstered by whatever anti-malware software you use. Odds of an update crashing your system? Extremely long. You can find the Windows Update screen shown above in the Control Panel.

Don't update, and your system will start acquiring malware infections within minutes of being attached to the Internet. Minutes. No, that's not an exaggeration. Odds your computer will be infected soon? 100 percent.

So it sounds like there's really not a choice, because not updating is a recipe for malware infection and ultimate disaster. But that's not completely true. The third option few people consider? NEVER update your personal writing computer, but NEVER connect it to a network.

If you have, say, an older laptop with a great keyboard that has software full of macros and shortcuts to help you write, you can skip the update process on one condition: you never connect it to any network anywhere. That means in your home, your office, Starbucks, the library, anywhere: no connection to any other computer or network, period.

How do you get files from your "frozen in time" computer? USB drive, but be sure you only copy files from your frozen computer to your connected computer. Never download a file from your connected computer to the frozen system, or you may import malware as well. Never upgrade the operating system or your writing software. Never loan this computer to anyone for any reason.

My advice? Update your OS and software applications whenever requested, because I believe that causes less trouble in the long run. But if you love love love your personal writing computer and never want it to change, you can chose the "not update" option. Just do so carefully.