Flossing your computer

Eat your spinach. Floss your teeth. Do your updates!
One of the questions we hear most often is "Do I need to update?" The answer is generally yes, because updates are basic maintenance that help keep you safe and running smoothly.  Whether you are on a Windows computer or a Mac, an iPhone or a Blackberry, an iPad or a Kindle, sooner or later you'll encounter updates.  Here are a few things you need to know.

1. UpDATES are not the same as upGRADES
 It's sort of like the difference between fixing your hem and buying a new skirt.
  • UpDATES are improved versions of stuff you have now, usually for free. Updates plug holes that might let the bad stuff in, solve glitches, and sometimes even add features. 
  • UpGRADES are a whole new version, and usually involve payment.  (You don't always have to buy a new version just because it's available; make sure you need it before you pay.) 

2. Uncheck that box! 
Some updates are subsidized by advertising. If during an update you see an checkbox that says something like, "Yes, I want to install the FREE BlahBlah Toolbar [or Shrdlu Security Scan]", you can probably live without it--uncheck that box before you proceed with an update, or you'll end up with annoying clutter on your computer.

3. Yes, you ARE using Java
whether you realize it or not, Java is a programming language that runs behind the scenes on most devices and many webpages. Java updates seem to pop up as frequently as nail salons. 

4. Adobe is a company, not a program 
Adobe makes Reader, which we all use for PDF files, and two other very common programs called Flash and Shockwave that make websites visually fun and interactive. All three need updates occasionally--unless you're on an iPhone or iPad, because Apple blocked Flash on iOS. Darn it.

5. Operating systems need love, too
Your computer, your tablet, even your phone has an operating system--the basic software that makes it obey you--and it need updates too. Check for Apple software updates, Windows updates, iOS updates (for Apple devices), Android updates (for Android phones, Kindles and Nooks) etc.  You can do them either when you feel like it or automatically (on computers).

6. Very very rarely, updates are a problem
Software is written by imperfect humans. Once in a blue moon, an update will cause an issue. Don't panic, it can usually be unwound, and unlike bad spinach, it won't put you in the hospital.

And for dessert:

Now that you've been a good techie and done your updates, have some fun with DrawSomething, a free and incredibly fun and addictive social game where you take turns drawing words and guessing what the drawings are with your friends. It's sort of like Pictionary for your iPhone/iPad/Android device, only better. And take it from me, drawing skills are optional.  

(Check out some of the hilarious drawings people have done in DrawSomething here).