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Software updates are necessary when companies identify application errors or weaknesses in their software or system that require stronger security protections.

About software updates

Software updates come in the form of software “patches” that replace defective sections of software code with corrected code. All software manufacturers issue patches either on a regular schedule or as defects are discovered. Malware such as viruses, worms and trojans can infiltrate a computer through a software application that has not been patched.

Automatic updates are included in most operating systems and software programs. These features periodically and automatically update your computer.

  • Microsoft Windows calls this feature “Auto Update.”
  • Mac OS calls this feature “Software Update.”
  • Other software programs may display pop-up notices within a program notifying you to install the latest software patches.

How do I keep my software programs updated?

Some software programs, including Microsoft Windows and the Mac OS, provide automatic software update features. Keep automatic updates turned on so that your computer is automatically protected.

How do I check my computer operating system’s automatic update settings?

  • Microsoft Windows users can check the “Auto Update” settings by opening the Control Panel and selecting Automatic Updates or Windows Updates.
  • Mac OS users can check the Software Update settings by opening System Preferences and selecting Software Update.

How do I manually patch one of my software programs?

Most software programs have automatic update and patching features. A program’s Help menu may also include a feature allowing you to manually check for updates.

How to protect your computer

  • Check your operating system’s automatic update settings to ensure you’re receiving updates.
  • Check your software programs for updates that may be available in the Help menu or on the vendor’s website.
  • Pay attention to pop-up messages within a program: these may be notices of available software updates.