Updates – what do I need (and what should I avoid?)

Image of Malwarebytes install options

Check tick boxes to prevent surprises

Something I see again and again is a PC slowed to a crawl by all sorts of unwanted programs.

There is a lot of free software available on the internet and some of it is very good but, understandably, sometimes the makers of free software would like you to upgrade to the paid-for version, and so they might offer you a free 30-day trial. Or perhaps there are certain features which are available for a trial period, after which you have to pay to continue using them. Or the software maker might get a small payment if you accept another piece of software, such as a ‘toolbar’, or if you use a different search engine (e.g. instead of Google, you might be asked to use Ask).

The important thing to understand is, you don’t have to accept these extra items but you do need to keep your wits about you when you’re installing things. Most software needs to be updated at some point, either to fix bugs or to beef up security when someone finds a way of using it gain access to your computer and, as a rule of thumb, the more popular the software is, the more people will try to hack into it.

So, to avoid unexpected changes to your PC or ending up with an expired trial version of something you can have legally for free, let’s start with the most common pieces of software, that are on most PCs.

Updates to accept:

  • Windows
  • Java
  • Flash Player
  • Adobe Reader
  • Malwarebytes and other security programs
  • AVG and other antiviruses

but NOT if the update arrives in an email! If you get an email offering an update, I’d strongly advise against clicking on any links: you will almost certainly be taken to a website that looks like the genuine article but isn’t. It’s always safest to use the update mechanism built-in to everything on the list above.

Most importantly, when you’re installing any update, watch out for ticks!


Always check any boxes with ticks in, and any empty boxes that might have ticks in. This is where you give (usually unwittingly) permission for programs to install other stuff.

Don’t accept…

  • toolbars
  • widgets
  • gadgets
  • Add Ons
  • changes to search
  • trials of full/Pro versions of anything
  • changes to your home page

Often, a program will give you two options: a ‘recommended’ install and an ‘advanced’ or ‘custom’ install. The former will often make changes to your PC, such as changing your internet search and home page and perhaps installing a toolbar. Although the advanced option looks scary, if you choose that option, you can often just click Next or OK on anything you’re not sure of, and eventually you’ll pass through the pages where you get to choose from certain options. Just check that you’re not accepting anything you don’t want, such as the list above.

If you have AVG Anti-Virus

and it offers to ‘Analyze your PC…’ don’t! This is a feature of the paid-for version that you get one free use of. To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of PC Optimisers or Speed-up tools: I’ve never found them particularly effective and, on occasions, I’ve known them do more harm than good. If you have bought the paid-for AVG, I’d still exercise caution before using the PC Analyzer.

From time to time, AVG pops up a box offering to ‘enhance your security’. Again, check the boxes carefully: normally, they’ll offer to add their toolbar, change your search and change your internet home page. You probably don’t want any of those, so untick the boxes before clicking OK or, if they give you the option, click the ‘Decline’ or ‘No thanks’ button.

Or let us do it for you…

I try to keep the ‘Useful Stuff’ pages from sounding like adverts but, if you do need help with any of this, give us a ring and we’ll be happy to come and do it for you.

Honorary mention

Some software, like the Firefox web browser, Thunderbird e-mail, and LibreOffice office suite are always free and have no paid-for version. They’re just nice like that.

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