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Biswajit.HD

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Your thought process might run something like this—“Nothing can ever go wrong with my machine—I’ve run the Windows Updates, the firewall is on and the virus guard has been activated.” If you believe this, then you are lulling yourself into a false sense of security. It’s a common misconception because virus programmers have only recently changed their tactics. A growing trend among writers is that they are creating malicious files which attack popular applications, for instance, Adobe’s Flash Player and Acrobat Reader, instead of Windows. Since these popular applications are found almost on every PC and the fact that the number of security loopholes that have surfaced in such programs is increasing, they are an easy target. But don’t fret because protecting yourself is as easy as downloading and installing the updates that close these loopholes. However, with the vast number of applications on an average user’s computer, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a track of all the applications running and the updates required for each one. This is where an automatic update function comes in and is the ideal solution for Windows users.

It’s a good thing that applications that cater to this category already exists—update tools which run a search for the latest version of software, install updates and secure the system. Ideally, these tools should automatically identify all installed programs, but not all of them do. We take an in-depth look at six update tools, with the number of programs supported varying from around 100 up to 90,000. However, there is one thing that they all have in common—they are freeware applications, which are available free of cost to the personal home user. Thus, to not use them would be imbecility. Here is the latest lineup offered in today’s market, with installation files of each application available on this month’s CHIP DVD.

SUMo v 1.10.0.47
System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista
Price Freeware
Contact KC Softwares
Website www.kcsoftwares.com


The ideal update tool must first identify all programs on a PC, since only then can it work out which programs need updates and which ones don’t. When it comes to the application recognition rate, SUMo leads the pack. The tool detects even the rarely used programs, for instance, Hex-Editor HxD. Though the HxD consists of only one EXE file, it does not install itself in the system. The excellent recognition rate of SUMo is the result of an extensive online database with about 90,000 different programs which are the most popular applications. It identifies these programs on the user's system and then checks against the online list to keep a track of new versions and programs. Moreover, SUMo proves itself to be very flexible—for instance, the user can configure the tool in such a way that it scans practically the whole disk for applications. There is a drawback to SUMo, which is that it is only as useful as you want it to be. If you want something that takes care of the processing of dowbnloading and installing automatically, then SUMo is not for you since it requires that the user take the initiative after the scan. The tool presents a list of all programs and specifies all the ones where an update is available. After clicking on ‘Update’, SUMo directs the user to its website where it displays a compilation of statistics about which version is used by how many users. Unfortunately, a direct download link is missing, instead of which the user has to manually search for the updates, for instance on three popular downloading sites (MajorGeeks.com, FileForum and Download.com) or Google. Modifications of the program settings include loading at system start-up, disable checking of Microsoft products and beta versions, and scan speeds.

To selectively check individual programs simply drag and drop the EXE (Executable) file of the application to the SUMo program window.


Personal Software Inspector v 0.9.0.1
System Requirements: Windows 2000/XP/Vista
Price Freeware
Contact Secunia
Website psi.secunia.com

The security specialist software development company Secunia is known for detecting weak spots in programs. That’s why the primary function of the update tool, the Personal Software Inspector (PSI), is to first load critical patches in popular programs. Due to this, the online database behind it is also not so extensive and it comprises only a little more than 4,000 applications. On the bright side, PSI takes thorough action—it scans the complete hard disk for EXE files as well as DLL files and reads the corresponding version information from the library in order to assess the topicality of the software installed. The tool then compiles a signature for each and every program found and sends it to the Secunia server which checks it against its database. Next, PSI prepares a security report on how many unsafe versions require an update. With this methodology PSI offers a complete package when it comes to the downloading of updates. Furthermore, a wizard guides the user to the suitable link—he only has to click it.

PSI is the most user-friendly of all the update tool applications featured here. The welcome screen informs the user of all relevant information, such as the last time a full system scan was run and state of their applications—are they insecure, about to expire or patched. If there are any security concerns, PSI will automatically alert the user with warnings. The historic development of your system since using the Secuina system store option is also displayed prominently in the form of a timeline bar chart, where the current score is compared to the state of the machine during the previous ten weeks. Furthermore, a graphical application overview, in the form of a pie chart displays the number of programs patched, unsecured and expired.
During the scan process, Secunia follows a series of steps which includes downloading search rules from the Secunia server via secure HTTP protocols, searching files on local fixed drives, collecting information about files and the operating system, determining missing Microsoft security patches, and matching data with the Secunia file signatures engine. Once the scan has been successfully completed, a pop-up window displaying the current Secunia system score appears.

Uncheck the option ‘Only display easy to update programs’ in the ‘Settings’ dialog box. This enables PSI to also make a list of software for which it does not offer downloads, for instance, Microsoft components like the Core XML Services.

UpdateStar v 2.1
System Requirements: Windows 2000/XP/Vista
Price Freeware
Contact UpdateStar
Website www.updatestar.com

magine the perfect butler—he is always present but unobtrusive, one snap of your finger and he asks you what you want. UpdateStar works exactly like this. This dream tool delivers smooth system security right from automatic identification to download. Even the program interface is neat and clear and lists the installed version as well as the latest version. The graphical user interface has been updated to suit the Vista operating system, with a ribbon style instead of a menu bar. The tabs include 'Start Page', 'Programs', 'Import' and 'Help'. Only one function has been clumsily implemented—if you close the UpdateStar window, the program remains active in the background. Then you can only end it via the icon in the taskbar. This becomes a problem if you have deactivated the system tray icon display option during the installation, since it means UpdateStar can only be closed using the Task Manager. In fact, it’s high time that UpdateStar had an update fixing this minor annoyance. Despite having a large database of more than 80,000 programs, the tool provides barely an average recognition rate. This is because it only finds programs which are registered in the system control software directory. Thus, some applications like the Media Player Classic are not recognized. The only other thing that is missing in UpdateStar is a thorough registry scan, such as the one Personal Software Inspector executes. Check the option ‘System programs’ in the ‘Display filter’ window to enable UpdateStar to make a list of Microsoft programs currently available, for instance, the .NET Framework.

Software-UpToDate v 1.1
System Requirements: Windows 2000/XP
Price Freeware
Contact Bernd Ott
Website www.software-uptodate.de


Users of Software-UpToDate automatically become a part of a community project of the same name because, after the scan, the tool displays a notification of whether it discovered a new version as specified in its online database. The tool ascertains details about the existing program with the help of two methods—preferably, it takes the metadata from the Windows Installer of an application. However, there still exist many software products that use their own setup routines. That is why UpToDate additionally scans the registry and detects at least all programs that are entered in the system control. What is missing in the tool is the second component—downloading the update or even installing it. Only rarely does UpToDate specify the manufacturer and a direct link for downloading is completely missing.

In the application window, go to ‘Extras | Options’ and check the options ‘Display upgrades’ and display ‘Alpha/Beta/Release candidates’. By doing this, you enable Software-UpToDate to display these updates as well.


Update Checker v 1.021
System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista
Price Freeware
Contact FileHippo
Website www.filehippo.com/updatechecker/


This update tool, from the developers of FileHippo.com, offers updates in the Web 2.0 style—after starting, the installed programs are automatically scanned and the user is directed to a dynamically created website, which presents the result. Since only the ‘Program’ directory is scanned in the basic setting, the recognition rate is low. Moreover, the Update Checker only detects those 200 programs which are hosted on the website FileHippo.com. The limitations seem drastic but FileHippo.com has quite a good stock of applications. Important freeware programs, for instance, Process Explorer, or Autoruns by Sysinternals, are present and, more importantly, the link on the website ensures that the update download functions smoothly.
In order to access the program settings, click ‘Settings’ during the scan process and specify additional folders in ‘Custom locations’ using the ‘Add’ button, in which the Update Checker can search for installed programs.


Automatic Update Client v 0.8.6
System Requirements: Windows XP/Vista
Price Freeware
Contact Game Nation Developers
Website www.updater.de.vu


This update tool is restricted to the monitoring of only a handful of programs—the database lists fewer than 100 supported applications. You can find out which applications it supports in the update client to check whether with the limited choice is satisfactory. Click ‘File | Update all programs’ to access the update client list which displays all the supported programs—this is the complete database of this software. However, once a program is included in the support list, the update tool offers complete service—it even shows beta versions and offers a direct download. Another drawback to this program is that the user interface is in the German language, and while it's pretty intuitive to understand what each listing stands for, it can become a hindrance.

Click ‘Settings’ and check the option ‘Automatically download and install updates’ under ‘Downloads | Use AUC downloader’. From now on, the software will always install the latest versions or updates automatically.


Source : Chip magazine.
 
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