by HF IT Consulting
Updating your computer or laptop today may seem like a simple task you do on a regular basis. However, as we are in a transitional period in technology, customers have to be careful about updating their operating system or software too quickly. Without proper preparation and research, a user can risk losing access to features, software support, or even personal documents when updating.
Updating your operating system
In some cases, updating an old device can negatively impact performance but usually this tradeoff is worth it for security improvements and software support. So generally, you should assume that when an update arrives, you should (at least eventually) install it.
- Read the update instructions carefully.
- Back up all of your important personal documents. We can help with the safest, easiest, and most effective backup methods.
- If you have important save states within software and games that cannot be backed up easily, please contact us.
- Make sure your power source is stable. The risk of breaking a device is much greater during an update, especially if the battery dies or the power cord is unplugged.
When updating your Mac, you have to be make sure you are aware of the potential risk of software incompatibility. Apple recently transitioned all new Mac operating systems to 64-bit-only architecture. The technical details aren’t important here, but basically this means that 32-bit software will no longer work on macOS, starting from macOS Catalina (version 10.15). You might be thinking “I don’t use any 32-bit apps anyway” but this requirement does not just apply to programs that you use for entertainment or work, like Google Chrome or Microsoft Outlook. It is very relevant for software that does not or cannot get updated anymore, such as games you purchase on Steam or driver software for an older printer. Forum posts and articles have confirmed that updating to Catalina has broken compatibility for certain printers.
On Windows, the risk of losing software compatibility is much lower than for Macs. However, Windows has other potential issues when running updates. When updating to a certain version of Windows 10, it is possible for the update to mess with drivers, especially if they are custom to a manufacturer. On my own laptop, a specific update changed my audio drivers to a different version, causing my speakers to become tinny and quiet.
Linux or another custom OS (PC or Mac)
Updating a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu or another custom operating system can be a daunting task. It can be even more frustrating to run the update and have your new OS break some software or driver you were using. Operating systems apart from Windows and macOS are more likely to break if they did not come preinstalled when you purchased the computer.
iPhones, iPads, and Android devices have a lower risk of breaking when an update is installed. From iOS 11 on, all apps must be 64-bit. This lack of backwards compatibility affects thousands of games. So if you have a 32-bit favorite game that was never updated after iOS 11 was released, you would not be able to run it on the new update. Since iOS updates generally provide significant performance and usability improvements, it is still recommended to update. As a workaround, users can maintain an older device running an older version of iOS if they wish to keep an archive of 32-bit apps.
In most cases, a free update for an application you use will have performance, usability, and security improvements. However, in some instances, especially with commercial software, it may be better to wait on that update until doing some research, because occasionally these apps update to remove features and place them in a paid tier or add a subscription model, even if you paid for the program already. In other cases, a popular free app or web extension may receive an update to add ads and tracking in order to become more profitable. Both of these strategies can cause significant problems for users.