Let’s Talk About Software Updates & Why They Matter

Posted on Oct 23, 2023 by Kristin Hassel

Software updates might annoy us when they pop up randomly and want us to restart our devices in the middle of whatever we’re doing, but they serve an important purpose. Performing software updates is one of the best ways to keep your system and device secure and operating at peak levels.

So, get ready. We’re talking software updates — including why they’re important and what happens if you put them off too long. We’ve even included basic instructions for how to manually check for system and app updates on the most popular operating systems.

Why Software Updates Are Important

Software updates ensure your system and device are safe and operating at full functionality. Performing them is important because it reduces vulnerabilities by increasing system security and integrity, yet many users choose to delay installing updates.

Let’s take a deeper look at each of the major ways your tech is impacted when you don’t install software updates as needed.

What Can Happen If You Don’t Update Your Software

While not installing software updates can affect you in several ways, there are three that stand out — the possibility of security breaches, reduced system functionality, and losing out on new, innovative features.

Security Breaches

Perhaps the most serious consequence of not updating your software is a security breach. The risk of cybercriminals accessing your sensitive information dramatically increases when your system, apps, or programs are outdated. Failing to install a software update means you won’t have the latest privacy and security patches, which creates vulnerabilities for cybercriminals to exploit. 

One way they do this is by implanting malicious software on your device, including (but not limited to) viruses, keyloggers, or spyware. Some types of malicious software, like ransomware, can even help a cybercriminal gain control of your device and lock you out until you pay a hefty fee. In the example below, you can see how one missed update can have huge repercussions.

In 2017 the credit reporting agency Equifax™ suffered a major breach that resulted in 147 million users’ personally identifiable information being compromised. What caused the hack? A security update for their software didn’t get installed. The resulting security holes left an opening for cybercriminals to make their way in and steal the information.

You can help preemptively protect yourself against security breaches by downloading a VPN. PIA VPN features MACE, an all-in-one ad, spyware, and tracker blocker. MACE can’t update your software, but it can stop malware at the DNS level before it reaches your device —  just in case you put off that latest update a little too long.

System Functionality

While you can choose to uninstall an app or program if you’d rather not continue to update it, your system software is an entirely different story. You may not notice any issues at first, but not updating your system will eventually cause your device to malfunction. Functionality issues like crashing, freezing, and data loss can occur when your software is outdated. 

Software updates fix bugs and compatibility issues in your system, programs, and apps, when you refuse to install them you miss these crucial patches. In the following scenario, the user not only lost functionality but paid a fee for something they could have fixed by installing the update instead of putting it off. 

An individual put off several software updates for their iOS™ devices and eventually couldn’t make outbound calls on their iPhone™. They brought it in for maintenance and paid just to have a technician install the update for them. It took six minutes from start to finish, and the phone worked fine afterwards.

Apple™ and other tech companies are fairly diligent in creating the updates, but they can’t force people to install them. Keep in mind that it can take software developers days (or even weeks) to create software updates and cost the companies that provide them thousands of dollars. If it wasn’t necessary, it’s doubtful they would invest that amount of time or money to create it.

Miss New Features

New features can increase privacy, security, and even productivity if you use your device for work. Apps, programs, and operating systems are constantly evolving, adding features to make them more user-friendly.  

Some of these updates allow you to use new methods of secure sign-in like biometrics, as is the case with Verizon©, which recently started allowing users to sign into their account using their fingerprint (or facial recognition for mobile devices). Others simply make performing everyday tasks like sending files to the cloud or taking photos easier. Missing out on an update could mean not having the latest new feature the software provides.

How to Check for Updates

Your device will often do the job for you if you don’t change the default settings. Many operating systems automatically update your software by default or prompt you when updates for system and app software are available. All you need to do is confirm that you want to install them on your device. 

For example, Windows 10 and 11 both let you know an update is available when you shut off your device, giving you the option to update and then shut down. Similarly, most OSs let you choose what time you would like automatic updates to take place. These options are quick and easy ways to update your system without the maintenance disrupting your regular device use.

Still, knowing how to manually check for updates is a valuable tool, especially if you become annoyed one too many times by a prompt window and shut off automatic updates on your device (it happens). Below, you will find basic step-by-step instructions on how to manually check for, and update, system and app software for the most popular operating systems. 

How to Manually Install Updates on Your Device (OS Specific)
iOS & macOS Open Settings > Choose General > Click Software Update to see the current version and if updates are available > Install available updates
Windows 11
Open the Start menu > Click the Settings icon (gear) > Choose Update & Security > Click Windows Update > Install available updates
Open Settings > Click About Chrome OS > Choose your version under Chrome OS > Click Check for Updates > Install available updates
Open Settings > Choose About Phone > Click Software update > Choose Check for new update > Install available updates
Linux Mint
Click the Shield icon (located near your clock in the right-hand corner of your screen) > LinuxMint Update Manager will
open > If available updates are found click the Install button
iOS Open the App Store > Click your Profile icon > Choose Pending Updates & Release Notes > Click Update All
Open the App Store > Choose Updates on the sidebar > Click Update All
Open Settings > Click About Chrome OS > Choose your version under Chrome OS > Click Check for Updates > Install available updates
Android & ChromeOS
Open PlayStore > Click your Profile icon > Choose Manage apps and device > Under Updates Available click Update All
Microsoft 11
Open Microsoft Store > Choose Library on the left towards the bottom of the window > Click Get Updates to check for and install app updates
Click the Shield icon (located near your clock in the right-hand corner of your screen) > LinuxMint Update Manager will open > If available updates are found click the Install button

Note: These are basic steps for the most recent version of each system. If you need in-depth instructions or are using an older OS, visit your software or device manufacturer’s website.

Keep Your Software Updated to Avoid Unnecessary Risk

Installing software updates is critical to maintaining the integrity of your devices. Since you can choose what time to install software updates automatically, you can easily fit them into any schedule. While some system updates may take longer to complete, many software updates install in minutes and have you back to streaming, browsing, or working in no time. These updates prevent holes in your software from becoming doorways a cybercriminal can open anytime they want a look at your data. 

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