WE ARE often asked - "I have got a message on the screen telling me to update xyz - is this safe?"
There are many software applications on your computer that should be updated and at the top of this list is the Microsoft operating system itself (your version of Windows).
Why do we update? In many cases it is because a flaw in the original software has been found and the update will 'patch' or fix the flaw.
In other cases an update may even provide some extra features in the software and the programmers are giving you these extra features for free or as part of a maintenance agreement.
Unfortunately some of the viruses and malware (spyware and Trojans) that are around are disguised as an update or something that you think you should be downloading.
The ultimate goal of these scams is to either bring your computer to its knees as far as its performance is concerned or to gain access to personal information, bank account details or credit card details.
This leaves many people confused over whether to allow any updates onto their computer and in a 'dammed if you do but dammed if you don't' situation.
The following list of 'good' updates will cover the majority of circumstances but obviously can't be a complete list as there are millions of software applications in the world today which require legitimate updating from time to time.
As we have already mentioned, Microsoft updates are a good thing and should be allowed to update your computer.
The next most popular will probably be Java, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Flash Player and Apple QuickTime.
All of these software packages often need updating and these updates are fine and should be allowed.
Further to the software applications mentioned above, if you are running software such as QuickBooks, MYOB, Adobe, AutoCAD, etc, they will all want to be updated or patched every so often as well.
Normally they will notify you by either letter or email or the software will 'pop up' a window advising of this.
Again if you are not sure you can either google for more information about the update or email the company directly to check if the update is valid and legitimate.
We are also seeing the manufacturers of computers wanting to roll out updates to either their own software or even what we call firmware updates (direct updates to the programmable chips on their hardware).
These updates can also often solve problems associated with the operation of their hardware and should normally be allowed.
Some examples of 'purported updates' or 'pop ups' which are dangerous and should be ignored are the types which are usually more generic in nature such as the following - "Click here to speed up your PC", "Your PC is infected - click here to fix", "Your Internet connection is not optimised - click here to speed up", "your bank is doing an upgrade - click here to renew your details", "you are the one millionth visitor to our website - click here to claim your free blah blah", "we can save the whales - click here to add your support and we will donate an extra dollar for you".
The other thing is using good old common sense - if it sounds too good to be true….