Fixing What Isn't Broken
There is one notable exception to the vernerable rule "don't fix what isn't broken," and that is security. New threats are found in popular programs, such as Internet Explorer and Outlook Express, every week. Think you're save because you don't use either of those programs? Think again. Other applications, such as the Eudora e-mail client embedded Internet Explorer to display e-mail; Intuit's QuickBooks uses Outlook to send mail.
Most of the time, if you come across problems such non-critical bugs in the programs you run everyday, leave 'em, or to use another adage, let sleaping dogs lie. Everytime you install a piece of software on your computer, even an upgrade to a piece of software that is already on your computer, you take an unquantifiable risk. So, don't do it unless you have to. If you have to do it, back up everything onto disks, CDs or Tape.
Again, the exception to this rule is security updates. I'm not talking about installing personal firewall software or privacy protection software. Those programs tend to cause more problems than they solve. I'm talking about security updates released from the vendor of the software you are already running. Most notably, I'm talking about updates released from Microsoft for Windows and Office.
To Microsoft's credit, they make such updates freely available from their site. Unfortunately, you have to go to different locations to get updates for various programs. To update Windows itself, including Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser, visit WindowsUpdate.com. To update your Microsoft Office software, including the Microsoft Outlook e-mail client, visit the Microsoft Office Product Updates site.
Another down side is that many of the updates can take forever and a day to download. Because of this and because security updates rarely fix a visible problem, people don't bother with them. However, these security updates will protect your computer, not just from those viruses currently circulating but even new ones that haven't yet surfaced. They will also close holes that hackers can use to gain access to your computer.
If you've never intalled any updates, you'll probably get a huge list of updates the first time you visit these sites. If you are conected to the Internet via a modem, it may be impractical to download all of these updates. You may want to consider bringing your computer into your local repair shop and having them take care of it for you. It's also a good opportunity to make sure your virus scanning software is up to date or to upgrade your computer to take advantage of the low price of RAM and hard drives.