Keeping your device drivers and softwareupdated can be a big factor in making sure your computer runs well and you get the most out of each component and peripheral in your machine. Still tracking down each and every driver for obscure little devices and keeping abreast of the latest updates can be a laborious chore. Automatic update management programs can cut down on the hassle by checking that your software and drivers are up to date, backing them up, and automatically updating them when a new version is released. Here are a few to get you started.
SUMo stands for System Update Monitor but its acronym also is also a pretty good indication of the software's power. SUMo is one of the best free system update checkers around with a scan feature that can look at all your installed software, select individual programs for checking, and create an Ignore list of programs you don't want updated (handy if you know that a particular update or patch creates more problems than it fixes). SUMo then presents color-coded results based on the kind of update needed, as well as recommendations on which version to download based on SUMo user usage and search page links, leaving you to do the download and installation yourself.
Editor's note: If there's one thing that can be held against SUMo, it's that it is frequently bundled with a lot of crapware, so users will have to be extra careful during installation. Always make sure to select a custom install in order to avoid adding unnecessary bloatware to your machine.
Secunia's Personal Software Inspector is another free and useful system update manager that focuses on the safety of any software you have installed. PSI scans software that are frequent targets of attack, such as browsers, and flags those that are in need of updates or no longer maintained and potentially unsecure. PSI can automatically run some driver and Windows updates but for most other programs you'll be given download links to do the install yourself. Reliable, simple to use, and best of all, free, Secunia PSI is an excellent system management tool for the security conscious user.
Editor's Note: PSI patches security leaks, but it won't actively hunt for incoming threats. You'll still need a good AV and firewall, but PSI does add an extra layer of protection.
FileHippo's Update Checker might not be as thorough as SUMo or as security-minded as PSI, but Update Checker is certainly easy and intuitive to use, and should be enough to keep your everydaysoftware, such as browsers, media players, etc, up to date. Its major limitation is that it bases its update recommendations on FileHippo's own download database. Simply run the scan, and it will tell you if any updates have been posted on FileHippo, and provide you with a link to the download page. Given that FileHippo hosts a lot of software downloads, ranging from the ubiquitous to the obscure, there's a fair chance that your software is covered. Minimalist and unobtrusive, Update Checker is great for the casual user looking to check for updates every so often.
Editor's Note: Update Checker can also detect portable software and search for updates, though you will have to add the portable folder in the "Custom Locations" search space.
Moving on to driver update solutions, we first feature DriverMax, a free driver management application that can scan and update your drivers list. Along with SlimDrivers, it's one of the most popular driver management freeware tools online. DriverMax quickly scans your drivers and informs you which ones are current and which are out of date, as well as providing you with the option to download the newest drivers right away. The free version, unfortunately, has a limit of two driver downloads a day, but the fact that DriverMax's free version already allows you to download drivers is a plus over the trial versions of more expensive software.
Editor's Notes: The paid version removes the download limit and unlocks other premium features. However, if you're conscientious about driver updates, DriverMax's free version may be all you need to stay current.
SlimDrivers is the other well-known freeware driver manager, using cloud-based scanning to identify new drivers and help you install them in your system. It's main edge over DriverMax is its hassle-free driver updating from within the program itself. If there are any cons, it's that it can only update one driver at a time, rather than running multiple driver updates in parallel. Still, for such a useful piece of freeware, that's not much of a downside.
Editor's note: As with many freeware installers, SlimDrivers bundles extra unecessary programs in the installation (in this case, the AVG toolbar), so a little vigilance and the "custom installation" option is required when installing. SlimDrivers also has a bigger, better brother, DriverUpdate, that includes premium features, such as the ability to update OS and software updates.
Ninite provides an interesting free update service. The Ninite website contains a checklist of popular applications. Simply tick off the apps you want to monitor for updates, and the Ninite website will create a customized .exe file based on your choices. Download this executable, and then run it periodically to automatically detect and install updates. It's a great little feature, though it does have its flaws. For example, the limited (but popular) selection of software being covered. Additionally, if you want to add a new program to your watchlist, you'll have to run through the checklist again to get a new version of the .exe. Lastly, if you uninstall one of the programs on the watch-list and run the updater again, it will automatically attempt to download and reinstall the removed program as an "update."
Editor's Note: Ninite also offers a dedicated paid program, Ninite Updater, that provides extra functionality over the free scan and updater.
Now we move up to the paid driver management software. A key feature the paid updaters share is automating the download of the drivers themselves, rather than simply telling you that your drivers are out of date and giving you recommendations.
First up is Driver Genius, an all-in-one package that scans your computer for out-of-date drivers, then offers to download them for you. It also has a feature to back up your driversor package them in a convenient zip file, great for when you're reinstalling your OS, or for setting up multiple computers with identical specs. A free trial version is offered that only scans for out of date drivers, without the ability to download them. Give it a shot first before forking out the cash for the full version.
Editor's Note: Some users have commented about the slow tech-support options on offer. Again, the trial version only offers driver search, without the download and update function.