07/28/2012 03:29 pm ET

Stop The Software Updates! Why We Don't Heed The Call To Upgrade

Sure, call it a First World problem. If you're lucky enough to own a computer, you're lucky enough.

But it's undeniable: One of the biggest pet peeves of our online lives is being inundated with software updates.

And here we have a new survey confirming our annoyance (or just plain apathy) when "Do you want to download the latest version?" messages pop up (invariably when we're trying to get work done).

According to polling conducted by YouGov on behalf of Skype, 42 percent of Americans don't always upgrade software when prompted. Results were similar for Britons and Germans surveyed: 41 percent and 37 percent of them, respectively, aren't diligent about always following through on software notifications. About a quarter of adults say they need to be prompted twice before upgrading.

Among respondents in all three countries, the top reasons people don't upgrade include worries about them weakening security (45 percent), the whole shebang taking too long (27 percent), having only a negligible benefits (25 percent), and just sheer failure to understand what they do (26 percent). (Read all of the findings over at Mashable here.)

What gives? For this unresponsiveness, blame must be shared between both software makers and software users. Those afraid that a little upgrade will make their computers a lot less secure are shooting themselves in the foot. Upgrades are frequently done to patch up weak points in software that viruses might exploit. In fact, "as much as 99.8 percent of all virus/malware infections caused by commercial exploit kits" in Microsoft Windows, according to a study by CSIS Security Group.

On the other hand, software firms often don't make it clear why they're upgrading products in the first place. Many are still caught in a 1990s mindset, when shoddy software tweaks caused computers to crash. Other just don't like being bothered and don't see the benefit. To ease their concerns (or lack of concern), a simple message from the company explaining what is being patched up is all that's needed.

But perhaps the more important question: Why is Skype suddenly interested in commissioning surveys about attitudes toward software upgrades? Well, the video chat service, along with Adobe, Norton, and TomTom, are making push to raise awareness about the value of upgrading, having dubbed this past week "International Technology Upgrade Week." Those first three companies have rolled out blog posts extolling the virtues of software fixes--they make programs less vulnerable to viruses and run better. Apparently these companies are as annoyed with their upgrades getting the cold shoulder as users are of the upgrades themselves.

But the campaign might be moot. Those same three tech companies let users switching on automatic software upgrades, essentially giving users the ability to give permission once to a company to forever make upgrades without being bothered. It's a recent trend in tech after the days of ceaseless upgrade prompts during the early years of personal computing. Even Firefox, famous for its incessant software notifications whenever the browser was booted on, recently incorporated a silent upgrading process in its 12th version, released in April.

With hope, in the next year or two there will be no need for a week dedicated to upgrades as more software makers allow them to be done automatically. And users take them up on the offer.



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