A list of software packages frequently installed on Windows computers is shown below.
- As with most Windows computers, the version numbers are not displayed for each package in order to keep this page brief and readable.
- A graphical view often makes it easier to understand the timeline of releases for these products. That’s the aim of this article, where each box represents a release version, with earlier ones to the left and later ones to the right. The boxes are sized proportionally to how many machines have that particular version installed (the numbers below are just representative).
- As before, versions 6.1 through 11.0 of Package A are 2010 releases; version 14.2 is 2012; etcetera:
- Since version 10 of this article’s application (see the screenshot above), updates were made to this program so it can automatically download and install updates when they are released by the provider of one or more products on your list without any user intervention. Updating software is necessary because new vulnerabilities are constantly being discovered which can threaten your security if you’re not protected against them; it’s also important to keep current with bug fixes and patches that resolve issues discovered after the product was initially released. This can mean the difference between having a well-running computer and one that’s sluggish, unstable or even unusable.
- Version 10 of this application was quite popular – on average, about 4,000 downloads per day from CNET’s Download.com platform alone. Since it also included new features such as automatically sending anonymous usage statistics to its author, these numbers are likely similar today (I haven’t checked).
The software works by running a local web server with which you interact using a browser. The screenshots below show what you see while the program is running:
It has three operating modes:
- Update some products but not others – useful for leaving out software that needs manual updates, such as personal productivity applications that are kept up to date by the end-user.
- Update all products or no products – useful for testing purposes or if you’re trying to install updates but are encountering difficulties. The program will quickly identify software that has issues updating, allowing you to narrow down which package(s) might be causing problems (in my case, invariably its Adobe applications, which may have something to do with their installer).
- Download and selectively install updates – this works by periodically checking for new versions of each product on the list using its built-in updater; when an update is found, it downloads automatically and is placed in a “Downloads” directory inside the program’s installation directory. If you’d like to automate the update process even further, you can tick the “Start Download” checkbox so that when new updates are found, they will install right away – no user intervention is required.
You’ll need Java 8 or later installed on your computer to run this software (Java 9 is fine). When it’s time to download and install updates automatically, this program requires access to the Internet; however, before updating any products locally you can use its built-in updater without connectivity just by clicking “Local Update”. This will compare the installed version of each product with the latest available – if there’s an update for one or more products but not all, it’ll show in red next to its name.
The program can be downloaded from its author’s website here (it’s the blue button at the top right). There are 32-bit and 64-bit versions available for download, but only the “Standard” package is needed – it includes both 32-bit and 64-bit installers.
Once you’ve installed this program, you’ll see that several new entries have been added to your start menu:
These are shortcuts that will launch the updater (that’s what you want if you’re trying to update everything), open a browser window with which to control the updater (if it crashes or locks up, for example), and access this article to learn how it works. This article has also been included as a readme file in the program’s installation directory.
The updater will periodically check for updates, and it’ll notify you when they’re available:
The message that appears at the top of this dialog informs you which product(s) have updates available; clicking “View Update Details” opens a separate window with more information about each available update (note how one of these is critical). If you click “Install”, the updater downloads and installs all available updates automatically – no user intervention required. I’ve also used Windows 7 here, but this works equally well on other versions of Windows such as 10.
Regardless of whether you’re an end-user experiencing difficulty installing updates or a sys admin checking on the health of your network, this program is useful. You can also use it to avoid downloading and installing software that you don’t want (or need), but be aware that the updater doesn’t uninstall applications – it only removes updates for existing installations (though if there’s no update available for a product then, by definition, you haven’t installed it).