Computing devices have software installed on them, designed to perform a specific function. This software can be divided into two categories, namely System Software and Application Software.
System software is the basic programs installed on a device that enable it to perform its core functions. Such software is usually low-level in nature, implying that it is not easily perceptible or alterable by human users. These include operating systems and drivers for hardware devices.
Unlike system software, application software is designed to be used by humans. In essence, application software sits on top of system software, as it is unable to run without the operating system and other utilities. Application software includes programs such as word processors, database applications, e-mail applications, graphics programs, web browsers, and computer games, among others.
As with any other technological invention, software can have flaws or shortcomings that may be discovered after it is released to the public. Software developers create their software with the ability to update, which means that newer and improved versions of the entire software or just components of the software can be installed, replacing the older and flawed versions.
This concept applies to all software, and it seems logical and sensible to update all software at every chance; but updating software has it benefits and drawbacks.
The benefits, to begin with, include the new features, improved stability, bug fixes and better security that the new versions of software bring. This can be seen when one updates their Windows operating system’s components via Windows Update. Many loopholes and security threats are fixed this way. Computer security products such as anti-virus software also require regular online updates. This is to ensure that the software is able to protect a computer system from the many types of malware being developed each day.
Updating software does have its disadvantages too; and these include compatibility issues, potential loss of data, the possible need to re-educate or retrain users, and the possible exposure to unknown loopholes and bugs.
Some software updates might require a related upgrade of the devices’ hardware to function properly; such as when updating from using Windows XP to Windows 8. Hardware requirements of the two operating systems are different, Windows 8 requiring more advanced hardware to run properly. Other software updates might cause unwanted data loss because of changes in file formats or the like.
With each new software update that is released, the changes in the software’s design may bring about a new set of loopholes and bugs that are not yet known. This introduces a security threat that may prove to be worse than those previously noticed.
Risks and consequences need to be considered when updating software, so that one determines whether or not the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.