5 free tools that will help you keep your software up-to-date.

With hard drive space increasing day by day, many of us have an increasing number of programs installed on our beloved computers. Keeping all these programs up-to-date is a daunting, and often impossible, task. Fret no longer: today’s Tips ‘n Tricks article was written with one thing in mind: to inform you about 5 different “software updater” programs. With all of these tools your computer is scanned, limited information is gathered, checked against respective databases (no personal information) and results displayed back to you.

1) FileHippo Update Checker

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2) UpdateStar

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UpdateStar is actually a commercial service/software that has a limited free version. The limited free version only provides you with information on “major updates” for software.

3) Update Notifier

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4) SUMo

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5) Software Informer

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None of the above tools is a perfect solution for finding software updates; in other words, no one tool will detect and find updates for all your installed software. Even with the software that is detected, most recent updates may not be brought to your attention instantly (i.e. if you run a scan/check, a tool may not find the update that was issued last night). That being said, out of all five listed above, I found SUMo and Software Informer to be the most accurate.

Both SUMo and Software Informer were able to detect most of the software that I have installed on my computer (the only *major* software missed by both was Visual Studio Express… but I blame Microsoft more than the update checkers =P). Out of the detected software, both found the most updates (17 and 18 respectively) and neither gave “false positives”.

Out of SUMo and Software Informer I personally recommend Software Informer because

  • I like Software Informer’s interface and the “extra” functionality built into the program.
  • When you go to actually update your software via Software Informer
    • The pages with the links are not bombarded with advertisements
    • Software Informer gives you links directly to the developer’s website so if by chance Software Informer was wrong in any way, you can catch the mistake when you visit the developer’s website.
  • Software Informer has a very professional attitude in the sense that it tells you right up front (when you run the program for the first time) exactly what information will be sent to Software Informer (again no personal information).

Here are the download links for all five software:

FileHippo Update Checker

UpdateStar

Update Notifier

SUMo

Software Informer

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23 comments

  1. Seamus McSeamus

    Okay, I’ve finally gotten around to testing Software Informer. I have also uninstalled it after trying it out. Why? Because of what I consider to be bad behavior. When you download the newer version of whatever program needs updating, you don’t actually download the program, you download SI’s downloader, which will then download the program for you. In addition, it offers to install a nifty, handy-dandy tool bar, change your homepage and search engine, as well as re-route your 404 error traffic. Isn’t that nice of them, offering to do so much for you? Thanks, but I’ll pass. All I need is to be told which programs have a newer version available. I’m quite capable of downloading and installing them on my own, without the help of a third party app or a new home page or tool bar.

    In Software Informer’s defense, they are up front about their intentions and allow for opting out, but only if you bother to read the EULA. If you’re one of those people who blindly clicks every permission box, you’ll end up with more than you wanted. I get why tool bars and the like are offered, but they should be opt-in, not opt-out. Opt-out seems very sneaky to me.

  2. Bruce

    Problems with Software Informer:
    Does not recognize 64-bit software on 64-bit systems.
    Assumes 64-bit drivers and 32-bit drivers have the same version numbers.
    Even when told to ignore beta software, it will still report some beta versions as the most current release.
    Cannot configure to provide info on Office 2007 as current since Office 2010 has been released.

  3. Giovanni

    Hey ashraf!!
    I’ve just tried Sw informer…it found 23 updates for all the sw installed in my PC but whenever I try to load the webpages where all the update download links are shown my browser (IE 8) crashes all the time.

    Do you know what may cause this glitch??

  4. David

    Of these programs, Filehippo update checker then Update Notifier find the fewest programs in my experience. Update Notifier may well refer to older versions.

    CNET techtracker: tends to find the most (I have a LOT of installed programs) and give the most accurate reports, and distinguish freeware from commercial apps. However, its big disadvantage is in downloading a bundled pre-installer (about 450kb) which gets left behind after then downloading the installer for the updated program that you actually want. So long as you can find the folder where the pre-installers are put, you can delete them.

    It also offers to either download dealply, an ad-supported toolbar I believe, or more confusingly to offer IE8 (I have IE9 installed!).

    It’s still quite possible to use this without any untoward side effects, or even just use the identified items and download them manually, albeit somewhat defeating the object of convenience.

    Sumo: I always find Sumo’s Check and Scan buttons confusing- when it launches, it lists the installed programs, but then seems to have to repeat this before checking for updates. It is frequently updated, and you have to be careful not to install items bundled with it (the site is quite clear about this, but I seem to recall there is also an ‘optional’ toolbar). “RK optional component is included in full setup builds (not in lite build, see “more” links) of the following products. Read this”

  5. Seamus McSeamus

    I second JohnP – always download the zip version of SUMO. No unwanted guests that way. Otherwise it generally works well, although it consistently gives a false reading for my Canon printer software.

    FileHippo Update Checker is good, but IIRC it only works with software available for download from their site. Granted, that will cover most of your bases, but I have encountered a couple of things in the past that it didn’t work for. Never got around to installing it on this laptop, so that could have changed.

    I’ve never tried Software Informer, but will give it a try and see how it works for me.

  6. JohnP

    I’ve been using SUMO for some time, and find it works reasonably well; however, the standard download package contains scumware (“Relevant Knowledge”) and even the “No RK” version now comes with “OpenCandy” which is adware/borderline spyware, so you have to be careful which version you download, and be careful to read each screen during the installation process, to reject the unwanted extra crap.

    Prior to that, I’d been using UpdateStar, but my anti-malware defences took against it and made it impossible to continue using the program.

    Secunia PSI is excellent, though it generally only identifies updates required for security reasons.

  7. David

    After trying Sumo, filehippo, UpdateStar (free),

    CNET Techtracker (quite new) came as a refreshing change.
    http://www.cnet.com/techtracker/

    It’s not quite as comprehensive, but it does discriminate Freeware vs Free to try vs Commercial, and does offer quick easy update URLs.

    I tend to find UpdateStar a bit of a pain now, as it’s too easy to close it leaving it running in the background, which I dislike, and more, it’s increasingly biassed towards getting you to buy the premium version.

    Years ago CNET had a ‘catchup’ service, and this new approach is simply easy to use.

  8. Dee Alog

    I’ve thought about installing one of these programs for a long time (File Hippo or Secunia). One thing that worries me is that in order for the program to tell you what needs to be updated, it has to do an online scan of your Program/OS partition. How do we know that during this period when a port is opened, sensitive files aren’t being copied, or at the least, your computer information isn’t being sent to the program authors? I have the same issue with these online virus scan programs.

    A better solution would be if a new dat file with all program revisions that could be downloaded and the scan could be run offline.
    How big could a dat file be that just contains text of thousands of programs versions? 10 mg at the largest?

    Am I correct in that the program doesn’t update an installed db and must scan your partition while online?

  9. David Roper

    Looks like SUMo is King for me. It does everything I want. No frills and common sense reporting on Major and minor version changes. Thanks Kinetix7 and Liam K for your additional comments.

  10. gmon

    Thanks for the links/tests, Ashraf. Can I call you Ash for short?
    Still using Secunia here, it’s comprehensive, finds security risks as well as updates, but I will check out Filehippo checker since I have used their site.

  11. Megaman

    I have tried 4 of them prior to this post, and realized that you didn’t add RadarSync. RadarSync, Update Star, and Software Informer are good, but they insist on telling me to update my programs when they are already on the latest versions. I am pretty sure guessing that they find people with later versions, but they don’t provide links or downloads on their end for the latest ones. So, in the end, I stick with FileHippo, since it provides downloads to the latest versions that they find/offer. I haven’t tried Sumo, but am willing to try, nice article.

    P.S. Secunia is good. I have tried it once before, but too lazy to try it again.

  12. David Roper

    click! (in)

    Just back from installing Rec Software Informer. Beautiful Interface. It found programs that I had forgotten I had installed. But, that’s me. So I picked one. Oops, it found a beta, don’t want that. Picked another, no web link found recommended I Google it. Well, how does it know I am using an old version if there’s no place to DL a newer version? Oops, it recommended a newer version but that version is no longer freeware, so I would have screwed up my old freeware installation version.

    I did find out I need Mozilla 3.0.7 and Irfanview 4.23 and several others so I will keep this one. I just have to be selective, just like in drinking wines and talking to women.

    …click! (out)

  13. David Roper

    Ahhhhh. Life is good. Freeware to recommend upgrades to freeware. What could be better? Facetious? Sarcaastic? Nope, I mean it.
    Ashraf, as we say in The South, “You done good.” 5 stars. …click!

  14. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    Tortuga,

    I know about Secunia. Secunia provides a really good service to patch those security holes but it really is not for “updating software” as the other software listed above are.

    As for problems with dotTech: have you tried to clear your browser cache? Also, what browser are you using if you would be so kind to tell me.

  15. Tortuga

    Hello Ashraf

    Don’t know any of the softs you proposed. Was using Secunia, then switched to Secunia PSI since the Beta it came out. I like the fact it’s a well known cie and its geared toward security. Does what its suppose to do, comprehensible & easy to use.
    From LHacker: For a less security-focused angle, check out mass-update apps File Hippo Update Checker or UpdateStar.
    Have you looked into it?
    Ciao

    PS: Been having all sorts of problems w your site!!
    Pages takes *forever* to load or don’t load at all.
    Can’t vote anymore – always says “0 votes cast”.
    N° of comments on the front page says “0 Comments”, when in fact there are several.
    Sometimes clicking on a link – instead of the article, I get a page w lots of gibberish code [Well… it’s gibberish to me!]. I took a couple of screenshots of one of them.
    This started when you changed domains. Thought it would get better once you ironed out the bugs, but the problems persist :(