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Best Free Software Update Monitor

 
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Introduction

Developers usually release new versions of software after improving its features, GUI, removing some bugs or when security weaknesses in earlier versions were fixed.  If you would like to keep the software on your computer up-to-date, you may find it difficult and time-consuming if you have many programs installed.  Sometimes software will automatically check for updates (such as Adobe Reader, Mozilla's Firefox and Thunderbird, Skype, iTunes, etc.), or it will update itself (e.g. Google Chrome) but this isn't true of all software.  That's where Software Update Monitors (SUMs) are useful.  A (sometimes) quick scan of your computer by one of these products will reveal which software is old and needs to be updated.

So, if you would like to know which tools I recommend to keep your software updated (and which I use to keep my software updated), read on.  Just a word of warning though, updated software may behave in a manner that is different to the version you have installed. Very rarely updates may have a bug that makes it unsafe to upgrade.  If you have any doubts, please do an internet search for any problems related to the upgrade.

Discussion

There are different types of users that may wish to use update monitors, so I have separated them into four categories.  The first is for the security concious.  I recommend that everyone install this excellent application.  The second category is for people that want an easy way of keeping their software updated, the third is for intermediate/advanced users that don't mind taking some time to set up their software, while the final category is for Mac users.

Security

Picture of Personal Software Inspector (PSI)Secunia's Personal Software Inspector (PSI) is an incredible software updater that all Windows users should have installed.  It may not keep your software updated when there are no known security issued related to the software, but it will ensure that your software is at the most secure it can be.  It will let you know which programs are patched, which are insecure and which are no longer maintained.  It even gives the installed software a rating related to its impact on the security of your computer.  After it has scanned your PC, it can remain open in the background to keep an eye on any changes you make.  It lists all your programs, and provides links to the vendor's homepage, technical details, the installation folder and "Add/Remove Programs".  If it detects software that requires patching, it will provide a link to the download page, or update the software itself.  Unfortunately, it's not perfect and does not support as much software as SUMo, but it works well and I would suggest using it occasionally to ensure your computer has no security flaws due to out-of-date software.

Easy-To-Use

Screen shot of UDN scan resultsFileHippo's Update Checker (UDC) is fast and very easy to use, but detects only a limited number of programs (probably adequate for most users).  It scans quickly and takes you to a webpage that provides a list of the programs it detected and links to the FileHippo download page for the new software.  It also allows you to decide whether or not to view Beta software.  In order to detect portable software, you have to add the folder in which the program resides to the custom search space.  This makes it slower, and it still doesn't detect all software.  Instead it detects only the software that's available on the FileHippo website.  However, UDC does allow multiple folders of portable software to be added to the custom search space, thereby potentially reducing the search space and speeding up the search.  Beware though, there have been unconfirmed reports of UDC presenting problems to those users that have a non-English version of Windows installed.  Further feedback regarding this problem would be appreciated.

Intermediate/Advanced Users

Picture of Software Update Monitor (SUMo)My favourite software update monitor is KC Softwares' Software Update Monitor Lite (SUMo) and it may be the best software update monitor for expert users.  It's faster than Secunia's PSI, but slower than UDC and requires more bandwidth to check for updates than UDC.  During a normal scan SUMo will search your start menu for a list of programs, while a complete scan checks your "Program Files" folder, yielding more results that may require some selective elimination. SUMo also let's you decide whether or not you want to be notified about Beta software. Another feature that you may or may not like about SUMo is the result you obtain by clicking on the "Update" link for new software. Whereas PSI and Update Checker take you directly to a download page, SUMo takes you to a webpage with usage statistics about recent versions of the program, and displays the number of users who use each version. Although that may be interesting, there is no direct link to a download page. SUMo's page gives you links to five major download sites' search pages (which sometimes do not work with the information supplied by SUMo) and a link to a Google search for the software.  However, by not being restricted to a database of downloadable software, the SUMo database can support any software its users' SUMo report.

The advantage of SUMo is that it informs you of updates to software that is not limited to security updates (such as PSI) or availablity on FileHippo (UDC).  It also lets you add or remove programs to the list it scans for updates by simply dragging the executable into SUMo's open window; a feature not available on any other software update monitor (UDC allows one to add folders to the search space).  Unfortunately, some developers do not include version information in their binaries which makes it impossible for SUMo to detect updates for them. This is a problem for most software update monitors.  Unfortunately, when SUMo performs its first thorough scan it detects executable files that may not be the main executable files of your installed software.  Experienced PC users should therefore take care to add the executable files that should not be checked for updates to the ignore list.  Once this has been done, the unwanted executables will not appear in future scans.

SUMo Install LinkWARNING: Should you decide to download SUMo, please ensure that you download the "Lite" or ZIP/7z versions (find the ZIP/7z versions on the download page - the links with the 7z and ZIP icons - the "Lite" version is below that, where it says "Free of all sponsors download links", as indicated in the screen shot below).  The full version comes with a program called Relevant Knowledge, which is detected by most security software as spyware.  While I agree with many that have contacted me that the developer is (at best) damaging his reputation by bundling SUMo with RK, you may read his explanation here.  The NoRK version comes bundled with a SUMo toolbar.  The "Lite" version is identical to the full version, only without the spyware, and therefore deserves to be on this list.  The safest to use would be the compressed versions as they do not have installers that can add any unwanted software/keys to your system/registry.

Mac

Picture of AppFreshThe application AppFresh by metaquark is a very useful software updater for Macs.  It keeps applications, widgets and Apple components updated (you can select which ones you wish to include), making use of i use this to check which updates are available, and to supply direct download links.  Unfortunately, this means it sometimes informs me of updates that are not stable releases, even though one may choose to be informed of either stable or nightly builds.  It also reports that the update status of some software is unknown, even though it can detect the version correctly and find the correct entry in the online database.  Strange.  However, it is generally good and easy to use.  It is the only software update monitor I am aware of for Macs (I tried the Mac version of Software Informer, but it did not work), so if you are aware of others, please let me know.

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Related Products and Links
Other Software Update Monitors

Ketarin takes another approach at software updating.  It keeps your install files up-to-date.  Once installed, you have to point it to the download link of the software you wish to keep updated (or give it its FileHippo ID).  This is quite nifty if you have to keep a database of install files updated for software you may not have installed on your own machine.

Many users have posted other SUMs since this article was first published.  I will briefly cover some of them and tell you why I did not like them.

Update Notifier used to be my top pick, but it was a victim of its own success when the team was unable to scale their venture accordingly.  The project may be started again and I will keep you updated.

UpdateStar is a SUM that I find annoying to use.  It keeps asking if you wish to upgrade to a premium service and the user interface is quite cluttered.  The updates generally appear quite reliable, though it is not perfect.  It does not add anything that would make me want to use it over those listed in the review.

Software Informer has improved a lot.  It is very thorough, with the side-effect that it often informed me of updates that are not available, or it would inform me of an update for version I have installed because it interpreted the version incorrectly.  Probably the best of the updaters not discussed in the main discussion.  The Mac version is terrible.  I can't even get it to work.

TechTracker by CNET gives me a few concerns.  Their privacy policy states that they collect information about you and share it with other companies.  It also comes bundled with OpenCandy.  That should be enough to stay far away from it.  But, I decided to test it anyway so that you don't need to.  Seemed quite good since it has the might of CNET's database behind it.  Still, I'm not sure if it is worth it over UDC because of the privacy concerns.  I signed up with an email account that I created especially for it and have been getting spam (approximately once a week) from CNET since (GMail detects it as such).

DownloadPlex.com's Software Update is slow with updates, does not make it clear which applications have updates and sometimes informs of updates that do not exist, or suggests updates that are not stable releases.

Software-UpToDate has recently been updated.  I will need to test it before making comments on it.  It seems that it does not support all software though.

There is a similar group of software that acts like a software manager, similar to the Synaptic Package Manager used by Ubuntu.  They give you access to a selected group of programs, install them and keep them up-to-date.  There are examples such as Appsnap, Appupdater and FreewareUpdater.  I could not get Appupdater to work and Appsnap and FreewareUpdater only supported a limited amount of software (and could not detect software that was already installed).  I feel these three programs belong in a different category and will not review them here.

RSS Feeds

There are some website RSS feeds I like to check for updates.  FreewareFiles has a great feed that list updates very quickly after they have been released, while Freeware-Guide gathers a list of software updated in a day and displays the list in an RSS feed the following day.  FileHippo and Softpedia also have RSS feeds for the latest additions to their databases.  Here are the five feeds:

If you would prefer the RSS feed of individual programs without using that program's homepage, FileHippo offers individual RSS feeds.

Related Topics
Have Your Say

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Quick Selection Guide

Personal Software Inspector (PSI)
5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Points out insecure software (including Windows updates), easy to use
Slow scan, only security updates, limited database
3.0.0.9016
5.08 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Free for private use only
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP (SP3) to Windows 8
Update Checker (UDC)
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Easy to use, direct download links, customize search space
Database limited to software on FileHippo.com, sometimes poor software detection
1.040
258 KB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 98/ ME/ 2000/ 2003/ XP/ Vista/ 7/ 8
Software Update Monitor Lite (SUMo)
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Ignore list, easily add portable software, less restricted than others
No direct download links, for more experienced user, too many results from in-depth scan, non-lite version bundled with spyware
3.10.6.232
1.47 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows XP/Vista/7

Install the "Lite", 7z or ZIP versions
Alternate download link: http://www.softpedia.com/get/System/System-Miscellaneous/SUMo.shtml

AppFresh
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Easy to use, checks Apple and third-party software, direct download links, slick interface
Some false positives, newest versions are commercial products
http://metaquark.de/appfresh/
0.9/892
2.1 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
There is no portable version of this product available.
Mac OS X 10.5 - 10.8

Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Glyn Burgess. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

 

Tags

Software updater, software update monitor, software update notifier, software monitor, software update checker, software update searcher, Personal Software Inspector, Update Notifier, Update Checker, PSI, UDC, SUMo, AppFresh

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Comments

by Anonymous on 25. August 2009 - 22:22  (31510)

Strangely enough after years of testing, I use ALL the recommended utilities above. Each tool usually shows updates that the others may not. I run Update Notifier, FileHippo and SUMo almost everyday. Secunia PSI, I use on occasions to check for security vulnerability issues. The challenge for software updaters and the developers that make these tools, is that there are often various versions of programs that are available stable, alpha or betas.

1. Update Notifier is fast and accurate for the large catalog of software it discovers updates for.

2. FileHippo is also fast and discovers new beta versions too which are often missed elsewhere.

3. SUMo is very comprehensive but sometimes shows dubious updates for some components software. The KC Software developer is very responsive to any issues on their forum. I have well over 500 installed applications and SUMo does an excellent job discovering updates where other updaters fail or do not even detect the installed software in the first place. Like most applications it is not perfect but it is one of the better updaters out there.

Thankfully there is a LITE version of SUMo that DOES NOT contain the insidious Relevant Knowledge "SPYWARE" which is very hard to eliminate all traces from your system. Just when updating SUMo your updater software usually points to the infected version of SUMo so you are better off downloading it manually. Relevant Knowledge is a marketing company who makes and distributes the RK SPYWARE component to subtly gain end user information and browsing habits. Their so called "agreement to install" their SPYWARE is easily missed when installing other programs. The LITE version of SUMO is quite safe and retains full functionality but doesn't bundle the RK SPYWARE.

Out of apparent necessity KC Software fund some of their development by bundling that garbage with SUMo and some of their other utilities. Since many other developers don't compromise their integrity in this manner I find it hard that KC Software justifies this activity however, I am not a starving developer either.

4. Secunia PSI to me is a really interesting piece of coding. It is a quasi update notification and software risk assessment tool. The vulnerability information it provides about installed, patched or updated programs is quite an eye opener. It now does an assessment of the security issues associated with your installed browser(s). This little gem helps me remove and update my system to minimize as many risks as possible and at the very least makes me aware of what programs are a potential risk to my systems security.

by FrankO on 27. August 2009 - 6:32  (31625)

Thanks for taking the time to write down your thoughts. I also use SUMo, UDN and UDC on a daily basis. I have set them to start automatically once a day (for when I know I will be at my PC) using the Windows Scheduler so that I do not forget to run them. I use PSI less though. Once a month, or fortnightly perhaps.

by Anonymous on 13. November 2009 - 8:32  (36548)
by FrankO on 13. November 2009 - 11:34  (36555)

See MidnightCowboy's response below. CNET writes:

You understand and agree that our Services may include communications such as service announcements and administrative messages from us or from our partners and that these communications are considered part of the Services. You will not be able to opt out of receiving these messages. You also understand that our Services may include advertisements.

And:

We will make your personally identifiable information available to other companies or people...

I'm not going to register to try their software. Besides, it is not well rated.

by ektorbarajas on 23. November 2009 - 15:46  (37171)

I've being trying "Update Notifier", in the past I used SUMO, but I noticed that "Update Notifier" is VERY limited, SUMO detects MORE software than "Update Notifier", even SUMO can check updates of software that was not installed, that is, software that you just extract from a zip file without an installation wizard.

So Now I'll go back to the good SUMO, Will uninstall "Update Notifier"!

by FrankO on 24. November 2009 - 7:30  (37209)

In Update Notifier you can add a folder of portable software (those with no installer) when you click on Settings and enter the folder with all this software in the text box under Other Options. Ensure that the check box labelled Check for updates the portable/stand-alone software located in this folder is ticked.

I tend to extract my portable software to my Program Files folder, so this is the one I have added to the search space.

by FrankO on 8. December 2009 - 9:37  (38066)

I have removed Update Notifier from the article. I did not get any reply from CleanSofts. SUMo is back as my favourite.

by Anonymous on 16. December 2009 - 13:56  (38807)

I think Cnet's Techtracker is a candidate for this page. I have only just started using it as a replacement for downlaod notifier as Sumo does not have any direct download links

by okwhen on 16. December 2009 - 19:30  (38822)

SUMo is spyware, please read their terms of use. This is the part you will be most interested in, “This software allows millions of participants in an online market research community to voice their opinions by allowing their online browsing and purchasing behavior to be monitored, collected, aggregated, and once anonymized, used to generate market reports which our clients use to understand Internet trends and patterns and other market research purposes.

by FrankO on 17. December 2009 - 6:41  (38853)

Okwhen, I cover this in the article and make it clear that you should download the "lite" version which does not contain the spyware.

by FrankO on 17. December 2009 - 6:56  (38854)

In their Terms of Use they write:

You understand and agree that our Services may include communications such as service announcements and administrative messages from us or from our partners and that these communications are considered part of the Services. You will not be able to opt out of receiving these messages. You also understand that our Services may include advertisements.

I don't like that at all. But I did sign up and will test the software. It may take some time though.

by moserw on 19. December 2009 - 6:23  (38997)

I've recently started using it myself i.e. TechTracker from CNET and I certainly find it impressive. Sure there might be some marketing messages but when you consider it works well and even gives the d/l links from CNET it works better than other alternatives I've tried out.

If you can find a product that will not have adverts or emails, will not give me d/l links, but update from within the main s/w interface itself then that's something I would love to check out. Hopefully you can find something like that for me!!!

by okwhen on 20. December 2009 - 1:30  (39038)

FrankO, I downloaded the light version of SUMo from the page where you wrote the warring. To use the software you must accept the term that gives them the right to monitor your browser uses as stated in my first post. Please read the statement while loading the software under "Accept" or "Decline". One of us is missing something.

by FrankO on 21. December 2009 - 12:43  (39100)

Hi Okwhen

I downloaded both the normal (sumo.exe) and lite (sumo_lite.exe) versions and only the normal version included the statement you wrote when it asks if you agree to install Relevant Knowledge software. I found no such wording in the license agreement for the lite version of SUMo. Perhaps if you could quote the section number if I am once again mistaken and missed it.

by okwhen on 21. December 2009 - 21:10  (39118)

Hi FrankO,

I have discovered my error. I was unaware that each icon beside the "Click Here" carried a link. I thought they represented the information under About "More" links. This is the first time I have encountered this with an icon definition index is provided. Thanks for being gentle.

by FrankO on 24. December 2009 - 20:44  (39396)

No worries, I'm glad we could sort out the misunderstanding.

by Anonymous on 13. January 2010 - 8:21  (40936)

Have tried most of these update notifiers. The most reliable one I have used recently was Update Checker from file hippo, but it doesn't find many programs. Tried SUMO on the strength of this recommendation, and I am very happy with it.

Thanks!

by Anonymous on 26. January 2010 - 6:46  (42096)

Excellent info
Suggest you include a word or two about other software, even if they are not worth reviewing in detail, so that those who happen to use them know that they are no good.
I would like your opinion of CNet's TechTracker which I recently installed.
Thanks.
- Harry.

by FrankO on 26. January 2010 - 8:01  (42099)

I have not used it a lot, but I am not that impressed by it yet. It is very slow in scanning my PC, and some of the software I have installed is newer that the versions it claims are most recent (not betas). I still prefer SUMo.

by JohnMW on 8. April 2010 - 13:54  (47228)

I agree. I gave up using CNet updater for the same reasons. File Hippo is much more reliable. However, I am cautious. I use it only as a check. I get updates from the original program site only. I have even more reservations about driver updaters. Only use the official driver site or the Computer manufacturer to check for updates. You can end up in real trouble if you don't.

by Anonymous on 8. April 2010 - 13:58  (47230)

Missed the part about downloading the lite version, Threatfire reported a Major Trojan " proxy-oss " after downloading the regular version. Now the lite version will not install even though I have completely scrubbed my system and removed the KC file folder. I get error messages reporting it can not install to that folder. Is this program worth pursuing or more trouble than it's worth?
JD

by FrankO on 8. April 2010 - 14:49  (47233)

It is not the top pick for nothing. I have no idea why you cannot install the file into the folder. Have you tried Unlocker, or LockHunter (see article stub here), to try delete the folder first (if it is still there)?

by Anonymous on 13. April 2010 - 15:20  (47568)

you can use fileheppo updater . i think it's very good.

by Anonymous on 30. April 2010 - 20:08  (48844)

I get an error message when I try to use Filehippo updater. I'm using Windows 7 64bit . Anyone else using this with Filehippo and not getting an error message?

by gazman on 26. May 2010 - 8:10  (50336)

The Sumo lite software is really excellent for a freebie and works very well on my 64 bit system. It accurately listed ALL installed software on my PC from both 32 bit and 64 bit program files. Thanks FrankO for this great recommendation. ;-)

by FrankO on 26. May 2010 - 9:30  (50340)

My pleasure gazman, I am glad you liked it.

by J_L on 26. May 2010 - 23:26  (50399)

This feed is very useful for freeware updates: http://www.freewarefiles.com/rss/newfiles.xml
You can even download from the software author's server directly.

by FrankO on 27. May 2010 - 5:39  (50419)

Thanks, I have updated the feeds list.

by Drongo on 5. June 2010 - 1:41  (51340)

On my broadband connection the current version of SUMO Lite (2.8.0.88) seems to time out long before it can finish checking. No problems with previous versions.

by Anonymous on 5. June 2010 - 10:36  (51395)

I just found a new software updater called "ProgSense"
Calling itself the Social software updater, it can be found
here:
http://progsense.recipester.org/