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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  It will let you know which programs are patched, which are insecure and which are no longer maintained.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 DocFallingApart on 30. May 2011 - 6:21  (72923)

What do you think about Cnet's TechTracker? I'm not really happy with any of the SUMs out there, but TechTracker seems to be pretty accurate and complete. It takes you to a web page that lists your software and has direct links to download updates. It also tends to bug you at least twice per session to buy the premium version on the down side. It also is only good for gold versions of software. No betas for the most part. It's worth checking out as I image it would be good enough for some people. I keep hopping someone will develop a SUM with an interface like Filehippo's or Cleansoft's and a database like Fileform.betanews.com has, but no luck so far. I'm going to try SUMo again as I don't remember why I didn't like it the last time other then it's update links.

by LEDthereBeLight (not verified) on 30. May 2011 - 14:52  (72934)

Another approach to simple program updating is Liberkey, a Suite: a - your - selection of portable programs, ment for use from an USB, but it functions from a computer too. The list of programs you can choose from is on their site. LiberKey keeps its programs updated with a simple push on a button once in a while. Liberkey updates its programs very accurate. Another Suite Lupo_pen can be used too, but their update is much less accurate.

by FrankO on 5. June 2011 - 19:45  (73301)

I have updated the article. Their privacy policy is shocking, and they bundle it with OpenCandy. Not bad otherwise.

by FrankO on 5. June 2011 - 19:53  (73305)

This is probably the route I will go when I get a new PC/OS. Rather use more portable software and an updater like this to keep them all updated. Thanks for the find.

by l.o. (not verified) on 8. June 2011 - 9:44  (73482)

I have used WebVersions (http://users.telenet.be/littlegems/MySoft/WebVersions/Index.html) for several years now to check for new versions and I like it very much. It does not use an online database, you define everything yourself and that suits me because I have so many (uncommon) programs that are not in an online database.

by FrankO on 8. June 2011 - 10:31  (73486)

Looks interesting, but like it requires A LOT of work and a good understanding of web design. Will try it soon.

One problem I have spotted is that it depends on the accuracy/detail of a webpage. For example, the PSI download page states that the current version is 2.0. However, there is greater detail in the version number (the latest version is 2.0.0.3003), so you may miss some minor builds with bug fixes.

by John Cyber (not verified) on 15. June 2011 - 12:19  (73833)

Dear Sir,

Have you noticed that SUMo has gone out of business ?

There´s not even the KC Software home page any longer !

I am a great fan and daily user of SUMo, and I have to say I´m sad to see it "gone in the wind", so to speak ...

by FrankO on 15. June 2011 - 13:05  (73835)

Does not look that way to me. Their site is still active from my side.

by garth on 15. June 2011 - 13:13  (73837)

Working fine for me too.

by MidnightCowboy on 15. June 2011 - 13:30  (73838)

They are still responding in their forum too.

by John Cyber (not verified) on 15. June 2011 - 16:48  (73846)

Well, I met that with mixed feelings. I´m glad SUMo has NOT gone out of business, but I wonder what in the Heavens is happening here. I have SUMo installed in two separate machines, and we´re talking two separate Web access. One is a Business oriented environment, so, understandably, the proxy may have been set to block this one, but the other one is home-based. I cannot access the KC web site (via Browser), and I´m not getting any response when I start the Check (in fact, there´s a warning about "Server Time out"). It looks like SUMo has "Peer Blocked" South America or something like that.
Anyway, thanks for quick return !

by John Cyber (not verified) on 16. June 2011 - 17:15  (73886)

Regarding this issue, I have sent an e-Mail to kyle.katarn@kcsoftwares.com this morning, but I haven´t got any answer yet. I have performed yet another test yesterday evening, using another machine. Definitely, SUMo cannot connect to the Home Database, and all known KC Software web address are unavailable. I am Brazilian, and I live in Sao Paulo city.

Thanks again !

by FrankO on 16. June 2011 - 17:41  (73889)

I just tried mine too. It is working on my side.

by boristhemoggy on 20. June 2011 - 6:37  (74017)

I have 2 laptops, a Dell and an Acer, and what none of these programs do is check the versions of programs that are installed which are specific to the brand.
You'd think brand name companies would send info out once you register with them but no.

by FrankO on 20. June 2011 - 7:34  (74019)

You may want to try Software Informer. It detected some of my brand-specific software. I find that the brand-specific software is often quite useless and try to uninstall it.

by anny on 12. August 2011 - 8:43  (77522)

Thanks for this:

by FrankO on 12. August 2011 - 8:45  (77523)

I'm glad you find it useful.

by Monhous (not verified) on 2. September 2011 - 6:35  (78854)

The download links on the official website are down since months and the coder doesn't care, even though he still publishes updates.

by Anupam on 2. September 2011 - 6:40  (78856)

Which software are you talking about?

by KyleKatarn (not verified) on 2. October 2011 - 14:32  (80745)

SUMo is back to business ! (but the official page has never gone away... server or client issue ?)
Please update this page (version is incorrect).
Btw, OpenCandy is NO LONGER bundled in lite version.

Enjoy !

by FrankO on 2. October 2011 - 17:52  (80763)

Thanks for the update KyleKatarn, I have updated the article accordingly.

by Jesse B. (not verified) on 2. October 2011 - 22:11  (80775)

I have used Secunia PSI for over a year for major security patches and with no nagging advertisements. I thought I would check out SUMO, chose not to install the "super software package" (which included browswer add-on's) and noticed a few screens later it warned me about installing "Relevant Knowledge" which says they make every effort to secure your "browsing and shopping habits". It seemed a bit risky and my AV software agreed. I backed out of the install and deleted the file from my computer. Secunia takes care of the heavy lifting automatically and File Hippo, run occasionally picks up the slack.

by FrankO on 3. October 2011 - 7:21  (80792)

I'm sorry that you had that experience. I try to be very clear which version to download. If you download the Lite or 7z/ZIP versions, then there should not be any problems.

by Kyle_Katarn on 3. October 2011 - 19:59  (80819)

Jesse B. : Please use Lite / NoRK installers
Franck O. : Would you please be so kind to correct the article since OpenCandy is NO LONGER bundled in lite version ?

I'm so happy to get back to SUMo dev again !!!!

by Jesse B. (not verified) on 3. October 2011 - 22:41  (80825)

My bad. You were clear after re-reading the entire article. I jumped to the quick selections review. I will definately give it a try. Thanks.

by MidnightCowboy on 4. October 2011 - 6:12  (80847)

If you are indeed connected with SUMo, please contact the editor using the link above so this can be verified.

by Kyle_Katarn on 7. October 2011 - 21:06  (81066)

Thank you ! Do not hesitate to contact our tech support if necessary !

by paulderdash on 9. October 2011 - 8:06  (81140)

Re UDC: 'In order to detect portable software, you have to add the folder in which the program resides to the custom search space.' Where is custom search space - or am I missing something?

by FrankO on 31. October 2011 - 21:34  (82493)

If you click on "Settings", then the "Custom Locations" tab, you can add the folders you wish UDC to check.

by topman (not verified) on 14. December 2011 - 11:52  (84996)

Just took SUMo off my system! Latest update wants to install much too much other stuff as well. Even when you decide to opt out at the start of the new set-up it persists later on.
Too many boxes to be un-ticked and to be aware of. TOO INTRUSIVE!
(Used to be one of my my favourite bitsof kit - pity!)