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  It will let you know which programs are patched, which are insecure and which are no longer maintained.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

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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 vika6 (not verified) on 8. December 2010 - 4:45  (62202)

The plus is that download links are from CNET only and are trustworthy - I belive !

by koliniol on 4. October 2010 - 14:18  (59020)

I've tried Secunia PSI, Software Update Monitor Lite (SUMo) and Update Checker (UDC) but I prefer Software Informer http://software.informer.com/.
It was originally installed by Free Download Manager (FDM) , and I must say it's nearly perfect (although still in beta Version).
It runs silently in the background, pop ups when new updates are available, has download links to those updates, and it also creates a Personal Web Page with all Updates available.
I believe it deserves a permanent place (1st ?) in this category.

by FrankO on 4. October 2010 - 14:56  (59022)

When I last tried it it was quite annoying considering that it detected updates very poorly. I will have a look at it in due course and see whether or not it has improved.

by Kiwikid (not verified) on 9. September 2010 - 7:57  (57495)

What's wrong with your recommendation of SUMo? Well you didn't exactly make it clear that you needed to click the no RK symbol for the download. I clicked on the download link to the left which of course downloaded the one with RK installed. Threatfire threw a wobbly when it found it and quarantined the whole installation. Had me scratching my head and I went back and looked on the site and finally twigged.

Installed it, and finally uninstalled it. It's an absolute pain! Goes to a SUMo page when updating and half the links don't even exist. Comes up with a munted Google search page as well.

Think I will just keep on looking.

by Anupam on 9. September 2010 - 8:23  (57498)

If you read the article carefully, you will see that the editor has clearly given a Warning in red color, for the sake of the visitors. In this, he clearly explains to download the lite version of Sumo to avoid getting the Relevant Knowledge bundled with the software. Also, the editor has shown this with an image, how to download the lite version. So, please do not blame the editor that he did not make it clear. It is very clear in the article.

by goutham (not verified) on 9. September 2010 - 7:13  (57494)

very good

by jamie010101 (not verified) on 21. August 2010 - 4:21  (56456)

First I love your site, it has some great tips and downloads, all on one site,that would take hours to find independently. I do think however, that Sumo is riddled with spy-ware, and the explanation given by the developer is weak, to say the least. He calls it a "mis-characterization" to say that RelelvantKnowledge is spy-ware. Baloney !
Even when you uninstall it leaves a trail behind in your registry a mile long. It also punches through your firewall,without asking, that you have to manually remove.
I think you should re-think your recommendation for this software and pull the plug on this poor excuse for maleware.

by FrankO on 23. August 2010 - 7:49  (56550)

This is why I repeatedly mention that you should download SUMo Lite (which does not have RK bundled with it), not the normal version. I cannot see how I could make it any clearer.

by jamie010101 (not verified) on 8. September 2010 - 5:01  (57436)

Hi and thanks for replying. I still think that any software you have to jump hoops through, in order to avoid spyware or maleware before downloading, is probably best to avoid.
And the response from the developer was totally inadequate.He knows exactly what he is peddling, a program designed around spy and maleware.

Thanks again,

jamie

by Anonymous03938567 (not verified) on 21. January 2011 - 1:34  (64933)

What hoops? You click on the non-RK icon. Jeesh!

by Mr.LokiNight (not verified) on 3. August 2010 - 0:04  (55374)

Incorrect advice re SUMo lite

Don't download SUMo lite (the button with 'RK' crossed out) Something in there set my ThreatFire screaming

by JohnMW on 19. August 2010 - 20:13  (56373)

I had the same problem. I later found RelevantKnowledge had set itself up. It refused to be deleted. I then ran full superantispyware. It found it had infected 13 files and deleted it. I then ran Avast in pre-boot mode. It found a further 6 infected filed and deleted them. I deleted all previous system restore points and back ups.
I am highly suspicious of update programs other than File Hippo and Secunia and Secunia occasionally goes nuts but I never trust those that try to send you to download sites other than your PC manufacturer, Microsoft or the supplier of your programs.

by ianjrichards (not verified) on 3. August 2010 - 1:55  (55376)

I was disturbed by the above comment so I just installed SUMo lite on a PC with the latest version of Threatfire installed. No problems were reported. I can only assume that you downloaded the wrong version of the file.

To double check I then uploaded the SUMo lite file to the Jotti online scanning service.(http://virusscan.jotti.org/en). It scanned totally clean. You can see the results here:

http://virusscan.jotti.org/en/scanresult/749ac84fd810429531ccaa5e6ebfd29...

As a final check I installed and ran SUMo lite on several machines under the watchful eye of various security programs including Avira, PrevX, Avast and MSE. Actually installing a program is a much better check for adware or other nasties than just scanning a file yet none of these security programs reported a problem of any kind with SUMo lite.

So SUMo lite passed all the tests I threw at it.

Do be careful though to ensure you download the Lite version. These days many software vendors are pushing advertising supported versions of their products so you need to be careful. CCleaner is a good example. It installs the Yahoo search bar unless you specifically uncheck that option. That doesn't stop me using or recommending CCleaner - I simply uncheck the Yahoo option when installing.

The same applies to SUMo lite. Good product but make sure you install the lite version.

More generally I don't have a problem with adware supported products provided the developer is totally upfront about it. It's when developers deliberately hide the facts or worse still, say nothing that I really have a problem. The folks who make SUMo need to watch this as they are on the borderline here and we are watching them closely. One move in wrong direction and they are going to get dropped by Gizmos despite the fact that they offer a class leading product.

Gizmo

by Jan Panhuis (not verified) on 2. August 2010 - 16:04  (55363)

Thanks for the info , still................
when downloading Sumo my Eset viruscanner does say multiple threaths
found , a little strange , or ??

Kindest regards

ps
keep up the good work

by David Snow (not verified) on 2. August 2010 - 17:01  (55365)

I did download the No-RK version and it still set off Kaspersky helling about RK and more.

I recommend that SUMo be taken off the list

by trident (not verified) on 26. September 2010 - 12:58  (58465)

I recommend that people make sure they download the proper version of SUMo (the lite version) instead of the adwareversion and then pretending it was the lite version that set off all kinds of alarms.

How much clearer does one have to be?

I've downloaded the lite version all the time and NEVER has it set off any alarms, not with my Malwarebytes Anti-malware and not with my ESET NOD32.
Also, when doing on-demand scans with SUPERantispyware and Hitman Pro is NEVER found any RK nonsense on my computer when i had the lite version of SUMo installed.

So obviously, people have been downloading the adware version and not the lite version. Please stop badmouthing the lite version of SUMo.

by Anupam on 2. August 2010 - 16:09  (55364)

Which version of Sumo did you download? The full version contains Relevant Knowledge(RK), which is kind of spyware, and therefore, it may trigger the AVs. As stated in the article, download the lite version of Sumo to avoid that.

by MikeR (not verified) on 2. August 2010 - 14:07  (55357)

Excellent updated review and much appreciated -- but what's all this about ********* and how it "used to be unpleasant"?

[Edit: commercial software and related long discussion are removed in this post.]

by FrankO on 2. August 2010 - 14:38  (55359)

Thanks MikeR, I have removed my review of it from the article since it is shareware and no longer freeware. It really was quite terrible in comparison to SUMo and Update Checker.

by newprouser (not verified) on 2. August 2010 - 13:03  (55353)

Interesting that no one thought of using the portable Sumo ! It doesn't have any spyware as well. The download link is right before what is pointed out in the image in the article.

by awh (not verified) on 2. August 2010 - 13:46  (55355)

Yeah Portable Sumo is nice! Not too sure about the page where it sends you for the updates (probably harmless - just some ads, and a link to Google to grab the latest version of the software). Thanks!

by William Mee (not verified) on 2. August 2010 - 10:15  (55344)

May I suggest the new Orbit Downloader? The latest version also has an in-built software updater. From an initial glance, it looks pretty decent. Orbit is one of the programs listed in the Free Download Managers section as well.

by FrankO on 2. August 2010 - 11:08  (55348)

My initial impression is that it is still buggy. It also seems to find too many updates, many false. I wil keep an eye on it and see how it progresses.

Thanks for the heads up.

by rudyg (not verified) on 23. July 2010 - 21:15  (54824)

Is it just me or does SUMO get stuck when checking for updates?
I need to know.

by Drongo on 11. August 2010 - 6:04  (55782)

Mine was stopping for months. The latest version though seems to have corrected the problem.

by rudyg (not verified) on 11. August 2010 - 9:01  (55790)

Thanks, I downloaded the recent version and its doing better now.

by Anonymousss (not verified) on 2. August 2010 - 13:00  (55352)

it happens for me too. I suppose that their server can't handle the load. nevertheless, it resumes again with in half a minute or so.

by Anonymous on 20. June 2010 - 18:38  (52548)

I use Sumo Lite, but its worth noting that even the light version want to install a "KC Softwares Toolbar". In case you don't want it make sure to uncheck it during installation.

by Anonymous on 20. June 2010 - 7:53  (52506)

*TechTracker*

http://www.cnet.com/techtracker/?tag=nodl

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/

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