6 software and driver update utilities compared

If you dismissed update utilities as something only for home users (as I did until recently), now might be the time to take a second look.

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Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI)

Price: Free Trial: Download here

Probably the most commonly used of the utilities on this list, Secunia PSI, is actually more of a security application than a classic software updater. The free tool (corporate users need to pay!) is a tad more user friendly than UpdateStar and offers a clean overview of programs that are in dire need of updating:

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Secunia focuses heavily on security-related patches, which is why browsers (Chrome, Firefox) and web technologies (Java, Adobe AIR) are at the top of their list. Unfortunately, other products that I deliberately kept out of date (Skype, DropBox, DiskAid, and SnagIt) were not detected -- granted, these tools probably are not at a high risk from being compromised, but it would still be nice to have them covered.

Bottom line: If you're looking for an all-in-one update utility, PSI is not it. Think about it rather as an additional security checker.

Scorecard: Update detection: 2/5 stars User interface/ease-of-use: 5/5 stars

SUMo (Software Update Monitor)

Price: Free Trial: Download here

Once installed (beware the annoying toolbars that SUMo tries to install), SUMo automatically checks your Start menu for commonly-used applications that are out-of-date. My advice, though, is to use the "Scan" feature to perform a complete disk scan:

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If you're using a lot of portable programs that don't require installation or if you're missing a program on the list, the "Add" button helps you locate the executable that you'd like to check on a regular basis. The program checks for updates for more than 90,000 programs, but on my test machines SUMo only detected updates for 3 programs (Adobe AIR, Java 32-Bit, Java 64-Bit). I was surprised to find that Google Chrome and Skype couldn't be detected automatically. And when I tried to check for updates to a clearly outdated program (Chrome 24, in this example), I was directed to KCSoftware's cluttered website that doesn't offer direct links to the updates. That's not user-friendly at all.

Scorecard: Update detection: 2.5/5 stars User interface/ease-of-use: 2.5/5 stars

Ninite Updater

Price: $9.99/year Trial: Download here

The Ninite Updater interface is a lot simpler than any other solution I looked at. You'll get a list of all out-of-date applications and can access the update with just a click of a button. There are no exclusion lists, no descriptions, no fancy online integration. But guess what: I actually like this approach as I personally want these software updaters to JUST WORK and not make me spend too much time manually fiddling with updates and settings. Plus, Ninite Updater automatically downloads all the applications and installs them silently. A huge bonus over the competition.

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One downside: Ninite didn't detect some of the programs such as the widely-popular CCLeaner, SnagIt 11, DiskAid, TuneUp Utilities 2013, and the codec-pack "Win8Codecs".

Scorecard: Update detection: 3.5/5 stars User interface/ease-of-use: 5/5 stars

FileHippo Update Checker

Price: Free Trial: Download here

FileHippo's Update Checker performs a check of your system's programs folder and detects out-of-date programs. The usual routine? Not quite. Instead of a standalone tool that gives you an overview of all available updates, FileHippo Update Checker forwards you to its website where you'll get direct links to the updated program:

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From here, you can launch a download to the latest version. Not quite the most convenient way, but it works. Overall, FileHippo's detection rate was pretty good: It recognized all available updates and even recommended some beta updates. If you're looking for a free alternative, FileHippo is worth checking out to see if it covers your frequently used programs. It might very well be a viable alternative to the commercial solutions.

Scorecard: Update detection: 4/5 stars User interface/ease-of-use: 2/5 stars

Driver Update Tools

UpdateStar Drivers 5

UpdateStar Premium doesn't update your device drivers. This is what its sibling, UpdateStar Drivers is for. It promises to save you both time and crashes by finding and installing the latest drivers for your system. After an initial scan, UpdateStar Drivers tells you exactly how many updates are available for which devices:

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In my lab tests, I installed UpdateStar Drivers on a gaming machine that I haven't updated since October 2012. UpdateStar found 30 out of date drivers (by comparison, Windows Update offered only the latest Intel chipset drivers as an optional update). Clicking the "Download All" button initiated a driver backup routine first:

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