The Explorer: 10 Resolutions For Better Computing In The New Year
3. Regularly Check Your Vendors' Sites For File/Driver Updates. I don't advocate installing every new update and patch that comes along, but it's good to know what's available so you can make an informed decision on whether to stay with the version you have, or update. Every major hardware and software vendor has a download or update area: Once a month or so, swing by the Web sites of your PC maker, modem manufacturer, major applications vendors and so on -- and don't forget to visit Microsoft's own Windows Update site. Generally, any security-related patch or update is worthwhile on the face of it; but you can be selective with other patches. If a given patch or update fixes a problem you're having or that you feel likely to have, then grab it; but if it's an obscure problem you don't feel you'll run into, feel free not to download it. The bottom line: By proactively and selectively keeping your system current, you'll eliminate known, solved problems, and thus reduce the likelihood of unexpected future trouble.
And of course, use resolutions #1 and #2 above, to help recover from any problems you might have with the news updates.
4. Avoid Betas. Yes, they're tempting. But betas are unfinished prototypes, usually with known bugs or deficiencies. When you install a beta, you're actually choosing to add bugs and other problems to your system -- and why would you want to do that? Talk about asking for trouble!
There are perhaps three exceptions to this rule: First, if you've followed the first three resolutions, your system is probably current, stable and backed up; and you'll probably be able to undo whatever trouble the beta might spawn: In this case, using a beta carries minimal risk.
Second, if the beta is of an application, driver, or whatnot that's so essential or so cool that you absolutely have to see it, then the hassles of bugs and incompatibilities might be worth the benefit of the early look at the new product: In this case, you can consciously choose to install the beta, knowing and accepting the risks, especially if you carried out resolutions #1 to 3 above so you can get yourself out of trouble.
Third, there are safe betas (though they're rare). About the only betas that are completely, 100 percent safe are beta Web sites that install no software and change nothing on your system. In this case, bugs on the Web site can't introduce trouble to your system, so there's no risk.
5. Never Install A Final Version Over Any Beta. If you do run a beta version of something, never, ever install the final version of the software on top of the beta version. Always, without fail, uninstall the beta first! Ideally, use a pre-beta backup to ensure that your system has no trace of any EXE, DLL, registry setting or INF file left over from the known-buggy, known-incomplete beta. Fully removing all traces of any beta apps is the only way to insure you've also removed all the beta's bugs and other problems.
Note: This is especially true with Web browsers, when it's common to try betas and then upgrade the beta to the final version. But while this is common, it's also a nearly certain way to end up with a buggy final installation. Again, with all software, fully and completely uninstall any beta before you install the final version.
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