Operating System and Software Updates
What are Updates?
Every computer uses software called an Operating System (OS) to manage basic tasks such as storing and retrieving data, interfacing with other
programs and hardware, and more. As systems are used and new technologies are released, the OS requires software
upgrades or patches to resolve any security issues that are discovered and to improve functionality.
The most commonly used operating systems today are Microsoft's Windows and Apple's Macintosh OS 10. Both have different versions of the OS (for
example: 7, Vista and XP for Windows and 10.8 or Mountain Lion and 10.7 or Lion for Macintosh) so you may find that some updates only affect specific versions. Software
programs such as Word, Excel, Adobe Reader and Acrobat, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Symantec can also require updates and patches from time to time. Since the OS or
software program has to contact its parent company, your computer must be online to get new information about updates.
Updating Your Operating System
Both Windows and the Mac OS are typically set to look for updates automatically, but it is important to regularly check the computers you
use to make sure this function is running properly since viruses and other malicious programs can attempt to block updates. CUIT on the
Morningside campus provides online tutorials and information on running updates for Windows and Macintosh. Please
keep in mind that using updates require an Administrative log on to the computer, so you may not have access to run them on a department system
that is managed by CUMC IT or other IT staff.
Keep your operating system up to date - This Columbia University site includes information for both Windows and Macintosh. CUMC Faculty, Staff and Students should contact the
CUMC IT Service Desk with any specific issues or questions regarding updates.
Updating software programs
To update a specific program, there is typically a "Check for Updates" option under its Help menu, or you can visit the company's web site for patches and new versions.
You may also be prompted by the software when it opens or closes if an automatic update feature is enabled.
CUMC IT and Department Managed Computers
Computers that are managed by CUMC IT receive operating system (OS) updates automatically. If you have a unique user name and password for a computer that is owned
by your department, you will most likely not have access to install updates and patches. Your logon does not give
sufficient access to the computer to modify parts of the OS as required for updates - this is a protective measure since viruses, spyware and
unauthorized programs often try to change parts of the OS as well.
Am I Logged in with Administrative Rights?
To check your login rights on a Windows XP computer, right-click on the Start button in the lower left corner of your computer screen. If you see an option to "Open All Users", you have administrative rights and should change your login via the Control Panel - User Accounts option, or contact the IT group that manages your work computer to advise them. If you only see "Open", you are not logged in as an administrator.
Windows 7, Vista and Macintosh systems will prompt for an administrative password before installing a program or changing advanced settings on a computer. If you are prompted for an administrative password but did not intend to install or change computer settings, do not enter one!
More about updates and patches:
- Microsoft updates are categorized by the severity of any security risk they
patch, if they are released for this purpose. It is very important that updates marked critical
be installed as soon as possible to protect your computer and data from malicious people or programs. Even if you are running other security
programs such as antivirus, antispyware and firewalls, an exploit related to a critical upgrade could cause problems on your computer.
Details regarding individual Microsoft updates can be found at:
- Microsoft releases most of its updates and patches on the second Tuesday of every
month. If your Windows Update feature is turned on you should receive these automatically.
- Microsoft Service Packs are large bundles of upgrades and patches. Since they must make a number of
changes to the operating system, it is highly recommended that you back up your data before installing a Service Pack.
Launch Acrobat or Adobe Reader.
- Select Edit - Preferences from the program's upper left menu.
- Select OK and close the program.
- CUMC IT posts information about important updates and security issues for all operating systems and commonly used programs in the News and Announcements column on our
- OS and software updates may not actually be required to continue running
the computer or program, and some may add features that don't necessarily care about. If you do not have the time to find out why the update was
released, it is recommended that you install it anyway in case it fixes a security issue.
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Last updated 12/19/2011