Patch and Update Monitors
Computer security is a multifaceted endeavor. Every computer needs a good antivirus program, a firewall, at some point a password manager and update monitor, and at least a couple of anti-spyware, adware and other specialty programs. These hide in the background and, with the exception of the password managers and update monitors, chances are you'll never know they are there until you go looking for them or they alert you of a threat.
Keeping software updated is fairly straightforward if the program has a Live Update utility and you register the software, but with few exceptions live updates notify you of incremental version changes, not security patches. Some companies list these as "updates," but most do not. These you have to look for.
KC Software's Software Update Monitor
KC Software's Software Update Monitor (everyone calls it SUMo) can keep your PC up-to-date by using the most recent version of your favorite software. Unlike build-in auto update features, SUMo tells you if updates are available before you ever need to use your software.
SUMo automatically detects installed software and then looks for required updates / patchs. You can even authorize it to find beta versions of updates. It also allows you to create an Ignore List, so that it only tracks software you want to track. SUMo claims greater compatibility and less false positive than other update monitors (based on user feedback). Besides English, the program supports 16 other languages.
SUMo is an excellent program with unique strengths, but also has some drawbacks. One of these is that it looks for and finds all executables, many of which are subsets of larger programs and rarely are the executables requiring updating. When these subsets are listed, they can be dragged to the Ignore List and forever ignored, but this takes time and knowledge of what does what to selectively populate the List.
Another drawback is that when SUMo identifies a program needing updates, it takes you to a webpage with statistics about recent versions of the program, but there is no direct link to a download page. SUMo's page gives you links to major download sites' search pages, but there is no guarantee you will find the right upgrade link.
Finally, when downloading SUMo, it is important to download the lite version (on the download page, it is the link with the letters "RK" crossed out). The full version comes with a program call Relevant Knowledge (RK) which some security software classifies as spyware. The lite version is identical to the full version, only without the questionable RK program.
Systems: Windows ? (works with XP, not tried with 7)
RadarSync PC Updater
Peripheral (printer, scanner, sound card, graphics card, wireless connection, or external hard drive) manufacturers are constantly updating their drivers, while few users ever think of looking for updates. PC Updater automatically updates your device drivers, preventing system errors, crashes, and problems with peripheral devices. It can install the latest security patches and versions of your software programs, protecting you from hackers who prey on people who don't keep their software programs current.
PC Updater downloads all your updates directly from original manufacturers and publishers, ensuing they are the original, virus free updates.
Systems: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7 (32-/64-bit) and Server 2008
Secunia Personal Software Inspector
We install programs and they immediately prompt us to search for updates. We do that and rest assured we have everything under control. But what if a month later the manufacturer of the software you installed publishes a patch to fix a security issue? If you registered the program and they notify you of the patch, you can download it. If not, you may never know the patch exists. Your computer is vulnerable and you haven't a clue. There is also the chance that your program has a "live update" feature, meaning it will "call home" every once in a while to see if there are any patches and download them while you are checking email, paying bills or playing a game. But what if your firewall blocks live update from calling home? Again, your computer is vulnerable, there is a fix, but you neither have it nor know it exists. Enter Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI).
Secunia PSI can scan the programs on your computer and tell you exactly which programs need to be updated. It will also give you the necessary links to the updates. In some cases, a program will have two or more patches pending. Secunia PSI will not take the program off the "threatened list" until you install all pending patches.
It's a pretty cool program every computer ought to have. But it is limited to security patches, so if you want driver or program updates you need to install it in concert with another updater as well.
Systems: Windows XO, Vista and 7
Update Checker scans your computer for installed software, checks the version numbers and then sends this data to a parent website (FileHippo.com) to check for newer releases. These are then displayed in your browser for you to download.
The program is fast and very easy to use, but it only detects a limited number of programs (although this is probably adequate for most users). It does, however, allow you to choose to view Beta updates or not. It will detect portable software, but this requires some extra steps.
Systems: Windows 98, ME 2000, 2003, XP, Vista