Wouldn't it be nice if your Windows programs would all update themselves in the background, without you having to manually download every ding dong update that comes along? There are a lot of programs that will monitor updates for you, but the best we've found is Ninite Updater. Here's why.
Platform: Windows Price: $US10/year, free workaround available (see below) Download Page
- Checks for updates to over 90 programs in the background while you work.
- Notifies you of updates and installs batches of them in just a few clicks.
- Skip certain updates or ignore apps entirely.
Where It Excels
Ninite Updater -- from the makers of the awesome Ninite installer -- hits the perfect balance between simplicity and effectiveness. It sits in your system tray, monitoring the programs you have installed, without any action on your part. Updating your apps takes almost no effort at all, requiring just a few clicks to get the batch updater rolling. It has a sizeable database of apps, including all of the apps you can get for the Ninite installer, plus a few others that aren't on the list (like AutoHotkey). Out of 19 not-updated apps on our system, Ninite found updates for 14 of them. Even if you didn't use Ninite to install your programs, it will detect and update them for you.
Where It Falls Short
The most obvious downside of Ninite updater is its cost -- $US10 a year isn't a lot, but it's significantly more than other updaters, most of which are free. Still, it's our pick for a reason -- it's the best around.
The other major downside we noticed is that it can't update apps that are currently running (well, none of them can, but Ninite won't close them for you -- you have to manually close each one yourself).
A Free Alternative from Ninite
If $US10 a year is too steep for you, there is a workaround of sorts. You can't use the Ninite updater if you don't pony up the cash, but you can use the regular ol' Ninite installer to update your apps. It won't notify you of updates, and it requires a few more clicks, but it works. Just head to Ninite.com, check off the apps you want to update, then download and run the installer.
If Ninite Updater isn't for you, you have some other options. The FileHippo Updater Checker is one of the more popular options around, and it's completely free. Just run it, and it will take you to a web page listing all the updates you need to install, which you can then download one by one. Its database isn't nearly as big as Ninite's, however. On our test system, it only detected five out of 19 apps that needed updating (although it did also notify us of three apps that could be updated to betas). Plus, it requires you to download and install each update individually, which kind of defeats the purpose of an updater.
Secunia PSI is another popular option. Secunia is the most set-and-forget option, letting you download and install all updates in the background, automatically, without any interaction from you. However, Secunia is a bit more security-focused than anything else -- which is a good thing, but it also means it isn't very concerned with minor, non-security updates. Out of our 19 apps, it only notified us of five updates, even though some of our other apps were in its database. If you're only looking to stay up-to-date on critical security patches, Secunia PSI is great, but it won't cover all your other programs as well.
Lastly, Software Update Monitor (SUMo) had the best detection rate of them all, finding updates for 18 out of our 19 programs. It also has more configuration options, letting you search for beta versions, search specific folders and more. However, it only notifies you of what programs need updates -- it won't download them for you, or even let you download them directly from their site like FileHippo's updater does. It just leads you to their site, which then leads you to a number of download pages where you can get the files. Plus the main download is riddled with crapware, though you can download a portable or "Lite" version from its download page as long as you avoid the big blue "Download" button and look at the smaller buttons next to it.
Overall, none of these options are perfect, but we found Ninite produced the best experience by far, and is well worth the cost if you want to keep all your programs up to date. It won't catch every program on your computer, but it will get you most of the way there, especially if you use mostly free software (or software from our yearly Lifehacker packs).
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