HomeHome : Monthly Tips : Oct 2012

Wait to Upgrade

October 2012 — Tip of the Month

We live in a society where it is fashionable to have the latest gadgets. Some of us who are technically inclined don't just like to have the newest hardware, but we feel the urge to get the latest software as well.

New versions of software typically offer new features and user interface improvements over the previous versions. However, they often introduce new bugs and incompatibilities as well. While most commercial software is beta tested before being released to the public, it simply isn't possible for the developer to ensure a new software release will be 100% bug-free and fully compatible with everything the old version was. Therefore, companies often rely on early adopters to report bugs and compatibility issues so they can release patches or "point updates" that fix the problems.

While some bugs with new software versions are simply annoying, others may bring your workflow to a grinding halt. For example, if a new version of a program crashes whenever you perform a common operation, the program may be unusable. If the new version is not backwards compatible with older file formats, you might not be able to open your old data files. Therefore, it is wise review the developer's release notes before deciding to upgrade.

It is also wise to wait a few weeks after a software version is released before updating your software. This gives developers a chance to fix the most glaring issues with the new version. I especially recommend waiting to upgrade your operating system, since the OS affects everything else you do. Operating system releases are notorious for having compatibility issues with both hardware devices and software programs. It is often up to third-party developers to release updates that enable their hardware or software work with new OS versions.

If you wait a few weeks for the first "point update" (e.g., Mac OS X 10.8.1 instead of version 10.8.0) before you upgrade, you will avoid most of the issues that might affect your daily usage. You can let the trendy early adopters wade through the bugs so you don't have to.

- Per Christensson