Knowing When to Upgrade Software

Software upgrades generally do two things: Offer you new or improved features, and fix bugs present in existing versions. Whether you upgrade will depend on your need for the new or improved features, depend on whether you experience problems because of software bugs, and, of course, depend on your budget.

When exploring a software upgrade, consider these questions:

  • Will the upgrade offer you capabilities you need and don’t currently have? Because software has advanced so much in recent years, new or improved capabilities these days are often pretty obscure. Perhaps the upgrade would allow you to calculate how many words in a document start with uppercase letters or something equally as obscure. But do you really need that capability?
  • Do you have to share files with friends or co-workers? Before you upgrade, consider whether you’ll still be able to easily share files with people who use a previous software version. In most cases, you’ll still be able to share files, but you probably won’t be able to take advantage of new features that previous versions don’t offer. If you won’t be able to use the new features, you probably shouldn’t upgrade–at least not yet.
  • Are you affected by software bugs? If you are affected by software bugs in the version you’re currently using, you might consider upgrading if the new version adequately corrects the problems. But, keep in mind that new versions may not fix all bugs and that they will undoubtedly introduce new ones.
  • Would you benefit from more user-friendly features? Many upgrades these days boast more user-friendly features and wizards that can help you accomplish your goals more easily. These user-friendly features can help you get started, learn new skills, answer questions, or offer easier ways to do things. These features are ideal if you’re a computer novice or just getting started with new tasks or projects.
  • Can you wait and see? If possible, wait for a few months before you upgrade. By doing so, you can find out from others whether the upgrade is worth it and why. Also, brand new software versions are usually quickly followed by updates or “service packs” that improve them even more (or fix the really nasty new bugs). If possible, wait a few months–or several months–and make sure you get what you need with the least amount of hassle.

In general, we recommend that you do some research about new software versions before rushing to buy them. Find out about features and bug fixes, and find out what people are saying about the new versions. As for us, well, we’re pretty slow to upgrade. Being geeks, we’ll eagerly try almost anything new that we can get our hands on. When it comes to the software we use to get real work done, though, we take our time, do some research, and make sure it’s what we need.