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Several programs such as PDF viewers, Password Managers, Download Assistants and others that are somewhat susceptible to security problems mostly have an automatic update check enabled. Usually I get a message that a new version is available with the link to the website, but no particular update instructions.

So I wonder if there is a general rule for programs installed on Windows 7 and other versions how to update a software correctly. Is it ok to just download and install the new version? Do I have to uninstall the old version first? Does it depend whether it is a minor or major upgrade? Or do I have to find out for each program individually?

I only found specific instructions for a few software packages and while builtin updating software becomes more popular (Adobe Acrobat, Google Update for Chrome) there is still a large number of programs out there that 'just' checks for a new version and leaves the rest to you.

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Many software installers remove the old version before the install the new one. Myself, I remove anything that is vulnerable if the updated software does not. –  Moab May 4 '12 at 22:29
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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

So I wonder if there is a general rule

No, there isn't a general rule. It all depends on who makes the software and the decisions they make. Some companies/individuals include a function to automatically update the software. Others don't. Some programs can just be updated. Others require an uninstallation of the original program before updating. Some of those will include an uninstaller in the installation program (to notify you that you must remove the old version, and they will do so for you). Others will update over the top of an existing installation. Without any kind of consistency from the people who make the software... or general rule, as it were, there can't be a general rule when it comes to the user updating software.

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For the overwhelming majority of software you should be find just downloading and installing the latest (and hopefully) greatest version of the program.

The only exceptions might be programs that store data in their own format (for example a word processing package). In these cases the file/database format might change between versions and the developers expect you to install each one so that version 2 can read version 1 files, but version 3 can't. Having said that, I would hope that these days this would be very rare indeed.

It's always sensible to back up sensitive data - especially before an upgrade - so you can always go back to the old version (keep that install handy) if something untoward does happen.

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As a general rule of thumb you can leave the previous versions of software on the computer. Since you are installing the newer version that is what the computer will use to access whatever it needs. For example, Adobe Reader 10.1.3 will access PDF's, not Adobe Reader 9.0. I usually remove old versions that I don't use because of the fact that they still take up space, albeit not much, but some. Uninstalling old versions of software is usually not necessary unless the publisher states it is but in general terms of computer "cleanliness" it doesn't hurt to perform some maintenance when updating software.

Hope this helps!

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