Auto-updaters, bane of the mobile user


It seems that every software company wants to help me keep my programs up-to-date and installs a program that runs when the system first boots, called an auto-updater.  No doubt it is easier for them to make sure I am always running the latest version of their program but these updaters can be a real PITA for mobile users.  They work by going online at system boot time (or some interval as programmed into the updater) to compare the version of the program currently installed on my computer with the latest version they have available.  If it determines that a more current version is available the updater will download it in the background, usually without giving any indication to me, and hold it for installing the next time that particular program is run.

This sounds great in theory but if you, like me, are often running on battery power with an EV-DO connection (or worse) it’s not usually a good thing for some updater to be downloading an update while I’m trying to do other work.  I always deselect any option to check for updates automatically in any program I install, if that option is even presented to me.  Programs that I know are big offenders I go searching through the options to see if there is one I can turn off.  Other programs just install the auto-updater without saying a word, and some don’t even give an option to turn off that “feature”.  If you don’t believe me take a look at the list of programs that automatically run when you boot windows.  In Windows XP you can find this list by typing “msconfig” in a RUN box, in Vista just type “msconfig” in the Start Menu search bar and click it to run.

I just did a check on my Fuji and found these updaters (and other useless startup apps):

  • Google Updater
  • Adobe Acrobat Distiller help app
  • Adobe Acrobat Speed Launcher
  • Adobe Acrobat Synchronizer
  • QuickBooks Automatic Update
  • QuickTime

I turned off all of these programs running at startup and rebooted my machine.  What a difference turning these off has made, boot time is shorter and disk thrashing has been minimized too.  I’m not suggesting you disable programs that are important, in fact if you can’t tell what a program is don’t disable it.  The QuickBooks updater has made a big difference for me in particular.  QB updates are huge and having them download in the background when I was trying to do something else was no fun. 




Fujitsu itself has a little surprise for you: You can take their autoupdater out of the startup sequence but if you ever decide to run it, it will reinstall itself. This is the height of obnoxious behavior.

Mickey Segal

The Startup behavior is an example of the “Prisoners’ Dilemma” model in game theory, in which each participant defects even though the result is worse for everyone. There needs to be some central authority monitoring the behavior, whether the user using a program such as Autoruns or the operating system requiring user approval for each item added.


Well said. I also try to disable all auto-update stuff including MS one. Apple, Google, MS, Sun, Adobe they all do this thing and I don’t appreciate it at all. The worst case could be Apple since there is no way to remove quicktime from startup. Well, to be exact, I can remove it but it comes back up there whenever I run iTunes. :(

Joe T.

Ditto, especially when recalling the time my Yahoo Music Engine just starting downloading a new version with no choice to not (they’ve fixed that since). My hard drive was almost full, about 800 meg left, so I was in a race, offloading files to an external hard drive. Don’t know what would have happened if I lost.

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