At a Glance
- Automated scanning; Customization options; Ratings
- Excessive advertising; Database often incomplete; Some incorrect links
UpdateStar offers you a time-saving one-stop information place for your software.
Some software seems to update every week. It’s easy to be few
releases behind the curve, which can be anything from mildly
annoying to–if there’s a major security hole in the version you’re
using–outright dangerous. UpdateStar 6.0 scans your installed
programs, check their versions, and looks at their database to
determine if you need to upgrade. All the free version will do is
tell you–you have to go hunt down the newest version on your own.
Don’t get me wrong: This is useful. Within a week, it found three
updates to some software I use regularly. But there are problems
with the implementation.
UpdateStar doesn’t distinguish between new versions of a program
and new programs in a series or line. For example, I downloaded
Bioshock via Steam a while back. UpdateStar tells me I am out of
date–but it’s basing this on the existence of Bioshock
2, an entirely different game, and isn’t checking for the
latest patch to Bioshock 1. Likewise, I am not eager to move to
Office 2010, but I do want to be sure I have the latest patches to
Office 2007. However, UpdateStar’s database is not smart enough to
draw that distinction.
Premium kicks up the functionality quite a bit. For one thing,
its “Download” button instantly takes you to the official download
site for the current version. “Minor” upgrades (1.1245 to 1.1246)
become visible in the window. Community-driven security ratings
also appear. UpdateStar Free suffers somewhat from the “teaseware”
problem; while some functions are clearly marked as unavailable,
others will seem active until you can click them.
The community-driven nature of UpdateStar can often be
frustrating. For example, I am in the beta for a game called APB
Unlimited. I haven’t updated my beta in a while, so I clicked the
“download” option in UpdateStar. This took me to the UpdateStar Web
page, where I found a number of banner ads that feature big, shiny
“download” buttons to tempt casual or careless users into clicking.
Buried in small print at the bottom of the actual content
on the page, I unearthed a notice that no download for the beta was
available, and would I please like to add one? I might ask why the
program itself isn’t smart enough to disable the “Download” option
if no such link exists, but the answer is simple: If it did that,
there would be less reason for me to go the Web site and see the
revenue-generating banner ads.
I recognize that companies often have little control over the
content of banner ads served to their site, but the omnipresent
fake “download” buttons when taken to a page whose main purpose is
to provide a secure download for updates is counter-productive. I
do not know what, if anything, UpdateStar can do to filter these
ads, but perhaps not displaying them to “Premium” customers would
Another issue I experienced was that when I went to look for an
update to PopCap Games’ Bejeweled, I was linked to a page for “Easy
Bejeweled,” a game from a different company. I was informed that
the database update is semi-automated but human-moderated, and that
such incorrect matches are rare.
Overall, I found UpdateStar to be a great idea with many
functions I could use, marred by the risk of landing on
advertising-laden pages whether there was any meaningful content
there or not. The database is simultaneously extensive and
incomplete; there are many programs it knows about, but the detail
for each program varies greatly. The ad-cluttered Web site and the
occasional data errors all undermine the main selling point of
UpdateStar as a one-stop shop for safe and current downloads.
PCWorld favorite Secunia
PSI is a better bet.