Fast Forward's Help File

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, June 24, 2007

Q How can I keep track of updates for the programs that I've added to my computer?

ASome applications are smart enough to check online for new versions, but most aren't. As a result, it's too easy to wind up with a hard drive full of obsolete add-on software.

To remedy that problem in Windows, try the FileHippo Update Checker ( This small program quickly checks your installed programs for updates, then opens your Web browser to a page on the FileHippo download site from which you can download the latest versions.

Update Checker requires Microsoft's .Net Framework 2.0 to run. It's still classified as beta, but it has not caused any problems on either of two Windows XP machines or one Windows Vista computer.

If you have a Mac running Tiger, the latest version of OS X, try a free Dashboard widget called App Update ( It will scan your Mac's applications folder, then point you to the latest versions of any old software on your machine.

Both programs require that you run each installer they download, and they can miss updates to a few programs. But they still greatly reduce the amount of effort spent babysitting your computer's software collection.

Do I need to keep AOL's software around just to keep an AOL mail account?

Not at all. The easiest way to check your AOL mail is to log into AOL's Web site. You can also set up any standard mail program -- such as Mozilla Thunderbird, Apple's Mail, or Microsoft's Outlook and Outlook Express -- to do this job by following the instructions at

Once you've made this switch, uninstall AOL's software. You may find that your machine runs a little faster without that aging application.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071

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